Tony Pulis has left Stoke City. The rumours suggest the club have decided to abandon the ugly style of play and focus on more aesthetically pleasing approach to winning games. It has also been mentioned that Pulis’ son plays football in America and has recently become a father, with the indication being the separation was mutually beneficial as Pulis will relocate to the States to be with his family.
Many people have likened this moment to when Charlton let Alan Curbishley go after 11 years in charge: subsequently the club were relegated and haven’t appeared in the Premier League since. That is too simple an assumption to make, for starters Curbishley had rejected Charlton’s contract extension offer and having been turned down for the England job (The FA appointed Steve McClaren) he decided to take a break from the game. Charlton did not and do not have great financial powers, the club made a catastrophic error in appointing Ian Dowie and then briefly Les Reed and were relegated.
Stoke City have a fairly decent financial set-up, they are not in the same league as any of the Champions League teams but they are in a better financial position than most and have spent around £100m on players in the last few seasons. They have a solid fan base and owners who care passionately about the club and are willing to invest in the development.
The question now is were they right to part company with Tony Pulis? Throughout his time managing the team in the Premier League there have been constant attacks on the style of play, but his defenders have always pointed to the club remaining stable and not fighting relegation, but is that enough?
Since he got Stoke promoted they have played in The Europa League via The FA Cup final lose to Manchester City and produced some memorable wins, but those few highlights aside his team have hardly been entertaining:
2012/2013 season – 34 goals in 38 games, finished 13th on 42 points, 6 points safe
2011/2012 season – 36 goals in 38 games, finished 14th on 45 points, 9 points safe
2010/2011 season – 46 goals in 38 games, finished 13th on 46 points, 7 points safe
2009/2010 season – 34 goals in 38 games, finished 11th on 47 points, 17 points safe
2008/2009 season – 38 goals in 38 games, finished 12th on 45 points, 11 points safe
As you can see Stoke started off well in the division but have steadily got worse over the last few seasons. It’s not just the league finishes either, Stoke City were involved in seven of the 10 shortest Premier League games in 2012-13 based on ball-in-play time: a truly shocking statistic for a football team. Of Stoke’s 190 Premier League games since promotion in 2008, they have had more than 50% possession in only 13 matches. It does not make good reading.
The detractors will point to the amount of clubs who try to play attacking football and are relegated but I think the club and Pulis separating is a natural progression for the team. As the stats show in the last 3 seasons they have been less than 10 points clear of relegation which is not good enough. Now they are established as a Premier League team they have the ability to change direction with the financial security provided by several top flight finishes.
It won’t be an overnight transition, indeed the club may still play similar football, but it will be under a new manager to take the club onwards. Tony Pulis has done a great job for Stoke City but he has reached the limit with this club and will be successful again with another club, as for Stoke they are in safe hands and will now look to grow within the Premier League and aim for a top 10 finish next season.