Pulis can make Cup history for Wales

Proud Welshman aiming to be the first from his country to win Wembley showpiece as a manager
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The Independent Football

The new Lonely Planet Guide to Great Britain neglects to feature Newport but future editions may have to direct tourists to Pill, the docks area of the city, as the birthplace and spiritual home of Tony Pulis, if he becomes the first Welsh manager to win the FA Cup.

While the Stoke City manager shares his working-class origins and Catholic faith with Roberto Mancini, the similarities end there. His Manchester City counterpart enjoyed a Serie A debut at 16, silverware at Sampdoria and success coaching three of Italy's top clubs. Pulis reached the Potteries via stints as a journeyman midfielder at Bristol Rovers, Gillingham, Bournemouth and Newport and a patchy career in management.

John Rudge, a Rovers colleague and now Stoke's director of football, remembers Pulis mischievously as "a ball-winner, though he never saw much of the ball – Tony's motto was 'They don't limp fast'." Pulis tells a story against himself about being dropped for Rovers' game at Tottenham in 1977 and allowed to attend a wedding. "I was having a drink when someone said Spurs had won 9-0. I went in on Monday saying, 'That went well, lads!' They reminded me I wasn't good enough to get in a side that lost 9-0; said it would've been more if I'd played."

Stoke's first final caps an emotional season for the 53-year-old. In September he drove to Wales to be at his mother Jean's bedside as she died, then back to the Britannia Stadium for the second half against Aston Villa. Will he take a moment at Wembley to think of her? "I do it every day. Dad [Angelo, whose father came to Wales from Malta] was a great football fan, but it's not to be. I'm sure they're up there looking down. Hopefully they'll look after us."

His family will still be represented. "My brothers are coming up from Wales. There's a busload on its way. They had a great time at the semi-final and found loads of little stop-offs en route. They're going to the same places!"

Stoke play a friendly at Newport in July, having taken a strong team to Gwent amateurs Albion Rovers last year. They also donated a strip to Pill FC, whose chairman is his brother Raymond. "I've been out of Wales 38 years," said Pulis, "but I've never forgotten my roots and I'm proud of my upbringing in Pill."