Tony Pulis is a respected part of English football culture. He took Stoke up to the Premier League and midtable safety and pulled Crystal Palace from the brink of relegation. He’s done the same at West Brom, too, taking over from the failing Alan Irvine to help the Baggies to a drama-less finish, further cementing his stereotype as a safety manager.
However this season has been completely different, with Pulis’ man management skills looking poor. Granted, results haven’t been awful for West Brom, but they have struggled to score goals – no more than two per match.
Though the club currently sit 14th, eight points above the relegation zone, it is very much a season of what could have been.
Promising England striker Saido Berahino has been benched for the majority of the campaign and held back from progressing or proving himself worthy of his reputation. Even though the player seems as if he does not want to be at the club, it doesn’t stop him from giving his all when he does play. Yet under Pulis, he is not even being considered.
For West Brom and Pulis, the whole episode is merely an opportunity to make a lot of money off the youngster, which in turn is hindering his growth. Last summer, Tottenham were amongst the clubs interested in Berahino, and it was a similar story in the January transfer window.
Through Pulis being foolish, he is depriving his team of the goals that could have helped boost West Brom’s position this season. Had Berahino played, then the Baggies fans may not have witnessed so many goalless affairs from their team.
Although in the summer Pulis bought in James McClean, Rickie Lambert and Salomon Rondon to provide creativity and spark, inspiration has been in short supply. McClean has provided some creative talent, but is more well known for his antics outside of the 90 minutes.
Even though other experienced players such as Jonny Evans and Anders Lindegaard have been bought in, neither have been utilised effectively. Lindegaard at Manchester United was never given the chance, and the move to West Brom looked a match made in heaven considering their usual No.1, Ben Foster, was injured. However Lindegaard never got a look in, with Pulis preferring fellow countryman Boaz Myhill. This has not always paid off, with Myhill making easy mistakes that could have been prevented.
Other creative talents like Serge Gnabry on loan from Arsenal have not been given enough of a chance to shine and help provide some magic at the Hawthorns, something they have not seen since the days of Lawrie Cunningham and Cyril Regis.
When you look at Pulis’ old teams – Stoke under Mark Hughes have blossomed and bought top players which have pushed them into European contention while an Alan Pardew-led Palace look to be a mainstay in the Premier League – it makes you question just how effective Pulis is, whether his philosophy of being a long ball manager is his only plan, and whether he is just the relegation survival expert. Considering his antics with Berahino this season, you have to feel that he truly is losing the plot.