The most surprising aspect of the sacking of Tony Pulis was the startling ruthlessness with which it was carried out. Several months ago when Peter Coates announced publicly he’d never really approved of the finance involved in the Peter Crouch signing ,many sensed change was afoot. What few could have predicted is less that 48 hours after the end of the season Tony Pulis would be dismissed.
Few could deny that in the second half of 2012/13 we hit a dead end. The malaise was only exacerbated by the manager’s refusal to change. We paid a heavy price for Pulis’ stubborn obsession with work rate over craft… when the reliance on graft over guile wasn’t working there was blunt refusal to try any other method. This was particularly frustrating because in phases Stoke have been shown to be able to play a more expansive game yet we were dragged back to the artless lottery of the hopeless punt forward. The mindset of supporters was hardly brightened when we saw clubs with smaller budgets press ahead and evolve…. and we certainly didn’t snag any Michu type bargains! The age of the team was also an issue. Few players under the age of 24 were ever considered for the starting line up. This meant 1 the players being reared by the academy would simply be farmed out elsewhere and 2 as the players we buy are in their late 20s rarely would any have sell on value. These issues and transfer policy in general may well have been the decisive factors in his sacking.
The initial question is whether or not his sacking was the correct course of action. There is no doubt it contains an element of risk. The fact remains Pulis had indeed kept us in the top flight for five seasons and has never been relegated as a manager. However, that can be deemed null and void when we remember in recent months we were sleepwalked to the edge of a relegation dogfight. In the last eighteen months we have regressed at an alarming rate, there is no reason to believe we wouldn’t be sucked into the mire next year had he been given another season. Another matter which has to be mentioned is the nature of the team and the seemingly limited ambition. While survival and 40 points are undoubtedly a priority to hear those aims mentioned with such monotonous regularity, at the expense of anything else, left a bleak aura surrounding the team and club in general. Being prepared to do little more than dig out 0-0 draws or perhaps sneak a 1-0 win was never going to be a thrilling spectacle. Watching Stoke City play football became, at times, an awful way to spend time. In that respect his sacking has saved him from himself… every time we played he damaged his own legacy. So the point has to be made, despite the obvious risk his dismissal is the right decision. A new direction is required and Tony Pulis has never displayed a tendency to embrace change.
Despite the miserable conclusion to his reign the point has to be made Tony Pulis has been a successful Stoke manager. Promotion and Premier League stability should ensure applause if he manages a visiting team at the Britannia Stadium, not to mention the FA Cup Final and resulting European campaign. It’s fair to say the vast majority of Stoke supporters wish Tony Pulis well in the next phase of his life and career. Thank you and goodbye Tony.
Here’s a couple of videos
One showing TP after the Villa game
another as he leaves the pitch at the Brit for his final time as manager of Stoke City