Pulis looks for new players in effort to keep Stoke on boil

Stoke City 2 Wigan Athletic 0
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The Independent Online

Steve Bruce, when he was manager of Birmingham City, took the Midlands club up from the Championship in 2002, kept them up, successfully negotiated the so-called "second season syndrome" in the Premier League and then stayed there for two more seasons.

Bruce, now the manager of Wigan Athletic, is therefore well-placed to comment on Stoke City's prospects for next year, as they face a potentially tricky second campaign. Tony Pulis, the Stoke manager, revealed after this win, thanks to goals by Ricardo Fuller and James Beattie, that he was flying off this week to scout for new players in Europe, so he is aware he cannot rest if Stoke are to stay up.

"Stoke remind me so much of what Birmingham were when I got them up," said Bruce. "They're enjoying being in the Premier League, the atmosphere is terrific. It's when they become used to seeing the Man Uniteds and the Liverpools and that atmosphere which is generated today."

Facing up to Wigan's future, after this sixth defeat in seven games, Bruce knows life is going to get harder as he has to shed more of his best players. After selling Emile Heskey and Wilson Palacios in January, he admitted the Ecuador winger Antonio Valencia will be leaving this summer, with Manchester United a possible destination. He said: "Valencia will go, it's inevitable. That's the really difficult one. We'll get good money for him. Before January we had the best team Wigan will ever have."

Amr Zaki is also on his way out after the Egypt international striker's erratic behaviour this year. "We will not be taking up the option to sign him," said Bruce. "The writing's been on the wall. It's a shame. He had the world at his feet last October. Badly advised, he listened to the wrong people."

Stoke City: 4-4-2: Sorensen; Shawcross, Cort (Pugh h-t), Faye, Wilkinson; Lawrence, Delap, Whelan, Etherington (Diao 77); Beattie (Cresswell 86), Fuller. Substitutes not used: Simonsen (gk), Olofinjana, Kelly, Tonge.

Wigan Athletic: 4-1-4-1: Kingson; Melchiot, Boyce, Bramble, Figueroa (Edman 82); Scharner; Cattermole, Cho (Watson 58), Brown (Mido 74), N'Zogbia; Rodallega. Substitutes not used: Pollitt (gk), Koumas, De Ridder, McManaman.

Referee: L Probert (Wiltshire).

Man of the Match: Fuller.

Attendance: 25,641.

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