Did Tony Pulis deserve to go?

Stoke City have made the decision to part company with Tony Pulis after five seasons in the Premiership. The Welshman maintained a steady ship at the Britannia Stadium and the team always finished just below mid-table every year. Pundits and rival fans often criticised their direct style of play and physicality on the pitch, although their manager claimed that they were not just a bunch of thugs trying to intimidate opposition players, but that they were playing to their own strengths. Now that he has gone, can his time be viewed as a success or not?

 

I personally believe that he did quite a good job at Stoke, especially when you take into account that they are not an established top division side with glorious history behind them. Were they overly physical? Yes, at times, but I don’t think they intentionally went onto the pitch trying to hurt players. Was the football they played boring and too direct? Again, they utilised the players at their disposal and adapted their style of play to get the best out of the players in the squad. However, they have produced some excellent football at times and it is harsh to say that they were one-dimensional. Not every team can play with the attacking flair of Manchester United or Chelsea because it requires skilful, creative individuals to play this way. Stoke’s players haven’t been blessed with these attributes and consequently Pulis took the decision to form a solid and well organised team that were not free-scoring but relatively effective nonetheless.

The club has allowed money to be spent though and Pulis has certainly not had to work with anything like the tiny budget that Roberto Martinez has had at Wigan. Although the Latics have now been relegated, they do go down to the Championship with their heads held high after defeating Manchester City to win the FA Cup. They have also been regularly praised for an exciting and entertaining brand of football, which has seen them beat all the more established sides in the division at one time or another. Although Premier League status is a top priority for all clubs, even the Stoke fans seem to have become restless that their team doesn’t seem to be progressing, but instead treading water just to keep their heads above the surface.

Perhaps Swansea winning the League Cup has added fuel to this fire, as they haven’t been playing with the big boys even as long as Stoke, yet produce quality football with technically gifted players and don’t spend a lot of money in the process. They have proved that you can win competitions and be successful without having to lavish £20m on a player or pay £200k per week wages. Why then shouldn’t Stoke be capable of the same?

Peter Coates, the chairman, thanked Pulis for his hard work and dedication to the club and will now be in the process of looking for a new manager. Mark Hughes has already been mentioned as a candidate but I believe that it will be difficult for whoever arrives to satisfy the requirements of the club. Realistically they are hoping to qualify for Europe, and with such fantastic support they could possibly do well with their home matches, buoyed on by a vociferous crowd. Lack of experience could hurt them when travelling to away matches but they would learn from this as they continue to develop. A top ten finish is definitely required and we could be about to witness a Stoke City like we have never seen before.

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