Euro trip pays off for Pulis
Stoke boss Tony Pulis believes he has gained a valuable insight after visiting clubs in Spain and Germany during his team's mini break.
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With Stoke not playing a senior fixture between their 2-1 home Barclays Premier League victory over Reading on February 9 and the trip to Fulham in two days' time, Pulis seized the opportunity to spend time overseas.
And while the Welshman would not name the clubs he visited, he revealed one was Spanish and one German, stressing they were outfits who had plenty in common with Stoke, who are in their fifth consecutive Premier League season after Pulis guided them to promotion in 2008.
The 55-year-old said: "I went to a couple of clubs just out of interest really, to see the way they run and are set up, right through from the academy to the first team.
"They are two clubs that are very interesting for me personally and for our club.
"They are a similar size and very productive in the way they produce young players, so it is interesting to see how they are doing it compared to what we are doing.
"They have similar-sized crowds and both have been successful in the top league. It is nice to see how they do things.
"Spain and Germany have two very competitive leagues and have produced very good players.
"I think it is always nice to have an open mind. They haven't reinvented the wheel - I'm not coming back thinking they have done this and that and that it is all new stuff.
"But there are certain things you do pick up, and certain things where you think, 'That would help us if we could do it in a similar way'."
Pulis has confirmed that Brek Shea and Marc Wilson are both set to feature in 10th-placed Stoke's squad at 12th-placed Fulham.
Shea, signed last month from FC Dallas, was eligible to make his Potters debut in the Reading contest.
After opting not to include the United States winger, who has been recovering from a foot operation, in his 18-man party on that occasion, Pulis has indicated he is now ready to get him involved on a matchday.
Republic of Ireland full-back Wilson has also been working his way back to fitness, having not made a senior appearance since breaking his leg in Stoke's 0-0 draw with Sunderland last October.
The pair were in action in a behind-closed-doors friendly against Scunthorpe on Monday.
Pulis said: "The two of them will be in the squad - whether or not I start with them, we will have to wait and see.
"I think Brek has been out for three or four months with an injury, so this is almost like a pre-season for him, but he is a fit lad I have to say.
"The work we have done with him has shown that he is very mobile and athletic, and very willing as well. So he is not far away.
"I think Willo is close. Willo is on the launchpad, ready to go - he is just waiting for the opportunity, and he will go."
Forward Cameron Jerome is expected to be fit for selection, despite picking up a knock to his knee in the Scunthorpe game.
But striker Michael Owen, who had come through the match apparently unscathed, subsequently felt a problem with his thigh in training which makes him doubtful for the Craven Cottage clash.
Pulis said: "Michael actually trained really well on Tuesday after the game on Monday, but he felt his thigh and I'm not sure he is going to be fit for Saturday - we will wait and see."