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Thursday, 14 March 2013

Stoke City: What does the future hold for Tony Pulis?


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Sqf Steve Coulter general

What construes Premier League success? Every thing is relative I suppose.  For the two Manchester clubs it's winning the title, while Wigan Athletic's main goal is to avoid relegation. In between we have the likes of Stoke City. A big club with a proud history. 
 
Last July I wrote an article previewing the Potters' season. I earmarked the campaign as crucial for the club's development. Having established themselves as a genuine Premier League outfit the pressure was on Tony Pulis. Fans always want more, it's part of our DNA. Standing still is not an option.
 
A top 10 place was viewed as the next benchmark of success. The omens looked good as City enjoyed a successful autumn. Big name signings Charlie Adam and Michael Owen were brought in. Stoke City were on the up.
 
But the marque signings have failed to deliver with Adam still struggling to produce the form he showed at Blackpool. The Scot has made a modest impression at The Britannia, but this still dwarfs Owen's contribution to the cause. The former England striker has started only once since his summer move. Call me naive but why did Stoke bother signing Micky O? According to sources Owen is on £20,000 a week, a hefty layout for a bench warmer.
 
But then Pulis has history when it comes to buying strikers. Fanfares greeted the arrivals of Dave Kitson, Tuncey and Eidur Gudjohnsen. Within 18 months the trio had moved to pastures new. James Beattie's brief purple patch preserved Premier League status in 2009, but the honeymoon didn't last long. Beattie fell out with Pulis and the honeymoon was over. The striking jinx seems to have extended to Peter Crouch. Once again a bright start was followed by a goalscoring drought.

Crouch has scored once since mid-September. Although there are mitigating circumstances after the tall frontman suffered a dental injury in November.
 
But Stoke City need someone to find the back of the net. The Potters have only netted 27 times this campaign. The continual absence to register has seen City tumble down the table. Stoke are still nine points above fourth from bottom Wigan, but on the flip side Roberto Martinez's men have a game in hand.

We also all know that Wigan are capable of beating anyone on their day. A repeat of last season's heroics could see Stoke plunged into a fight for survival. This time around the Latics squad have the added incentive of a Wembley appearance on the horizon.
 
In contrast Stoke are in freefall. One win in 10 Premier league games and the alarm bells are beginning to ring. One glance at The Oatcake fanzine website reveals genuine trouble at the mill. Pulis is getting it in the neck big time. It should be added that the website is the view of a handful of fans, but despite his achievements Pulis has never won over a section of fans.
 
You can't dispute that Tony Pulis has done a fine job. He led City from the depths of The Championship to European football, but the manager's methods don't sit easily with the Stoke City ethos. Generations were brought up on the passing game. The direct nature of the Pulis philosophy was never going to win favour with some.

Ironically Welshman Pulis may ultimately be scuppered by a team from his homeland. Swansea City have outrumped the Potters in the last two season. The Swans have added silverware to their CV by playing the beautiful game. The Liberty Stadium outfit have had a similar budget to their North Staffordshire counterparts, but the side from the Valleys are playing the style of football once associated with Stoke City.
 
I watched the highlights of Stoke's recent defeat at St James Park. In the post match analyst Match Of The Day 2 pundit Jason Roberts stated that the visitors were employing the Pomo theory, Pomo stands for Position of Maximum Opportunity.  In laymen's terms Pomo is about getting the ball into the box as quickly as possible. The reference would have shudders down the spines of older Potters fans.

In 1982 an attractive Stoke City side were challenging for Europe. The following season manager Richie Barker introduced the Pomo system. Suddenly the City midfield was rendered redundant as they ball flew over their heads. Ball playing artists Micky Thomas, Sammy Mcilroy and Mark Chamberlin (Alex's Dad) quit the club in disgust. Stoke were rooted to the bottom of the table when Barker was sacked. Does Tony Pulis know his history?

Calling all Stoke fans: Where do you stand regarding Tony Pulis? Can the Potters avoid being dragged into the relegation battle? What does the future hold for Stoke City and Tony Pulis? Whatever your views, we'd love to hear from you.

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Colin Illingworth

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