There are a lot of talking points after a disappointing few games, with the main three being Pulis’ decisions, Kitson going out on loan and Tuncay. I’m going to attempt to discuss all three and I like to think I can be balanced and god forbid praise and criticise in equal measure should it be necessary.
The Pulis Situation – I have never read such unreasonable and unwarranted abuse of any manager in my life. Since Pulis has come to Stoke there has been improvement year on year and HE is the one to thank for us not only being in the Premier League, but staying there and currently sitting 9th despite the poor performances of the past few weeks.
The man is not without criticism though. It infuriates me the way he has wasted countless millions on players despite telling all and sundry how much homework he does before committing to such a decision, Kitson, Soares, Tonge, Davies, Sonko, Olofinjana and more were all blunder buys in my book and that’s a lot of money thrown down the pan. Let’s look at the flip side though, Pulis has spent his entire career in the lower leagues, he has always worked on a shoestring budget and he has done bloody well with the little money he was afforded both in his time at Stoke as well as at Gillingham and Plymouth etc. For the first time in Tony’s career, he has money and he has struggled in spending it wisely at times, he is human and like his managerial peers will more often than not probably sign a howler or 5. I would prefer to judge him from January 09 onwards though as many of those bought at the start of our maiden Premier League voyage were panic signings to fill out the squad, despite Pulis saying the opposite, Coates has admitted as much..
He is a very stubborn man, If Pulis is crossed or disappointed he holds a grudge just as well as he holds his favourites, this can appear unreasonable and it may well be but we also have little clue on the impact such a situation can create within the tight knit group, this person is usually outcast for the good of the group as a whole, sometimes even to the detriment of the group (see Kitson section) who may have to work harder to cover the absence of the troublemaker – this can have a positive effect and encourages the backs to the wall mentality that has served Pulis so well in the past. This can all be very frustrating at times, he has his favourites, don’t we all? In my job as a Project Manager I have a budget and I have timescales and milestones for my achievements, I have my favourites who I know will do exactly as I ask them to do, success is achieved through teamwork and a close knit group who understand each other and a particular manager’s ethos and approach. There are other people who have different character traits who can also be successful, the recipe for success is not cast in stone, there are many ways to skin a cat, this is the character we have to live with and Pulis is a successful type of character - of that there can be no argument. I know that given the space and time the manager will evolve his own ways of working, as indeed he has, the purchases of a big time Charlie like Beattie and the diminutive figure of Etherington show as much, as indeed the purchase of Tuncay does (I will expand on this later). This season has seen the omission of the previous favourite and defensive Higgy in favour of the better ball playing Collins – the latter having struggled defensively but brought more to our attacking game. Collins may not have been the perfect choice, but reports of the exciting Canella and the willingness to change the system have to be applauded, it isn’t going to happen overnight and the perfect players aren’t going to just arrive. Last season, the cries of ‘Angle’ were rife for Higgy to lump up to the target man, this season, I have heard Pulis shouting ‘Danny, give it to Matty’ , he is evolving the way we play – it just takes time.
He has also changed his approaches to transfers somewhat by sitting down and looking at our current policies, the purchase of Arismendi and the expansion of our scouting network into South America and Europe is a very positive step and one which sees a new string to Pulis’ bow. We know Pulis’ background has been based on local lads and hard work and this is a big departure for him, he has done things successfully for a long time his way and a change like this illustrates he understands his limitations in this field and that needs to be congratulated. I think it is also important to look at other reasons he has shied away from such purchases in the past largely down to a lack of information on the target as well as a reluctance to waste the precious money of his Chairman and Stoke City (he has ended up wasting a lot of it anyway but with good enough intentions) This new attitude and welcoming of a more extensive scouting network is a move in the right direction and the next sensible step following a historical admirable concern for putting the club’s safety before his own reputation.
As Stoke fans, we need to respect the manager and his decisions, we won’t always agree with them and a lot of the time we are undeniably perplexed by them but just as we celebrate the success of his decisions we must be balanced enough to support those very decisions when we lose – he is human after all. If Pulis made all the right decisions all the time, with no blunder buys every brilliant signing seamlessly integrated into the team do you really think he would be the manager of Stoke City?
The Kitson Situation – The manager wanted to make a marque signing to announce our return to the top flight and it seemed Kitson was the most realistic high profile player we could attract given our title of relegation favourites. Kitson wasn’t cheap and given Pulis’ insistance on how much homework he did and how long it took to land him, I for one expected he would fit right in. We all know what happened next, Kitson’s attitude after the first few games was very poor, he seemed to be a very delicate little flower, he also seemed to think he was better than eveyone else due to the fact he saw himself as intellectually superior to his peers – Pulis should have known this before spending so much on him. Kitson was rightly dropped from the first team picture and rightly shipped out when it became apparent he was becoming disruptive in the camp. His beloved Reading falling out of the promotion race in no small part to trying to fit Kitson back into their team.
To his credit Kitson came back at the start of the season with a better attitude, something you can imagine was not easy for him to do – to Pulis’ credit he gave Kitson a chance, something we didn’t think would happen given the stubborness of the man – things looked rosey. Kitson played well for a few games and was worthy of his place in the XI but Pulis’ favourites for the front line were always Beattie and Fuller, the former having saved our season and been the signing Pulis was so desperate for when he signed the Ginger one. Much as Pulis is quick to condemn the unsuccessful he will reward the successful and Beattie had earned his respect and Kitson was duly dropped when one of Beattie’s old clubs came calling – Pulis always rightly or wrongly picking players to play against their old teams to get that extra 1 or 2% out of them. It seems this was the catalyst for Kitson’s second demise and once he started digging that hole it appeared that once more he would be shown the door – rightly in my opinion given reports of behind the scenes bust ups and tantrums like last season, no one player is bigger than the club and Dave has now found this out again – Pulis vindicated in last season’s decision to remove Kitson from the group. Pulis is payed to make the hard decisions, Pulis is closest to the situation to be the best placed to make them too, and though I don’t always agree with them (though I do in this case) I have to respect them. Kitson had trouble fitting into the Stoke system and ethos and struggled being the outball behind Fuller – this made a lot easier with the purchase of Etherington, Kitson himself acknowledging that he had to be big enough to alter his game to put himself in the right positions, some might say he should have done this 12 months ago instead of sulking.
The Tuncay Situation – is one that baffles me even more. I have come to the conclusion that few teams were interested in the Turk and the opportunity arose when we went in for Huth to take Tuncay and Pulis seeing him as a little bit of quality thought he might be useful at some point over his three year contract. Tuncay is a magnificent player and simply does not fit into the Stoke way of playing as it stands today – I like to think that Pulis knows this but his inexperience of managing such a talent is becoming apparent as he struggles to keep the Turkish Captain happy. Tuncay has been the King for his entire career so the current situation is difficult for him and naturally seems to be bothering him, it’s hard when both parties are rightly justified in their respective concerns and approaches. As our style evolves we will learn to use Tuncay, other managers could no doubt integrate him better and rightly build a team around him such is his talent but our manager is not like that sadly, which is a shame. Pulis is the way he is, like I have discussed, and in this situation it kills me to see the most exciting signing I have ever witnessed being left out, but at the same time it is down to the success and judgement of Pulis that we are even in a position for such a player to be attracted to Stoke so it is a double edged sword and the catch 22 that many fans with their team’s managers with their own foibles find themselves in too (can you imagine how infuriating it must be trying to back Benitez right now?)
Another big concern for myself and many others is the apparent haste of Mama’s rush back to the fray and for this the Manager must be seriously questioned..you simply can’t say that Tuncay is not fit when he is playing and scoring in Internationals, if the truth is that he is taking time to adjust to our way of playing then say that, it will reflect better on yourself and the player to be truthful, unfortunately this is another one of Pulis’ annoying traits but I honestly think there is no malice or ill intent in any of his decisions. It will certainly be very interesting to see how the front line situation unfolds given Kitson’s exit, Fuller’s imminent suspension etc – I would be very disppointed to see a departure from the better ball play of late back to hoofball and I pray that Pulis has seen enough of the way Etherington and the ball playing Whelan have played to go back in time to that old approach. I anticpate if Mama does come back into the fray ahead of Tuncay then he won’t be used nearly as much in that capacity as he once was, otherwise why play Collins and Etherington for a start?
I guess the theme of all the above for those who have managed to make it this far is that the manager is human, he is wrong and he is also right – our position and our success under him is more right than wrong and that’s why we must trust him. He is still learning about top flight management for the first time in his career, better managers have tried and failed to master the arts our own is trying to do at the moment and we should be grateful that whilst he has his faults it doesn’t make him as much as a failure that some might suggest, the likes of Benitez has spent hundreds of millions, Ferguson spent 30 odd million on Veron, they all make mistakes – Pulis is sincere and has the club’s best interests at heart and I for one am very glad that is the case. Like I said, if he didn’t have any flaws and made all the right decisions and made all the right signings, not only would he be superhuman but he most certainly wouldn’t be the manager of our beloved Stoke City.