Blow for Pulis as Fletcher opts for Stoke City move

Tony Pulis has been dealt an early summer blow with the news that Darren Fletcher has agreed to join Stoke City on a two-year contract.

Fletcher has spent the past two-and-a-half years at West Bromwich Albion where he has been an ever-present in the Premier League, a remarkable feat considering the ill-health he suffered towards the end of his lengthy spell at Manchester United. In all, the Scotland international made 96 appearances in all competitions for the Hawthorns side, and was appointed club captain.

Out of contract this summer, Pulis had hoped to persuade the 33-year-old to sign a new deal and continue his influence on the Albion team as they look to build on their tenth-place finish this season. However, the midfielder has instead decided he will join Stoke when his contract expires, and there is little his current club can do other than wish him all the best.

“Of course there is a disappointment in seeing Fletch move on and we wish him well,” Pulis told West Brom’s official site. “I was happy that we made him a fair and competitive offer but, as is his right, he has chosen to accept another opportunity. He has been my captain since he came into the club and he has led the team superbly. But that is football and we move on.”

Some may be surprised at this move as Stoke finished three places – albeit one point – behind the Baggies last season, but he has made the same move as Saido Berahino, who left Pulis’ squad for the bet365 Stadium in a £12million deal in January. And the former Old Trafford star is relishing the next chapter in his football career, despite enjoying himself at the Hawthorns.

“It’s all happened incredibly quickly, but I am delighted to be here,” said Fletcher. “This is a fantastic club with a top manager and a great group of players and I am really looking forward to this opportunity. I loved every moment of my time at West Bromwich Albion but this is a new challenge for me now, and I like to think I respond well to new challenges.”

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