PULIS ON A MISSION TO FRESHEN UP SQUAD
Stoke manager Tony Pulis is determined to continue driving the club forward.
The Potters have made great strides over the last few years under Pulis' guidance, winning promotion to the Barclays Premier League in 2008 and achieving comfortable mid-table finishes in every subsequent season.
Having passed the 40-point mark during the Easter period they appear set for the same again this term, despite the fact they have faced their most demanding schedule yet due chiefly to their participation in the Europa League, which they gained entry to by reaching last year's FA Cup final.
Already with an eye on how he might strengthen his squad over the summer, Pulis has used a rare break in Stoke's fixture list - their last match was the 1-1 draw at Aston Villa on April 9 - to go on a scouting mission to Spain and he is committed to keeping the Staffordshire outfit on an upward trend.
"Every member of the staff went away watching games," Pulis said.
"It was a weekend off, so it was an opportunity to get out and follow up on some leads that we have been given during the season.
"We want to keep moving the football club on. It is very important that you freshen it up and that is what we will try to do if we can."
Stoke are currently 14th in the table, but only a point away from ninth and have their sights set on sealing a top-10 Premier League finish for the first time.
They have five games remaining, with the next being Saturday's at Newcastle, whose ability to spot talent has served them particularly well in recent times.
The likes of Senegalese frontman Papiss Cisse and French midfielder Yohan Cabaye - previously relative unknowns - have emerged as stars this season after being recruited by the Magpies, helping the club exceed all expectation by challenging for a place in the top four, and Pulis has been impressed.
"Without a doubt, they have been the surprise package this year," Pulis said.
"You have got to give Alan(Pardew, the Newcastle manager) and the players he has brought in a lot of credit - and their scouting set-up must take a lot of credit as well.
"They have paid good money for players - it is not as if they have picked them up for nothing, so they have been a gamble in that respect.
"Every time you bring a player in from outside the country, irrespective of whether or not you think he's the ticket, you never really know until they get playing.
"But those lads have done exceptionally well."
Although both Tottenham and Manchester City have made their Champions League debuts in recent years by breaking into the top four, it would be the biggest surprise yet if Newcastle - only promoted back to the English top flight just under two years ago and now fifth, level on points with fourth-placed Spurs - managed to return to Europe's top table.
They last featured in the competition when they were eliminated in the qualifying rounds in 2003 and Pulis would be delighted to see them rubbing shoulders with the continent's elite once again.
"I think it would be lovely for the Premier League to have someone new and fresh getting in there - although I'm sure the rest of the teams up there will have something to say about that as well," Pulis said.
"It is great for us as a football nation if you get a team outside what is supposed to be the top six group getting into it and working hard to try to stay there."
Meanwhile, Pulis has confirmed Stoke are looking to reach agreement with defender Robert Huth over a new deal.
Huth, who is out of contract at the end of next season, has been linked with a move back to his native Germany this summer but Pulis is hopeful he can retain the 27-year-old's services.
"The club is keen to get something done and so is Robert," Pulis said.
"So fingers crossed something can be ironed out."
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