TONY PULIS hailed Stoke City's achievement in qualifying for Europe for only the third time in the Club's history . . . but admitted that the true magnitude of it will not sink in until after Saturday's FA Cup Final at Wembley.
Pulis was an onlooker as Manchester City claimed the decisive victory which not only secured their own Champions League qualification, but also guaranteed that the Potters will be playing in the Europa League.
It will be the first time for 37 years that City have graced a European stage since they qualified for the UEFA Cup on two occasions during Tony Waddington's era as manager in the early seventies when they played the West German side Kaiserslautern in the 1972-73 season and then the Dutch giants Ajax two years later.
"It is a fantastic achievement and we are delighted that we can say this Football Club will be playing in Europe," said City's manager when he faced the media to talk about Saturday's historic occasion at Wembley Stadium.
"I don't think it will really sink in until after the Final because all our attention is focused on Saturday's game at the moment. Then, we will be able to address it, and we'll be able realise and recognise what we've done."
However, Pulis maintained: "Even at a time like this when we are looking forward to Europe and an FA Cup Final in a few days time, the biggest achievement is that we can look forward to a fourth season in the Premier League.
"We have built the Club up step-by step and we are much stronger now for having been in the Premier League for three years. Europe and the FA Cup success are a bit special, but they are just the icing on the cake."
City will go into the Europa League next season, irrespective of the outcome of Saturday's match against Roberto Mancini's side.
Pulis watched their Wembley opponents book a place in the Champions League with a win over rivals Tottenham.
Ironically, it was a Peter Crouch own goal which settled the issue, after the England international's winner for Spurs 12 months earlier had seen Harry Redknapp's side pip City for a Champions League spot in that instance.
City have already received notification that they will either enter the Europa League at the play-off stage in mid-August if they win the FA Cup or will go in at the qualifying stage earlier than that if they are runners-up.
*When City faced Kaiserslautern in September 1972 as League Cup winners, they won the first leg at the Victoria Ground 3-1 with goals from Terry Conroy, Geoff Hurst and John Ritchie, but the Germans overturned that deficit in the second leg.
Then in 1974, after qualifying through their League position, they went out on the away goals rule to Ajax who drew 1-1 at the Victoria Ground when Denis Smith's equaliser cancelled out a Ruud Krol thunderbolt in front of 37,398.
The second leg in Holland ended in a goalless draw despite City gave the better goalscoring opportunities.