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Friday, 14 February, 2003, 07:26 GMT
Stoke seek Cup relief
Striker Chris Iwelumo in action for Stoke
Stoke want to wave farewell to Chelsea's Cup hopes

It's not been an easy season for Stoke City.

They are on their third manager in six months, languish third from bottom of the Division One table and are in need of a welcome distraction.

Fortunately much-needed respite from the rigour of league football comes this Sunday, when the Potters take on Chelsea in the third round of the FA Cup.

And Stoke's director of football John Rudge is hoping a confidence-boosting performance against Chelsea will have a positive effect on the club's league form.

A shock result would be great to take into the league

John Rudge
"Everybody here is excited about the tie," Rudge told BBC Sport.

"We are going to have a full house and see a tremendous side with some great players.

"Lets hope we can pull off a shock victory because the momentum of that would be great to take into the league."

Stoke began the season with Steve Cotterill in charge, but he departed for Sunderland in October.

Dave Kevan had three weeks at the helm before Tony Pulis was appointed on a permanent basis at the start of November with the club in deep trouble.

Stoke City manager Tony Pulis
Pulis only took over at Stoke in November 2002
Pulis, a vastly experienced manager having been in charge of four previous clubs, has impressed Rudge since taking over.

But the club lost 2-0 at Grimsby on Saturday and remain three points adrift of the Mariners, who are fourth-bottom of the Division One table.

Not exactly ideal preparation for a tie against a team who despatched Shrewsbury in the fourth-round with a thoroughly professional display.

But if Pulis is seeking inspiration he could do far worse than consult Rudge, who is no stranger to the art of giantkilling.

A legend in the Potteries, Rudge was in charge of Stoke's city rivals Port Vale when they knocked Spurs out of the FA Cup in 1988 and holders Everton after a replay in 1996.

"We had two fantastic games against Everton when I was at Vale. We got a last-minute goal through Ian Bogie to bring them back to Vale Park," said Rudge.

Chelsea have so may individuals who can win the game with one spark and one piece of magic

John Rudge
"We did exceptionally well in the replay. Jon McCarthy and Steve Guppy on the flanks did very well and I think we deservedly beat them. It was a great game for us.

"But when you talk about the real top clubs in the Premiership - Arsenal, Manchester United, Chelsea and Liverpool - they have grown in size and stature since then."

Nonetheless, Rudge reckons there is a formula for success when playing the top teams.

John Rudge during his time in charge of Stoke's rivals Port Vale
Rudge celebrates after Vale's 1996 win over Everton
"Chelsea have so may individuals who can win the game with one spark and one piece of magic.

"What you need is a bit of luck, a situation where Chelsea probably don't play to their high standards and we play above ourselves.

"You've always got to have the hope and the belief that a Cup upset might happen at the Britannia Stadium."

And if Stoke are looking for positive omens to take into the tie they should take a look at the record books.

Stoke knocked Chelsea out of the League Cup over two legs in 1995, as well as victories in the 1973/74 and 1974/75 season.

They also dumped Chelsea out of the FA Cup in 1934.

"These are different times with a different team, but lets just hope that trend continues," said Rudge.


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