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Owner Peter Coates has moved to heal a dressing- room rift by ordering Stoke’s players to end public criticism of former manager Tony Pulis.

The 75-year-old multi- millionaire, who has taken a back seat from day-to-day running of the club, stepped in after hearing of problems in the run-up to Sunday’s 1-0 defeat by Norwich.

He confronted new manager Mark Hughes and the club’s chief executive Tony Scholes and told them to issue the instructions to players and staff.

Sportsmail understands the trouble began when captain Ryan Shawcross challenged Kenwyne Jones after the Trinidad and Tobago striker publicly attacked Pulis and accused him of playing ‘sky’ football.

The pair had a furious stand-up row, and other players joined in the argument, which then spilled over at the training ground for a couple of days.

One player said: ‘Ryan was waiting for Kenwyne when he came into training and said, “You’re brave, aren’t you, didn’t hear you criticising the boss when he was here,” and it all kicked off from there.

‘All the players are happy with what the new manager is trying to do, but there are a group who owe a lot in their careers to Tony Pulis and don’t like hearing him being rubbished.

‘It rumbled on until the message came from the chairman. He said we ought to remember what had been achieved in the old regime.

‘In seven years the club went from fighting relegation in the Championship to an unbroken five years in the Premier League, an FA Cup final and playing European football.

‘It was clear he was very angry.’

Jones and winger Jermaine Pennant have both publicly attacked Pulis’s style of football this season, while Scholes, whose decision to appoint Mark Cartwright as a technical director led to the breakdown of his relationship with Pulis, has pointedly heaped praise on the efforts of Hughes to encourage a passing style.