Pulis has final hope for Etherington despite confirmed torn hamstring

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The Independent Football

Tony Pulis, the Stoke City manager, will give Matthew Etherington every chance to prove his fitness for the FA Cup final against Manchester City on 14 May but yesterday's diagnosis of a torn hamstring makes the winger's chances of appearing at Wembley slim at best.

The left-winger picked up his injury against Wolverhampton Wanderers in mid-week. Pulis said yesterday that the prognosis would be clear in seven days' time, but that he was loath to rule out one of his most influential players. Etherington scored the opening goal in Stoke's 5-0 FA Cup semi-final win over Bolton Wanderers, which sent them to their first final.

"He's had the scan," Pulis said yesterday. "He's got a torn hamstring and we'll know better in seven days how much chance he's got of playing in the final. He'll be treated and looked after as best we can. We've got to do our damnedest in the next seven days to put him in a position where we give him the best opportunity to play in the Cup final. His leg could be hanging off and I wouldn't rule him out."

While Etherington, who played for the West Ham United side that lost to Liverpool in the 2006 FA Cup final, would be Stoke's highest profile absentee, Pulis admitted his disappointment at the lack of availability of Ricardo Fuller and Danny Higginbotham as well, and conceded that it will make it harder for Stoke to overcome Manchester City at Wembley. "We've been very unfortunate losing Higginbotham, Fuller and then Matty picking that injury up," the Welshman added. "It's going to be a difficult enough game for us anyway, but to lose three very influential players – if Matty doesn't make it – is going to make it doubly difficult."

Higginbotham's injury will put him out of the start of next season as the defender suffered cruciate ligament damage earlier this month. Fuller, who has scored four goals this year, ruptured his Achilles during last Saturday's 1-1 draw with Aston Villa at Villa Park, and was operated on this week.

"Ric's going to be out of action for three or four months," Pulis added, "which is a massive blow to him and a massive blow to us. He had the operation and the medical team tell me that everything's going fine."

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