Tony Pulis urges Stoke fans to get behind successor

Rafael Benitez and Roberto Di Matteo are among the favourites to succeed the Welshman

Tony Pulis has urged Stoke fans to get behind whoever succeeds him as the club's manager.

Pulis' time as Potters boss came to an end on Tuesday, with a statement on the Staffordshire outfit's official website confirming they and the 55-year-old had mutually agreed to part company.

The Welshman - who initially took charge of Stoke in 2002, was sacked in 2005 and then returned in 2006 after a stint with Plymouth - said in a statement yesterday that he was disappointed but understood chairman Peter Coates' decision to take the club in a different direction.

He also thanked those who had played for him at Stoke and the club's supporters, and a message from Pulis to the latter has now been published by The Sentinel, in which he reiterates his gratitude to the fans, as well as asking them to give their backing to his replacement.

"It is all over for me now and, believe you me, I wish the club all the best in the future," Pulis said.

"Of course I am disappointed I cannot carry on in a job I have loved from first minute to last. But I accept the club's decision to move things in a different direction because that is the right of any owner.

"The journey stops here, but what a journey. And you, Stoke City's wonderful support, have played such a massive part in the distance we have travelled over the last 10 years.

"That is how vital your support is.

"And that is why I urge you (for one last time) to get behind the new manager just like you got behind the old one."

In his own comments on Pulis' departure, Coates stressed that he regards him as "a great friend and will hugely miss working with him".

Pulis yesterday said Coates had been "truly a fantastic man to work with" and in the Sentinel piece, the former Portsmouth, Bristol City, Gillingham and Bournemouth boss again indicated that there is no animosity between the pair.

"I came back to the club in 2006 because of the Coates family, and Peter in particular, and that is a decision I have never had cause to regret," Pulis said.

"Despite the events of the last couple of days, my relationship with him remains, and I feel privileged to say that I can always call him a friend.

"It took a lot of faith and courage for him to return as chairman in 2006 - and then to bring me back as manager.

"I hope I have rewarded that faith and courage."

Pulis' second stint at the helm saw Stoke gain promotion to the Barclays Premier League in 2008 and achieve respectable mid-table finishes in the division in each season thereafter.

They were also losing FA Cup finalists in 2011 to Manchester City, with their appearance in the Wembley showdown earning them qualification for the Europa League, in which they reached the last 32 stage the following campaign.

However, Pulis' style of football has frequently been the subject of criticism, with many observers saying his sides were over-physical and too reliant on the long ball.

A poor sequence of results in the second half of 2012-13 - during which the Potters won just three of their last 19 league matches and briefly flirted with relegation - saw them finish with their lowest Premier League points tally, in 13th position.

PA

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