Ex-Potters boss Tony Pulis has released an article in tonight’s edition of the Sentinel, thanking the Stoke faithful for their support over the recent years, and also urging Potters fans to get behind their next manager…
I’d like to start by thanking every single one of you who have made the last decade so special for me at Stoke City.
I am grateful for this opportunity here to express my gratitude because, unlike Roberto Mancini in his local paper last week, I can’t afford to take out a full-page advert.
We have all been on one hell of a journey, one that will live with me and my family forever.
It doesn’t seem five minutes ago since I first went up to the Potteries for a 4-2 defeat at Walsall.
In those days I think we had two sets of goals on the training ground and, if it ever rained, we were running round in puddles.
On a matchday, meantime, you could see more empty seats than occupied seats. But when I first arrived, I remember saying this was a proper football club with so much potential to do a lot better.
I feel proud of the fact that I leave a club I found near the bottom of the Championship near the midway point of the Premier League.
But that couldn’t have been done without the efforts of everyone, from chairman Peter Coates through to the club’s loyal fans.
I came back to the club in 2006 because of the Coates family, and Peter in particular, and that is a decision I have never had cause to regret.
Despite the events of the last couple of days, my relationship with him remains, and I feel privileged to say that I can always call him a friend.
It took a lot of faith and courage for him to return as chairman in 2006 – and then to bring me back as manager.
I hope I have rewarded that faith and courage.
I will never forget the effort and the later celebrations as we won promotion back to the top division for the first time in 23 years.
A generation of Stoke fans had never seen their club play the best teams in the land week-in, week-out, so I can’t tell you what it meant to be manager the day we did that.
What followed in the Premier League is a tribute to Peter and his family, the players, managerial staff, medical back-up and you, the loyal supporters of Stoke City.
You may think I was exaggerating every time I praised our support and urged you to stand shoulder-to-shoulder with the players. I was not.
Your backing, particularly at the Britannia Stadium, goes a long way towards explaining our success in the most competitive division in the world over five fantastic seasons.
Who can forget that first win against Aston Villa, not to mention the victories against a certain team from North London?
I’d like to think I put out a competitive team that represented your club with the kind of pride you yourselves had in Stoke City.
And I’d like to think I brought in players who will remain some of your favourites for ever and a day.
To see Stoke City players representing their country, especially when Ryan Shawcross pulled on that England shirt, must have given every Stoke fan out there the most tremendous thrill.
Our journey together has taken us far and wide in cup competitions as well.
I cannot tell you what it means to have people come up to me and say that the 5-0 win over Bolton in the FA Cup semi-final two years ago was the greatest day of their lives supporting Stoke City.
The result didn’t go our way in the final, but to have reached Stoke’s first-ever FA Cup Final is an achievement we can all be proud of.
Who could then have dreamed – back in the dark old days at Walsall and the like – that we would one day be travelling to places like Israel, Ukraine, Croatia and Turkey in something called the Europa League?
And to be eventually knocked out by some Spanish team called Valencia wasn’t exactly a disgrace either.
This season has been more difficult than most, certainly in 2013, and there are good reasons for that.
But once again, I believe the spirit I have always tried to nurture at Stoke City has shone through again as we survived and finished 13th in the end.
It is all over for me now and, believe you me, I wish the club all the best in the future.
Of course I am disappointed I cannot carry on in a job I have loved from first minute to last.
But I accept the club’s decision to move things in a different direction because that is the right of any owner.
The journey stops here, but what a journey.
And you, Stoke’s City’s wonderful support, have played such a massive part in the distance we have travelled over the last 10 years.
That is how vital your support is.
And that is why I urge you (for one last time) to get behind the new manager just like you got behind the old one.
Thank you so much.