Tony Pulis will renew acquaintances with Stoke City on Saturday having said retaining Premier League status with Crystal Palace this season would constitute as impressive an achievement as any of those over his decade in the Potteries.
Pulis, who turned 56 this week, spent two spells at Stoke and hoisted them initially from the lower reaches of the second tier and, eventually, into the top flight. Their five-year spell among the elite under his stewardship was marked by mid-table finishes, an appearance in the 2011 FA Cup final and a taste of the Europa League. Many among the visiting support at Selhurst Park intend to wear baseball caps in honour of the man who instigated that success before departing the Britannia Stadium last summer.
"I took them as far as the club wanted me to take them and that was fine," Pulis said. "The great thing about leaving a football club, especially one that you've been at for so long, is that it was very amicable. The chairman and his family have just been wonderful to me – Peter [Coates] is one of the nicest people I've ever met in my life, and we had a fantastic relationship. They were good times.
"The important thing if you stay at a football club is that you manage it in respect of the way you think it should be managed. That's why I was always so committed at Stoke. Everything that happened there – the training ground and stadium – I've got my fingerprints on. I left on good terms. It was a lovely way to leave. It was hard work at the beginning but if you sit back and look at what we achieved … When you look at Crystal Palace, the structure of the football club and where it is, [the job here] will be as big an achievement as anything I've ever achieved."
There has been frustration to endure to date with Palace struggling to add reinforcements to a squad which currently props up the division. Interest has been expressed in a number of players, but matching prospective signings' wage demands is proving problematic, even for some in the Championship. Attempts will continue but with his options dwindling, Pulis has reinstated the likes of Aaron Wilbraham and Steven Dobbie, neither of whom made Palace's original 25-man Premier League list, to his squad in an attempt to bolster numbers.
The former may start with Cameron Jerome ineligible against his parent club. "I'm disappointed we've not brought anyone in because we needed to as quickly as possible," he added. "There's all sorts of reasons that can mess the situation up. But I have to say I was hoping and praying that we'd be going into the games a little bit stronger, not a little bit weaker."
Stoke's manager Mark Hughes thinks the fact that he is coming up against his predecessor will help him. "We have probably got a unique insight into how Tony sets up his teams," he said.
"You would say that, given the personnel that are still here, they will have a better understanding than most opposition that Tony will go up against with his new team. That could be an advantage, but obviously he'll have an insight into what we are doing.
"We are trying to change somewhat, but certainly he'll know the individuals involved and their strengths and weaknesses, so it is an interesting battle of wills."
The Stoke striker Kenwyne Jones will not be involved because of his refusal to play against Liverpool last weekend and for which he was fined two weeks' wages. Hughes has included a new forward in his squad in John Guidetti, who is on loan from Manchester City.