"This is a completely new and unique season for us in respect of playing Saturday, Thursday, Saturday, Sunday... Monday!" manager Tony Pulis told ESPN* in advance of Stoke's potentially soul-crushing clash with Newcastle United tonight at the Brittania Stadium. It is not known exactly how Stoke's players have coped thus far with competition on so many different days of the week, much less how or if they will survive matches on three completely contrasting days of the upcoming week. Pulis is said to have enlisted a team of calendar counselors to head off confusion and depression among his squad.
"We've given them a program on different things we think they should be doing for rest and recovery, which we think is important," Pulis continued. "They have individual instructions on what to do, what not to do, especially after the flights. It'll be over five hours to Tel Aviv." Pulis did not say whether he would seek to put his team under hypnosis or suspended animation to counter the physical and emotional devastation that could result from sitting in padded airplane seats and being doted upon by caring, attractive flight attendants for nearly an entire morning. Moreover, a full time zone lies between Tel Aviv and Stoke, raising fears of exhaustion for a club that will face a Maccabi team with two additional hours to prepare in theory if not reality for Thursday's Europa League match.
Pulis himself has been under extreme pressure in a league where fans often prefer success over failure. "We have to manage people's expectations because there'll be periods when we're not going to do well, because of all sorts of reasons," Pulis said, preparing Stoke supporters for the worst. "You know what it's like, people expect you to win and keep winning."