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Posted by James Whittaker on 05/09/2012

Insanity – Repeating the same mistakes and expecting different outcomes...

Predictable... ©Fox Sports

The above quote is Pulis in a nutshell. His persistence in playing so many players out of position and with the completely inept Walters up top is driving many fans to distraction. In this game we saw an attempt at a 4-3-3, which after about two minutes turned into a 4-5-1 with five players out of position (Huth, Wilson, Fuller, Jerome and Walters).

The players at times looked completely dumbfounded, almost as if the manager was treating the game as a training session as he kept swapping players from wing to forward and back to the opposite wing trying to find the best formula. It was madness and, given the money spent, completely unacceptable.

Pulis was said to remark after the match that he was disappointed with his misfiring strikers. Funny that, given that our two most dangerous players were stuck out on the wing, which in our defensive game means they spent the game chasing the opposition and playing full back. In fact, our only two players with pace who could afford us a meaningful attack on the break were substituted with 15 minutes to go. It took Hughes seconds to react, and if he could have chosen our subs for us he’d have done exactly as Pulis did as we retreated further and further back towards our own goal inviting a winner for QPR.

I’ve been quick to defend the manager for the most part, and have always stopped short of saying the words, but having endured this season and seen nothing change despite promises of evolution I can now utter those words that I think it is time Pulis left. He simply isn’t the man to take us forward. It’s not like I’m seeking some sort of Swansea-like transformation – nothing would bore me more (other than turgid Pulisball). I just don’t think it’s unreasonable to ask that players play where they should play, that we start with two wingers, that we drop players out of form and reward those who have made a recent impact. That’s just basic football management, isn’t it?

Time to retire the cap? ©Action Images

Some people say that to even suggest this is to be ungrateful for Pulis returning us to the top table, for getting us to Europe, but they couldn’t be more wrong. I will never forget what the manager has done and I’m not sure many could have had such an impact over a short space of time, but the fire fighting days are over and it’s time to look forward to a new era of moving the club on and this Stoke fan doesn’t believe that Pulis is the man to do that. I’d love to think that he was capable of change but his system is what has made him a success, a system that has seen him never get relegated. He simply will not change it.

I feel that we’re now stuck in a rut. The signing of Crouch I think has set the club back in a huge way. That might sound bizarre given that he has just won Player of the Season and is our top scorer, but the more balanced observer would have to accept that his signing has unbalanced a side that last season actually had a bit of flair and movement. People point to the form of Walters, and also the wingers Etherington and Pennant, but form is a blip and those three have struggled all season, and I don’t think it’s a coincidence that it happened after Crouch arrived and was paired with Walters, rendering our front line static.

I know Crouch would work well with a pacy option alongside him in a traditional front two as he is probably the best striker we have but NOT in our system, a system that can’t be changed. We need a worker (apparently) and so the problem goes on and on. I’m not screaming for the system to be overhauled, I’ve come to accept the shape and concept, but what I can’t accept is the manager completely and almost ironically sabotaging it because he was star-struck by the concept of signing Crouch. Three strikers who suit the system much better are sat scratching themselves on the bench knowing they will never usurp the golden boys running in treacle up top – it’s quite simply the biggest challenge facing the manager this summer.

The problem we have now is that Pulis has got Crouch and won’t drop him, so every striker who is better suited to that role (Fuller, Jones and Jerome) will leave, and why shouldn’t they? How utterly demoralising for a player to come into the fold, impress, score goals then see the team sheet the following Saturday. Pulis is aware of the fans thoughts but remains stubborn to a point where he can’t possibly do so anymore, which is what happened with Jerome recently. Instead he hangs them out to dry on the wing, almost as an act of defiance – “I played the players you wanted and they failed”. It’s enough to make you tear your hair out.

Mistrust of youth… ©Getty

Then we’ve got the new rules coming in around academies and Financial Fair Play – the scene is just not set up for Pulis to prosper in the medium to long term, Coates’ backing will be more restricted, and given the manager’s complete and utter reluctance to try anyone from the youth setup, I can’t see how that is going to work moving forward despite the chairman ploughing millions into achieving Category A status. This farce was further highlighted last night as Shotton became what must have been the oldest player in Premier League history to win his club’s Young Player of the Season award aged 23. It would be amusing if it weren’t so tragic.

As for what happens next, that would be down to the chairman and his family, but for me it’s pretty black and white – either Pulis changes things drastically or he leaves. The sad thing is I don’t see either happening anytime soon.

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Posted by Carl on 05/09/2012

It's safe to say you will get a bit of anger fired your way for this. But, for me personally, I think you have hit the nail on the head. I think we will know if he is the right man to carry on if he signs the right players this summer.

JW - This summer will be key, you're right!

Posted by Steve on 05/09/2012

"I don’t see either happening anytime soon."
In a nutshell in your own words.

I think we are all frustrated by how the season has tapered off, but while Peter Coates is at the helm ... and give Bet365 has a new route to finance the squad now .. TP won't be going anywhere.

Time for stout hearts I think. TP has mentioned that they need revamp - we know it's coming, so maybe we just need to see what happens.

Actually there is nothing else we can do except vent our spleen on sites like this, because we don't have any influence of note.

Things have been a lot worse - Division 3 and Alan Ball's reign come to mind. This by comparison is dreamland. Premier league for five years, financially sound, you couldn't have made it up 6 years ago.

JW - It's almost laughable to suggest I know but it's just that based on what we have spent and what is available we are operating at about 30% of what we could be with anything over 70% being brilliant. As for Pulis' revamp, he can buy all the wingers he wants but if he still starts PC/JW they won't fare any better than Matty/Jermaine.

Posted by anon on 05/09/2012


JW - I take it you disagree but don't have the capacity for debate?

Posted by Mags on 05/09/2012

I have been saying this since Crouch was signed,I'm glad i'm not alone in my thinking.Tony has messed this team up to make Crouch look better,it wouldn't do for Jerome to score more than his star striker not after the money that was wasted on him.

JW - As was I Mags, I was hoping and praying that Pulis would change things around and for a few weeks he did let the midfield get closer to him but this soon went along with the two wingers and the rest is painful history.

Posted by Stokeramblers on 05/09/2012

I think a lot will depend on the striker he brings in. A nippy goal machine to play alongside Crouch (shifting Crouch's position too) and we could have a good side provided we get some wingers in (or get ours fit and out of prison)
Personally I think Pulis deserves a little more grace before swinging the axe. If next season is the same then by all means cut him loose. I think Pulis knows there are problems but he is never going to vocalise them is he. ''Well Nige, Jon is a good lad who works hard, but he can't finish his dinner.'' A manager has to protect his players and I think that has been a large part of people's frustrations.
Also on the game itself, I didn't think we were as bad as folk make out. We controlled parts of the game but failed to take chances and make the final pass. QPR certainly werent anything special and it was poor marking that gifted them a win. I don't think they were getting anywhere fast in open play.

JW - I can handle him sticking up for his players in public, but that should be followed by resting them! The QPR game didn't feel too bad but I don't think we had ONE shot on target despite them being in a relegation fight and us having 4 strikers on the pitch.

Posted by Daz moz on 05/09/2012

Wolves and Blackburn this season. Carlton, Leeds, Southampton and a few more along the years. Typical example of teams that thought either the grass was greener or their manager had took them as far as he could. Be carefully what you wish for. Yeah square pegs and round holes and bad football most weeks winds me up but pulis gets blood out of a stone and if he went we'd be down quicker that you know. Euro has cost us big style this year in the league.

JW - All of those teams made changes late on in the season though. Any new manager here would have the summer to recruit, a full pre season and 38 games. I'm not sure how any one can say if we lost Pulis we'd go down, no basis for that whatsoever.

Posted by pocscfc on 05/09/2012

Personally I think that TP should be given another season (and therefore 2 transfer windows) to get it right.

I believe he has earnt a little bit of patience for his achievements in last 5 years, 12 months ago we were preparing for our first ever FA Cup Final.

We were also basking the glow of a 5-0 semi final win and some fantastic home displays (Newcastle 4-0 being a particular highlight).

What a difference 12 months makes. Yes the full back / winger situation is not acceptable. Our away form remains shocking and
the 'Walters must play whatever' approach is puzzling.

If we can all see it, surely TP can too?

There is also another side to the 'Pulis Out' view, 'Who in' ?

If there is a truly outstanding candidate who is willing to take the job then that's one thing (like MON at Sunderland), if there is not and its simply a case of getting rid with no better alternative then surely Mr Moxey has proved this is not a good strategy !

JW - That's the annoying thing though isn't it? That we proved with the old crop we could pull teams apart and then this season despite adding to that (£20m) we've regressed and have had nearly 100 shots less on target?!

Posted by NJM on 05/09/2012

Agree - Pulis out now!

Posted by Dixon9 on 05/09/2012

James I agree to a point.. TP made a massive boob spending the money on crouch when Ken Jones didn't really deserve to be dropped..yes he has his moments of laziness, but also has attributes that suit us much better.. and his goal record wasn't to dissimilar. we needed reinforcements in other areas which were ignored. Full backs etc. I can't fathom his love in for Walters..that has had a huge impact on what has happened to other players I believe.

However we rememeber that coates had the horn for crouch too, and I think palacios has dissapointed many. Pennants behaviour also hasn't helped if it is to be believed.

The time has come for change, and TP has hinted it is coming. If things don't improve next season I could see him going. Europe was massive this year and has had a positive and negative effect. A normal season will see where were really at. I believe TP has learnt the right to decide when he leaves.

JW - All these hints though yet still no fullbacks in sight over how many transfer windows? It's the randomness of it too that grates, one minute we're chasing Ba, the next it's Crouch, two totally different players?

Posted by Dapuma on 05/09/2012

Newcastle fired Big Sam and got relegated

Blackburn fired Big Sam and got relegated

Becarful what you wish for...I see a lot of similarity between what Big Sam and Pulis do

You should consolidate and look to become more profitable and revamp the training grounds / grounds and the youth system to be able to be self sufficent into the future IMO as a man utd fan - i like stoke and like the fact they are tough to play against GL next year

JW - Both of those happened in the middle of a season though. In terms of revamping, we've done that, a new training complex and millions into teh Academy to make Cat A status, but Pulis refuses to play youth players!

Posted by anon on 05/09/2012

Everything you have said here is so true, but Pulis will never ever listen but like u say if he does revamp the squad this summer and still plays the same old players then I think he should go

JW - Problem is he will waste more money and we won't want a change mid season ideally...

Posted by Weaver on 05/10/2012

I agree in part although I'd rather see walters left off for a bit than Crouch, only problem is Pulis is using Walters role as a striker for his own uses as basically another midfielder due to how hard he works. Also i know some people reckon the Ric has tailed off now in talent but i would still love to see a 'front 4' of matty jermaine ric and PC, all in their correct positions of course!

JW - I think that's what most want and they'd even accept Crouch in the hole to see it (so to speak)

Posted by Marcos on 05/10/2012

I had high hopes for this season, but as it wore I had an thought in the back of mind. "Maybe, Pulis isn't the right manager for Stoke anymore". He's done wonders for Stoke, but I hate seeing the team play the way they have been recently. I've seen them do better. It has bothered me all year that some of Stoke's best players are on the bench game in game out. Even if they do score after coming off the bench they still don't get picked the next match. I hate to say it, but if Pulis stays they will probably leave. I'd rather have the players than the manager.

JW - Sounds like the realisation crept up on you too!

Posted by Jolly Potter on 05/10/2012

JW - I posted before I read yours on the Martin Smith blog in the Sentinel web-site - amazing how similar we and thousands more are - my nom de blog OBAMA4PREZ - Pulis has become a farce really - almost lampoonish in his methods and approach to Top Class Football. It's laughable and tragic to see it happening before our very eyes - the self-destruction of a potentially great football club - he has to go

JW - It's a notion gathering serious momentum now

Posted by Jordi_Cruyff on 05/11/2012

It's interesting hearing this from a club that has appeared so steady since promotion, obviously perspective from within the support can be clearer. Either way, Stoke have been a welcome addition to the Premiership and I wish you well for next season - finish ahead of Liverpool!

Man Utd fan here

JW - Cheers Jordi. I was saying the other day how bizarre this might seem to an outsider!

Posted by James Williams on 05/11/2012

I agree that Pulis isnt right for us long tern, but I dont think he should be removed after an avarage season. He should be given a few more seasons because of what he's done for the club, but I agree that we need a manager who see's the academy as potential first team players and not just a way to boost the transfer budget to sign 30 year old stars.

JW - Will be interesting to see how he copes now PC is tightening the purse strings

Posted by David Traver Adolphus on 05/11/2012

I'm almost--but not completely--ready to accept your argument. I feel as though Tony Pulis has some sort of mental block. Every once and a while, he actually will play our team in their proper positions, and allow some attacking football to happen, and it's magnificent. But then something inside him pulls back, saying "safety, safety," and in the next game, or even the next half, he has us retreating into our own end.

He's spent his entire tenure at Stoke ensuring slow, steady progress, but I wonder if he ever really thought about what he'd do once we reached this point? For surely, there's a man who somewhere inside is saying, "now what do I do?"


Posted by anon on 05/11/2012

Interesting article. I can see your argument in terms of Stoke progressing as a side and having hit the proverbial glass ceiling under Pulis. They probably need a more capable manager to break through it. As a Newcastle fan, I suppose I can rationalise the argument, I cherished Chris Hughton and respected everything he did for the club, but a little bit of change has done wonders for my club so I can see the benefits of such a decision.

I would say this though, if Pulis were to leave in the summer, who would replace him? The list of candidates lacks anyone of superior quality really.

JW - I'm not seeking huge changes, as I say just some basics to be sorted. You're right that there aren't many out there,.certainly no outstanding names.

Posted by DW on 05/12/2012

From what I've seen, Stoke do not have the talent and cannot attract the talent that is required for change. In my opinion, the only thing that will bring 'change' is relegation.

JW - Sadly this is where we find ourselves, but I don't think we'll be relegated and IF we are, I'd think PC would see the pragmatism of solidity of the relationship as key to getting back up :(

Posted by Jeremiah on 05/12/2012

Stoke fans should be contented with their position and status in the premier league. This league has become even more difficult and credit should go to TP for making premier league football a guarantee for the past few years and still counting. If the fans want to win the league, then i will back their demand for Tony Pulis to leave otherwise i see his exit as the beginning of the end for Stoke football club.

JW - No-one is saying we want to win the league, just that we be the best we can be or at least strive to be and that starts with playing players in the right positions and dropping those off form - not much to ask.

Posted by James Autar on 05/12/2012

You have hit the nail right on the centre of the head.
No-one in their right mind would play the slow and pedestrian Crouch ahead of the mobile, skillful and tricky Kenwyne Jones. What a travesty for this player to be sitting on the bench watching Crouch toil away for little reward.
How could the Stoke fans make Crouch their 'Player of the Year'? I recall this one lucky goal which he hit from a long way out and luckily for him it sailed into the net and then I recall numerous chances that he did not put away because he just does not have the tactical ability
to anticipate the opportunities. Pulis is virtually forced to play him because he bought him. On Stoke's current form they are likely to be relegation candidates next season.

JW - I think Crouch is a better player than KJ just not in our system, you're right though that now we have him he has to be played.

Posted by oscar on 05/13/2012

IDIOT, see example wolves, blackburn. they fire coach n relegated. i wish your wish come true, TP out n STOKE relegated. CHEERRRR.....

JW - Small minded thinking will get us nowhere - where exactly is it written that if he leaves we'll go down? Our form since Christmas over a season would see us down anyway.p.s. Any need for the IDIOT?

Posted by Basile on 05/14/2012

If it makes you Stoke fans feel any better, Pulis is chasing what i believe to be a fairly good winger from Wolverhampton. I would be interesting to see how capable Jarvis is playing for a better team. He already excels at Wolves whilst the rest of the team collapses. Sooo, maybe see what happens in the transfer window

JW - I really rate Jarvis and TP is a big fan but he'll only suceed if he plays both wingers

Posted by Forever a Stokie on 05/18/2012

I've been equally frustrated this last season by the lack of ambition and adventure. Seeing both Whitehead and Whelan win the ball in midfield go forward a few yards and then sideways or even turn back with the ball instead of pushing on. The predictability of where the ball is going if any of the back four has possession. As opposing manager it's not too hard to negate the long ball. The decline in the effectiveness of the long throw. In our first season in the top flight it was still a bit of an unknown tactic, but as we all (or nearly all) have seen every team (except Arsenal)now has an effective defense. Last week against Bolton was the final straw. No Delap or Shotton in the team but still when we had a throw in the Delap zone the team still took up positions as though Delap was going to hurl it in. No imagination - I don't know what they do all week on the practice ground - it certainly isn't working on throw ins. Come on TP let's play with a bit more flair and adventure.

JW - Our short throw ins are truly awful, it's embarassing!

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James Whittaker James Whittaker is a football writer and ardent Stoke fan. Having moved to Leeds as a youngster his father refused to take him to his local Championship winning side and instead insisted he chose the Third Division team of his forefathers, Stoke City. Since then there has been no looking back and having been brought up on a diet of Dave Rowson, Kyle Lightbourne and John Gayle, is now embracing the dizzy heights of the top flight for the first time in his life. Fiercely loyal, though always welcoming sensible chat and debate, you can find him on Twitter @ESPN_Stoke

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