Tony Pulis celebrated his 1,000th career match on Saturday in typical fashion – with a draw. His career began in the lower leagues – also with a draw – in 1992.
Without belittling the achievement of 1,000 games as a manager, Tony Pulis is not someone you would want to be manager at your club. His longevity is admirable, particularly because of the style he plays. Not many people so intent on destructive football would survive so long.
He would argue, quite rightly, that he does a job, and people know what he will produce before they employ him. He established Stoke as a top flight team, and famously has never been relegated. But as well as the success at Stoke, the other part of the story is the fans getting impatient and fed up of watching tactics likened to “rugby” on more than one occasion by Arsene Wenger and others.
Short-term, a club might want Pulis to get them into the Premier League and then keep them up, but then you want more, and he cannot provide that.
Mark Hughes has moved Stoke forward, and has a much better style of football, even if it has not really worked so far this season. They are still established, and are better to watch at the same time.
Pulis has always defended himself by suggesting that there is no other way to play with limited resources, but the likes of Bournemouth and Swansea kill that off. Bournemouth in particular have a very small budget, but still manage to entertain. Why can’t Tony Pulis aim to entertain like Eddie Howe does?
Entertainment is the key. Football is a form of entertainment, and fans pay a lot for tickets. They therefore have the right to demand to be entertained. Pulis played a back four of four centre backs last season, and kept Saido Berahino, arguably the most exciting talent at the club, on the bench. He might have discipline issues, but at least he provides something to move supporters. Football should be fun.
Pulis does not pretend to be something he is not: he knows his limitations. But that is no excuse for being so defensive. Being exciting is just as important as getting results.
Congratulations to Tony Pulis on managing so many games, but let’s not go overboard. You wouldn’t want him at your club. Sooner or later fans get tired of watching long balls being lumped forwards aimlessly, and 0-0 draws taken as a positive result.
The progression of coaches like Pep Guardiola and the aforementioned Eddie Howe only puts Pulis further behind. 1,000 games is great, but the next generation and level of coaches have arrived.