Stoke manager Tony Pulis has called for behind-the-scenes "skulduggery" in football to be exposed after reiterating his disappointment with the club's unsettled goalkeeper Asmir Begovic.
Begovic, linked with a move to Chelsea this summer, looks set to face disciplinary action following his absence from the Potters' 2-1 victory over Shrewsbury in the Carling Cup on Tuesday, with Pulis claiming afterwards that the 23-year-old had refused to play.
On Wednesday the Professional Footballers' Association revealed that Begovic had subsequently contacted it, saying that he had not refused to take part in the match, but had indicated, when asked by Pulis if he was 100 per cent fit and ready to play, that "his mind was a little bit scrambled by things" and that he would prefer not to if there was an alternative.
That does not seem to have improved the Bosnian's position with his manager, who yesterday said the matter would be dealt with internally and vowed that Stoke would not be pressured by the kind of external influences he believes need to be put under the spotlight.
"There has always been and there always will be an element of skulduggery going on behind the scenes," Pulis said. "For anyone to say that doesn't happen, people are telling lies – there is always that going on.
"You can't stop it from happening, but what I think you have got to do is identify it and make sure that it is exposed, so that people are shown to be doing what they are doing. There are people behind the scenes who no one will have even spoken to who are involved in this situation."
Having been unimpressed by the comments that came out of the PFA, Pulis will now hold talks with Begovic, who joined Stoke from Portsmouth only last season. "I'm disappointed that the kid has come out and said that it wasn't him who decided he wasn't going to play," Pulis said.
"I think that is desperately disappointing and I will speak to him about that. He's a good kid and he has been smashing ever since he joined this club, but something has turned his head.
"It happens now in football and he is not the only one it has happened to – people blow in their ears, outside influences, and sometimes unfortunately they overstep the mark.
"I think you have to be strong enough as a football club, no matter how much pressure is being put on, to stand up at times and really protect your club."
He continued: "Begovic is a grown-up, but you have got experienced players getting involved in this as well. It is not the first time it has happened and it will not be the last. It is just a disease which has grown and grown and grown."
The Stoke chairman, Peter Coates, has backed Pulis's stance over Begovic. "This is an internal matter – and we will decide on what action to take," Coates said. "Asmir Begovic remains our player. He is regarded as one of the best young goalkeepers in the Premier League and we are not interested in any new offers from Chelsea.
"We are not interested in what Chelsea do and we have already rejected an offer, from them, for Begovic. We wouldn't welcome another bid from Chelsea and, as far as I am aware, we have not received a new offer from Chelsea for him."
Pulis also confirmed he is happy for striker Dave Kitson to leave the club if he receives the right offer before the 31 August transfer deadline, and is looking to recruit several more new signings, with Portsmouth's Marc Wilson reported to be nearing a move to the Britannia Stadium.
"We are close to bringing quite a few players in and we're hoping by Monday that we might have signed a couple and will be well down the line on others," Pulis said.
Meanwhile, the manager is hopeful Kenwyne Jones (ankle) and Liam Lawrence (groin) could return from injury tomorrow against Chelsea.
Mamady Sidibe is a long-term absentee, although Pulis revealed yesterday that the striker may be able to return from his ruptured Achilles tendon by Christmas.Reuse content