Tony Pulis, looking back 10 years, still isn’t sure what made him do it.
He had been with his family in South Wales on the day his mum died, driving up to the Potteries in the evening as Stoke City were to take on Aston Villa in the Premier League. His assistant Dave Kemp was in charge on the sidelines and few knew Pulis was even in the ground, arriving five minutes after kick-off to watch from a director’s box.
A message on the big screen had told supporters of Pulis’s loss and viewers watching on Sky Sports were informed by commentator Martin Tyler.
But Jean Pulis, aged 74, had become a big Stoke fan herself and the manager was sure she would want him to be at the club – and at half-time with Stoke trailing 1-0, he decided that he couldn’t just watch, he had to play a part.
“I lost dad when I was young and to lose mum as well just cuts away that cord that brought you into this world so it was difficult,” said Pulis in a new interview for Premier League World.
“I remember getting to the ground and ringing John Coates up. John and his family had a box so I went upstairs and thought I’d take a step back, sit back and watch the football.
“After 10 minutes, quarter of an hour, of the first half, I got engrossed in the game as I do…
“I don’t know what made me do it but I went down at half-time, got changed.
“We were losing 1-0 and luckily I think mum looked after us really. We won the game and, yes, it was very poignant.”
Stoke had lost their first three games of the season going into this match while Villa were looking for their third win in four.
Stewart Downing had given Villa a 35th-minute lead but Pulis made two substitutions that helped to turn the tide mid-way through the second half.
On came Ricardo Fuller for Jon Walters and new loan signing Jermaine Pennant for Marc Wilson.
Kenwyne Jones, who had broken Stoke’s transfer record that summer, got the equaliser with 10 minutes remaining when he headed home a cross from Matty Etherington, setting up an enthralling finale.
Both sides pushed for a winner and it was Robert Huth who pounced to get it for Stoke.
Villa couldn’t clear Pennant’s free-kick and Huth pounced at close range to poke a flashing drive from Etherington past Brad Friedel.
Huth said at the time: “The manager had some tough words for us. We felt we had done all right in the first half but he didn’t. In the second half we got at them even more and got the win we deserved. It was a terrible thing that happened to the gaffer and his family. So I want to dedicate my goal and our victory to them.
“We knew he went that morning to be with his family and we knew his mum was in trouble though we didn’t know the extent of it. We wanted to do well for him but it was a surprise to see him at half-time.”