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Points are the prizes for Stoke boss Tony Pulis

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Chris Bevan | 20:41 UK time, Thursday, 11 February 2010

Britannia Stadium, Stoke

I have to admit that my encounter with Tony Pulis does not exactly start well. "You're late, where have you been?" demands the Stoke City manager after I introduce myself. Given that he is a renowned disciplinarian with a reputation for being a man you do not want to upset, I am glad the club's press officer is on hand to set the record straight on my timekeeping and explain it is me who has been waiting.

Pulis is only joking in any case - and things go a lot smoother from that point onwards. His team tactics may have been denounced by some as little more than an up and at 'em approach with an 'in yer face' attitude but in contrast to that, and perhaps his public image too, Pulis in person is affable, engaging and even partial to some good-humoured banter.

Not that there has been much of the latter hurled in his direction recently. Stoke's style is as effective at winding up the purists as it was in securing Premier League survival last season, with Arsenal boss Arsene Wenger a particularly vocal critic while some Potters supporters have registered their disapproval too, despite their side being unbeaten in 2010.

Wenger and Pulis have been sniping at each other since Stoke beat the Gunners in November 2008 so it's probably not surprising that the 52-year-old Welshman exclaims in jest "don't tell Arsene that!" when I put it to him that the Potters were deserved winners when the two sides met in the FA Cup fourth round last month.

tonypulis595.jpgPulis proved many people wrong by keeping Stoke in the Premier League last season

But, while they might populate opposing poles in terms of footballing principals, Wenger and Pulis agree on at least one thing. In terms of priorities, the Premier League is all that matters in the current campaign - success in domestic cups just doesn't come close.

Wenger said this week that finishing third is a better achievement than winning the FA Cup, while Pulis told me he feels the same way about staying up again. It's an outlook that Arsenal and Stoke fans don't all share. The two clubs have dramatically different histories and expectations when it comes to honours but it is fair to say they are both due a trophy even if the Gunners' wait for silverware has been relatively short compared to the 38 years that have passed since the Potters beat Chelsea to win the 1972 League Cup.

For me, that actually makes Pulis's perspective the hardest to understand, as we speak ahead of Stoke's trip to Manchester City for Saturday's FA Cup fifth-round tie.

After all, Wenger has won no shortage of pots in the recent past, including four FA Cups. Pulis, on the other hand, has been in football since he was 15 and a manager since he was 34 yet, save for reaching the last eight of last season's Carling Cup, has never been within touching distance of a major prize - understandable given he has spent the majority of that time in the lower divisions.

The Potters have not reached the quarter-finals of the FA Cup since 1973 so, given the teams left in the draw - three of the so-called 'big four' are already out - this year's competition probably represents Stoke's - and his - best chance of some long-awaited glory. The pragmatic Pulis, however, is having none of it - the only thing he is dreaming of is victory over Roberto Mancini's side when they meet again at the Britannia Stadium in the league three days later.

"Which of those games with City would I rather win? Both!" says Pulis with a smile. "But City away was not one of the best draws we could have got and I look at the bottom of the league table and we are still involved. So I just want to get to 40 points as quickly as possible."

Stoke are 10 points off that total after Tuesday's 1-1 draw with Wigan. They are currently 12th - seven points above the relegation zone - and his players can forget about lifting the Cup; as far as Pulis is concerned, mid-table mediocrity come May will do just fine.

That's because for Pulis, formerly in charge of Bournemouth, Gillingham, Bristol City, Portsmouth and Plymouth, being a successful manager is about more than just what you win, although he does have two promotions to his name with Stoke and the Gills. He is fiercely proud of his record of never having been relegated during his 18-year managerial career, so would he swap that achievement to get his hands on a trophy? The answer is a resounding "no".

pulisbournemouth595.jpgHarry Redknapp gave Pulis his first coaching job, at Bournemouth in the late 1980s

"When you are working as a manager, your bread and butter is the league and what you do in the league," he said. "I think cup games are just the icing on the cake. If we were to have a great Cup run there would be no-one more pleased than me, but the league is the most important thing to the long-term future of the club."

There are plenty of other current Premier League managers who are trophyless too, like Everton's David Moyes, who has won nothing in the 10 years since he took Preston up from League One. But then his achievements at Goodison show how unwise it can be to use silverware alone as a gauge of ability.

As for Pulis, he feels the game has changed so much in the past few decades that he, and others, have to have alternative ambitions.

"If you go back 20 or 30 years, you could pick a lower-division team up and take it through to the top leagues and challenge for trophies," he said. "But I don't think you will see that again. Now the top four or five clubs are so far in front of everybody else because of what finance dictates, so for anyone outside that group to win a trophy is a great achievement. I know Harry Redknapp did it at Portsmouth, and that was unbelievable."

The mention of how his old Bournemouth mentor Redknapp, who gave Pulis his first coaching job while he was still a player in the late 1980s, steered Pompey to their 2008 FA Cup triumph is especially relevant in Pulis's argument of why knockout competitions have to take second billing, if you consider what has happened to Pompey since.

That will never happen to Stoke as long as Pulis is at the Britannia Stadium as, to him, his long-term legacy matters far more than any one-off success - he can see little point in going for broke in the Cup (literally in Portsmouth's case).

Pulis was sacked by Gillingham soon after taking them to the League One play-off final in 1999 and saw his first spell at Stoke, which lasted from 2002 until 2005, end when he was dismissed by the club's then-Icelandic owners for 'failing to exploit the foreign transfer market'.

He knows as well as anyone how futile planning can be when you are a manager. But after returning to Stoke in 2006 and, two years later, leading the club into the top flight for the first time since 1985, he feels secure enough to do just that. "It's very important for me to put a sound footing down here," he said. "So, even if I left tomorrow, people would come in and think, well, this club is well run and everything is done properly.

"Whether it's travel, training facilities or the players' diet, everything is in place now. We have come on a bomb in the last couple of years in respect of technology and when we finish upgrading our facilities at our training ground (scheduled to be completed in April) then we will push on again.

"The last thing I would ever want to do is to walk away from a football club and think 'I've left them in the mire. I don't ever, ever want to be associated with that. I'd rather work 10 times harder if it means leaving the club in a better position than when I first took over."

tuncay595.jpgTuncay cost Stoke £5m in August 2009 but has started only nine league games for the Potters

Not that Pulis is contemplating leaving. He describes his relationship with chairman Peter Coates and his family as "an absolute dream", adding "they have been rock solid in everything I've done. They've backed me and been very, very good to me".

The manager's rapport with the Stoke fans is a little more strained, however. If they were happy to just be in the Premier League last season, they already want more this time around - and we are not talking trophies here.

There is far more to the Potters than the long-ball label they have been given but a section of the Potters support are still unhappy with their team's approach and what they perceive as negative tactics and poor team selection, citing Pulis's reluctance to use skilful Turkish striker Tuncay, a £5m capture in the summer but who has started only nine league games this season and had to wait until December for his full debut, as an example of the latter.

Does that bother the man who got them into the top flight in the first place? It's difficult to tell. Blackpool boss Ian Holloway used to babysit for Pulis and his wife Debs when they were young players at Bristol Rovers and the Stoke manager's response contains more than a hint of the 'Ollyisms' that Holloway is famous for.

"It's been harder to manage this football club this year than it was last year," says Pulis. "The first year in the Premier League, everything is so new and exciting for the fans. It's really like taking a new girlfriend out - for the first couple of times it is so fresh but then over a period of time that fades. I'm not saying you don't still love her but it does die down a little bit."

To prolong that analogy, a few trinkets might help fan the flames of romance but it's clear Pulis has his own ideas about how the future will pan out.

"I think we have a little way to go before we are in a position where we can say we are capable of winning a cup competition," Pulis added. "We need three years to catch up with everybody else. If we get those three years in the Premier League - and it is an 'if', although I really hope we do - then I think you will see this club move forward.

"It's a difficult club to manage but it's a great club and I am enjoying my time here. Every day is different but it's nice to be somewhere where you can say you have put foundations down for the club to push on."

You can follow me on Twitter at http://twitter.com/chrisbevan_bbc

Comments

  • Comment number 1.

    That article was too good to have no comments. As someone who has suffered at the hands of Stoke fans in the past, I wanted them to get hammered when they first came up. But Pulis has won me over.

    Say what you like about his footballing style, his attitude to the game while to some may seem cynical, to me speak of a man who has been burnt before but wants to do his job for as long as he possibly can.

  • Comment number 2.

    People might disagree with his style but at the end of the day he clearly wants what's best for the team. He's put a decent, hard to beat team together who have proven they can go toe to toe with just about anyone and get a result, and as he proved last year his style ensured they comfotably survived in the premiership and look well on the way to doing so again this year.

    As Arsenal (and annoyingly as it's my team) Spurs have proven, playing fancy football is pointless if you don't stick your chances away and we paid for that by giving them 3 points at WHL last year.

  • Comment number 3.

    As a Leicester fan, those years from the late 90s to early 2000s where we enjoyed mid-table Premier League football each year were fantastic. (Nigel Pearson is doing an excellent job, so we might get back there soon.) Stoke fans have very short memories if they are criticising Pulis for tactics or team selection (something I've not encountered whilst living in Stoke for the last few months). Besides, when I've seen them they play decent football. Pulis won't be ruling the Cup out if they beat Man City!

  • Comment number 4.

    Really good article. Can't believe some Stoke fans are dissatisfied with style of play that's keeping them in mid-table - he is right about needing 2-3 seasons and then kicking on - look at what happened to Hull last season lots of pretty football and then they imploded

  • Comment number 5.

    Well that is typical Tony pulis, understated as ever, you can bet a pound to a penny, should we turn over Mancity, TP will say that it was unexpected, when all along he planned for it. He does like playing mind games.

    You will never hear TP say outright, that we are going to win any given game. He is right in as much that in the first season, the majortiy of fans were there for as long as it lasted and come what may were 110% behind the team, though we all hoped to stay a long while in the Premiership.

    This time the majority are 100% behind the team, but expect more, which is understandable, I am sure at some point we will get to a cup final, but not at the expense of dropping out of the Premier league, I am sure the vast majority of Stoke supporters would second that

  • Comment number 6.

    As a Stoke fan, I don't think any proper Stoke fan thinks anything bad about Tony Pulis.
    To me, he is the man who has made my dreams come true, my team, who were fighting relegation in the fizzy pop not long ago, to almost securing our Premiership status for the 3rd year.

    His style of play will always divide the more, let's say needy, fans. But fans, REAL fans who want their team to do well, will be forever in Pulis' debt for making this dream a reality.

  • Comment number 7.

    Good article and very typical of Tony Pulis. Having watched Stoke for over 20 years, most of which were pretty awful, I have nothing but respect for Pulis. The odd grumble about some of his tactics are usually tempered with respect and all teams and mangers who now play Stoke show us respect because they all know it is going to be a tough game. Pulis is right Premiership is the most important for us and I, along with the majority of fans, believe he will do it for us and survive the three years and still be the man to carry us forward.Great manager honest bloke, can't fault him.

  • Comment number 8.

    If I was a Stoke fan I wouldn't be too happy about these comments.. Man City away is a hard draw but to write the Fa Cup off before a tie is bad practice in my book.. I understand the need to stay up but they are in a decent position and show no signs of bad runs etc.. in the league from what Ive seen of them..

    Suppose it highlights the problems with clubs and the money the prem provides for them.. to ignore their famous cup is now becoming a common practice for managers.. Scottish fan here but I find that a bit sad..

  • Comment number 9.

    I think the decision to play it safe in the FA cup is the right one as they have a lot of fixtures coming up which can make us safe in the Premiership for another year.
    I think next year will be a tough year for us looking at the teams who will probably get promoted from the Championship who, compared to this year, will pose more of a threat.
    I'll always be a Pulis fan, he's changed the club for the better.

  • Comment number 10.

    It sounds like he is taking a pragmatic approach. As he touches on the only way to attract decent players and win cups is to be stable in the premier league (with the rare notable exception). I would hazard to guess that even with3 of the big 4 gone it'll still be an all premier league final and thats where a club needs to be to have even the slightest hope of picking up silverware. No don't the Pulis haters will be lining up to pan his comments above (although not so sure they did Wenger).

    One slight disagreement though is that Wenger's main focus shouldn't be 3rd place in the league, which is what he appears to be. Arsenal fans have been deprived glory and left with inefficient (albeit pretty) twaddle for nearing 5 (?) years now. Wenger may have a few pots in his cupboard so to speak but if he doesn't squeeze another one in soon he may have to find a new cupboard outside of north london.

  • Comment number 11.

    I'm a Crewe Alex fan, and when me and my Dad were coming home from the Maccelsfield game in Mid December, we put on Radio Stoke's "Praise and Grumble" and we were both thoroughly confused by the number of Stoke fans calling in and saying Pulis should be sacked. Stoke are amongst the most comfortable of any of the recent promotions, and for them to be saying they should be doing better at this stage is laughable. It's only been a few years since they were playing in what is now League One, being comfortable in the premier league should be enough for a couple of seasons!

  • Comment number 12.

    Very good article,

    I believe that yes maybe Stoke fans are upset about the type of football that they play but it is effective and works to great effect against the sometimes more experienced teams in the league, I have watched them confuse Arsenal several tiems since entering the Premier League. As you have said in the article they dont have the players yet to play a different kind of football and it will take a couple of years for that to happen and for the kind of play that Stoke fans want to see to develop.

    They just need to learn to improve their away form and I think they could be threatening for a place in the top half of the table, every manager needs time and I think Pulis is a good manager and he has shown that in his previous clubs but like every good manager he needs time to prove himself.

  • Comment number 13.

    People call him pragmatic and defensive like it's a bad thing, even then Stoke's play is far more entertaining than, say, Bolton under Big Sam or McCarthy's eight-in-front-of-the-goal routine. Since coming to the premiership he's continued to play a strong game, but ultimately has bought some really good technical players, such as Lawrence, Etherington and Tuncay, and classy but strong defenders such as Huth and Shawcross. His team is tough but aren't out-and-out thugs and have that premiership touch of finesse about them. He clearly is versatile enough to develop the way the team plays over time, but over all he wants to get the job done.

    The likes of Tony Mowbraw would do well to take a leaf out of his book.

    Good luck Stoke, you've helped ruin two seasons for me (Liverpool) with annoying draws but the games have at least been competitive.

  • Comment number 14.

    Not a Stoke fan but if I was I'd much rather my manager played up the chances of winning the FA Cup this year (considering there is only Chelsea left) even if privately he considered the FA Cup to be a distant second to the league. At least saying that would create even more of a buzz for Stoke fans surely?

  • Comment number 15.

    Thanks for the comments so far...

    Just to add that I doubt Tony Pulis is throwing in the towel already against Man City in the Cup, no team of his would ever surrender and I think we saw in the fourth round against Arsenal that, whoever he picks, his players still want to win games, and are capable of doing so.

    I think Pulis's comments about the Cup tie on the Stoke City official website are pretty telling about his priorities though. Bear in mind Stoke have an awful away record and an impressive one at home... so you might think trying to take Man City back to the Britannia for a replay might be the way forward? No chance!

    Pulis said: "I am looking to pick a positive team and go there to have a right go. I'm sure the last thing that Roberto Mancini wants and we all want is a draw. So it's gloves off because I think both sides will want a result one way or the other."

    http://www.stokecityfc.com/page/NewsDetail/0,,10310~1962828,00.html

  • Comment number 16.

    I find Pulis' comments strange considering the comments he's made in the local rag says he could go all out attacking to win at Man city, mind games methinks?

  • Comment number 17.

    I'm a season ticket holder at Stoke and I tend to back the club and the manager in everything they do.

    I have no quarrel with the tactics that TP employs as I am one fan that understands Stoke still have a long way to go before they can call themselves an established Premiership side.

    What a lot of people fail to see (some Stokies included) is that the club and the way they play as well as the personnel has come on leaps and bounds in the last two seasons. We are still predominantly a long ball side BUT we have arguably the most exciting left sided winger in the league at the moment and a front pair of Fuller and Tuncay who have bags of skill and ability. We still have a long way to go in terms of catching up with those teams who have been around for years with regards to transfer fees, wages and facilities that we can provide. But slowly and surely we are bringing in quality players such as Etherington and Tuncay who give that extra dimension to our play.

    If I were to complain about one thing on TP's part it would be his team selections now and again. There are certain players, a tall forward and holding midfield player to be precise, who would look out of place in a Sunday league team, who consistently get the nod ahead of players with far more ability.

  • Comment number 18.

    By playing down the FA Cup Pulis is effectively saying that Saturday's game is Man City's to lose. They are under pressure to win a trophy after spending so much money. I think this sets the game up nicely for Stoke as they have nothing to lose. Ultimately Pulis, in saying that the league is all important, is simply stating the views of all 20 Premier League managers.

  • Comment number 19.

    A good piece portraying our club in a positive light for once.
    I possess a t shirt that declares "Tony Says Work 'Aard", (bought from stokeTshirts.co.uk) that sums up his attitude to the glorious game.
    It is also encouraging to see many opposition fans warming to TPs ways and as A Stokie I only can praise the work he has done. Many Stokies are still pinching themselves about where we are.
    We do have a lot of "wind up merchants" in the city who tend to get their loud voices heard (some say they are Port Fail fans!). The silent majority however recognise TP's work and ethics and Love what he has done for the club.

  • Comment number 20.

    Remember when football wasn't such a hard-faced cynical business? When it was about glory? Even fun? Exactly what is the point of being in the Premier League if you can't win it, if you can't get promoted and still aim for the sky, like Leeds and Forest? Is it about higher wages for the players and nothing else?
    But disrespect the FA Cup all you like Mr Pulis, especially tomorrow.

  • Comment number 21.

    The thing with this I don't get is Stoke aren't going to go down and they aren't going to end up in Europe so for the sake of 12 almost dead rubber games which need a return of at the most 10 points he's forsaking the chance to crack on and do well in the cup. If they can get past City all it would take is a bad day at the office for Chelsea and they'd be in with a real shot of getting to the semis and Wembley.

    Perhaps it's a Fergie style mind game to make City think Stoke will rest players in the hope they do likewise. City themselves must be torn between giving everything for 4th and ending a 34 year trohpy drought.

  • Comment number 22.

    Good interview. People can't read too much about his utterances about how important the FA cup is. They will be said for the players to hear as its easy to get ahead of yourself when thinking that you might be playing at Wembley in a couple of wins time. He will want to win it as much as any team but he knows how crucial it is to keep players' feet on the ground so they perform in every premiership game.

    Tactically I'm sure most fans trust Pulis to take the right approach given the success he has already delivered. You can't change your playing style overnight and hope to be successful. Its a fine balance and you need to take baby steps to get there. Most fans I guess would appreciate too the work he has done in ensuring the club is run the right way as well - its what Ferguson did when he first started at United. Given the resources they have maybe the next step is to raise the standard of the youth academy as that is probably their best route to success.

  • Comment number 23.

    "The likes of Tony Mowbray would do well to take a leaf out of his book."
    As a Baggie I know there are few things less likely in the world than that happening! Pulis has done well with Stoke, made them hard to beat, etc etc, but there will never come a day when I would rather watch a Pulis team than a Mowbray team. Football isn't the beautiful game in the Potteries. Mind you, they're not as bad to watch as they used to be. I remember in the season that both Albion and Stoke went up, we played a 1-1 draw at The Hawthorns, and I've never seen a team play act and waste time and put simply - CHEAT so much in all my days. I saw one player, Zakuani, when Albion attacked, just sit down off the ball and lie on the floor to pretend he was injured! Those were the Pulis tactics back then along with the 'hoofball' and I've never really respected him since then, despite his success.
    If all you want is results, then Pulis has (as well as other similar manager's) done a fantastic job, but football isn't the greatest sport in the world because you can shrink your pitch and allow a player to throw the ball into the box for a flick on... it's because seeing it played at it's most expansive, skillful, fluent best is one of the most awe inspiring sights in sport. It's actually braver to be a team that looks to pass and retain the ball than be a team who fire it 60+ yards to a bullish 'target man'.
    Given the choice, do you want to see performance driven entertainment, or results driven dross?

    I've honestly not posted this to wind anyone up but I anticipate plenty of "look where Mowbray took you in the end" and "Stoke always beat West Brom" comments. Perhaps rightly so. But then, I'm a purist...

  • Comment number 24.

    When teams like Stoke, Fulham, Bolton etc get relegated as in time they all probably will they will regret that they did not have a go to win one of the two cup trophies, which realistically are the only trophies clubs of that size can win.
    The Premier league has become such a monster that only 4 sides think they can win it (5 if you include Man City) and yet it’s the money from staying in the league that motivates sides rather than winning anything. Teams don’t want to finish too high as then you have the problem of the Europa League and the extra games. If you asked the managers they would all just want to play 38 premiership games for ever. I just hope that one day a smaller side has a go, without breaking the bank like Portsmouth, to give their fans a few days of glory and a trophy, maybe then a few others will follow. The FA cup is special yet so many Premiership and Championship sides do not treat it with any respect.

  • Comment number 25.

    As an Arsenal fan I respect Tony Pulis and his team. In some respects
    he has some similarities with Wenger in their focus on managing
    the club and integrity.
    I admire the spirit he gets his players to play with. I understand his
    total focus on Premier League and his realism on the money
    driving everything in the game.
    Arsenal play Stoke at the Britannia and it will be a very important
    game for us but expect it to be very tough.

  • Comment number 26.

    Jonas, you must remember football isn't a form of entertainment in the same way a film or peice of music is. We derive the entertainment from winning and the ups and downs of the seasons (without the downs the ups wouldn't feel oh so sweet).

    Can anyone explain why someone who likes 20 passes across the halfway line is described as a "purist?". Surely football in it's purest form is football played to within the rules, as a competition and going out to get results?

  • Comment number 27.

    A very good article I think and gives quite an insight into the man's mind and approach to the various competitions. Its right in my opinion to make the Premiership the priority since that's the competition we are in every week. The FA Cup and League Cup are competitions that don't provide the bread and butter of football. It would be fantastic to win one of the most prestigous cup competeions in the world though but we mustn't let it detract from our main aim of premiership footbal next season.
    I don't subscribe to the anti-Pulis brigade and fully support him and his methods even if they are bit frustrating sometimes. I'm a Stokie and that's that.
    As for the Man City game I doubt he'll go hell for leather despite what he says publicly, there will be a measure of control in his team selection.

  • Comment number 28.

    Any fans criticizing the style Pulis uses don't deserve a manager like him in my view. You can play football as lovely as you want but it is no guarantee of points, just look at West Brom last year; played some great stuff but just didn't get the points.
    Tony has made Stoke into a formidable side and is adding the flair and skill bit by bit, only bringing in the players and putting them on the team sheet if it will not mean risking losing points because he realises that if your club is to be succesful, you need Premiership money. Survival takes precedence over all.
    A cup run would be great for Stoke but not as great as ensuring they stay in the top flight, giving them yet more long term financial stability to help them create the right infrastructure for future success, with better training facilities and a better academy etc.
    If I was a Stoke fan I would be delighted with how well they are doing and appreciate the fact that if you have to play the long ball game, so be it. League points are far better come the end of the season than a few sympathetic plaudits for trying to "play some football."

  • Comment number 29.


    I'm confused with how some of the fans, not sure how many of them..are reacting to TP
    He's a honest and clever chap, good manager also.

    After winning promotion and securing prem safety, who would of thought that the Stoke fans could want 'more' than that at this stage of there prem days? hmm... maybe a hit back in to reality is needed?!

  • Comment number 30.

    There's no right or wrong way to play football Orfuss. Nor do I see "20 passes across the halfway line" as a good way to win a football match. Keeping possession, however, seems to be a dying fashion in football. Teams that get promoted especially are looking at the likes of Stoke, Bolton and Hull and are copying their, lets say, "rugged" approach and in my opinion are making the so called "best league in the world" look ever poorer. These teams are scouring the world to find the biggest, most solid players they can to stifle opposition that they are frankly too cowardly to take on at actual football.

    Meanwhile, the FA are lambasted as the pool of young, technically gifted English players evaporates and the England team continues to struggle at major tournaments... but it's no wonder when this short term attitude of survival at all costs reigns supreme.

    It all comes down to the money in the end. That's why Pulis would rather live in mid-table mediocrity than have a successful day out at Wembley. At this rate the standard qualification for a football manager in this country won't be a coaching badge... it'll be a business degree.

  • Comment number 31.

    Jonas, I see what your saying, but im guessing as a 'purist' Im guessing your a fan of Arsene Wenger, and lets be honest he hasnt exactly contributed to producing english footballers, technically gifted or otherwise!!

  • Comment number 32.

    I believe that football should be played the way Arsenal play but Stoke and plenty of other teams play they way they need to to survive and that is ok too. Tony Pulis has built a team that can compete in the best league in England and whilst the football isn't the purest it is competitive which is how football should be. Stoke are more than capable of beating anyone in the league and that is a tribute to Tony Pulis, the Stoke players and fans and is what makes the Premier League the best league in the world.

  • Comment number 33.

    I like Wenger, Arsenal are my favourite team to watch in the PL. He needs to get his players to shoot more though!

    Wenger hasn't produced English footballers until recently, I believe he always said that he needed many years to bring talented 10-year-olds up to the standard he required as the one's who were there when he first arrived were the same old 'good athletes, lacking technique'. Now we are starting to see good English youngsters at the Emirates though - Wilshere, Gibbs, Eastmond, Lansbury and Simpson, who we at The Hawthorns saw was a very talented player last season, albeit lazy. And would Walcott be in the England team now without Wenger's tutoring? I'm not sure he would.

  • Comment number 34.

    Why is Walcott in the England squad, can someone tell me what exactly he is doing that is so special.He is lightening fast...well so is colin jackson shall we throw him in too?

    He was abysmal last week against chelsea and for me doesn't offer anything at all. Bentley who has hardly had a look in at spurs has made much more of an impression this season, i'd even argue that leon osman offers more as a footballer than walcott does.

    One hat trick against a poor croatia side and he's the best thinbg since sliced bread. Let me tell you, Croatia have got this inflated rep in england cos they knocked our precious side out of the euro qualifying in 2007. What did they do when they got there? nothin just what you'd expect from a poor footballing nation, they haven't even qualified for the world cup.

    Let's have a footballer in there instead of some speed merchant with no footballing class or skill. I'm sure if you offered Arsenal fans a straight swap Bentley for Walcott they would take it.

    One hat trick and he's the next Gazza, appauling press influenced bigupmanship.

  • Comment number 35.

    Quality stuff from a quality manager
    Still too many Stoke fans don't understand the man despite Pulis spelling it out time and again
    Lou Macari was a pragmatist but Tony Pulis is the ultimate pragmatist. For Pulis getting the club relegated would be the ultimate sin and this is what drives him. Pulis knows that he has to establish the club, enabling him to bring in players who he will know will not allow the club to drop back down. Only then will we see TP really consider a tilt at the cup
    Having said that Stoke have nothing to lose tomorrow and I do expect TP to give it a go (tough for our style on that big pitch) whilst keeping something in hand for the more important meeting on Tuesday
    Be interesting to see what happens in the next round if we do win - it will become even harder to ignore the lure of the cup
    Long may you reign TP

  • Comment number 36.

    "Why is Walcott in the England squad, can someone tell me what exactly he is doing that is so special.He is lightening fast...well so is colin jackson shall we throw him in too?

    He was abysmal last week against chelsea and for me doesn't offer anything at all. Bentley who has hardly had a look in at spurs has made much more of an impression this season, i'd even argue that leon osman offers more as a footballer than walcott does.

    One hat trick against a poor croatia side and he's the best thinbg since sliced bread. Let me tell you, Croatia have got this inflated rep in england cos they knocked our precious side out of the euro qualifying in 2007. What did they do when they got there? nothin just what you'd expect from a poor footballing nation, they haven't even qualified for the world cup.

    Let's have a footballer in there instead of some speed merchant with no footballing class or skill. I'm sure if you offered Arsenal fans a straight swap Bentley for Walcott they would take it.

    One hat trick and he's the next Gazza, appauling press influenced bigupmanship."

    what has this got to do with stoke city? btw bently has had 3 good games since joining spurs, so nice argument. not one arsenal fan would swap walcott for bently, lol.

  • Comment number 37.

    Walcott hasn't been great this season but I'd prefer him to Bentley, as Spurs prefer Lennon, a very similar player to Walcott. Croatia, if I recall this correctly, were unbeaten at home in competitive fixtures until young Theo put three past them? Don't underestimate a player with electric pace and and a clinical finish - they are a deadly asset.

    That's all I'll say on that now as this is an article on Tony Pulis and Stoke, and I've made my point on them too. All the best to them at Man City this weekend and for the rest of the season.

  • Comment number 38.

    #36. Colin Jackson, wouldnt really want to play with Walcott. Considering he's as Welsh as Welsh can be. Now if Wales had him on the right and Giggs on the left in their prime that would have been some pair of wingers!

  • Comment number 39.

    Just to clear up, walcott got into the england squad because Wenger told Erikkson it would be a good idea, even though he hadnt even played for arsenal at that point!!
    But granted there is some recent evidence to suggest Wenger is nurturing talent.
    That said Ryan shawcroos, although a product of uniteds youth system has come on leaps and bounds under Pulis (mainly because he is playing!)
    Truth be told is pulis and wenger are two ends of a spectrum and really the best of both worlds is what say Englands should be aiming for. Look Good AND get results!!

  • Comment number 40.

    It would behoove all those talking about the attraction of money to take a step back and look at the longer term. If a club that reaches the Premiership takes a short-term view and goes for broke, trying to win cups and eventually fading and retreating down the leagues (Leeds, Luton, Soton, Boro, countless others), what have they actually gained other than a mountain to climb?

    I applaud Pulis for his approach. Taking the money on offer consistently, year-on-year, will build a _sustainable_ platform from which to launch campaign after campaign on the cups on offer, and perhaps even the summit of the league. Success goes in waves. At the moment, Man U et al are at the summit of one particularly sustained wave of success. But in the longer term, any club that manages its resources cannily can build a platform from which they can start to challenge the established hierarchy, as Everton threatened to do, and as Spurs and Villa are doing. (I discount Man City as their platform is externally funded.) Pulis should be lauded for wanting stability before success, in order to ensure that that success is _sustained_.

  • Comment number 41.

    About stokey is it ok, well guess what they are a terrible side full of 2nd rate premiership players most of which have been relegated with other clubs

    Huth Tuncay Higgingbottom Whitehead Fuller Griffin Kitson Etherington Faye Delap Lawrence Collins

    A poor manager who butts his players this man is an disgrace. Their long ball bully boy tactics will on get them so far...relegation contenders each season

  • Comment number 42.

    "Surely football in it's purest form is football played to within the rules,"

    I would think those injured by Stoke would disagree. Just ask Aaron Lennon

  • Comment number 43.

    "But then, I'm a purist..."

    No such thing, football is about more than close-control. you need to be versatile. One of my favourite games this season was the recent Mersey derby, a dramatic and competitive game. A defensively capable league means the best really have to be the best to succeed. Chelsea and United use a combination of power, creativity, technical skill and a ruthless edge to get where they are. Pulis has both ruthlessness and power at his disposal and is adding the other two over time, that's how he's turning Stoke into a premiership club. Mowbray puts too much emphasis on technical skill and little else, it's a short-sighted approach. If you present your weakness to others in a competitive environment then expect it to be taken advantage of, why should others play a certain way to suit you?

    I'm not saying that there isn't an over-pragmatic side to the game, but I don't think it's Pulis' end-aim (or even his present style - best exhibited by the fact he almost always plays two up top, not a particularly pragmatic move), his plan appears to be to build from a solid foundation, bottom-up. WBA (last time around) appear to approach it from the other direction. Eventually someone will come to the Hawthorns and get the mixture right and I honestly hope they do as its a good, well-supported club, but this talk of being a "purist" reeks of delusion, an excuse for failure.

  • Comment number 44.

    Whilst the cup may not be priority for Pulis, clearly nor is playing football that anyone can watch or appreciate. there is one plan at work with Pulis, and that to put it mildly is not exactly an over elaborate one, and whilst it may be pleasing to the supporters, it is a shame that the beautiful game is getting murdered by his inability as a manager. Stoke's success is an unwelcome reward for dull yet effective play.Surely we shouldnt praise this. We should penalise it.

  • Comment number 45.

    Have just read some of the comments above and decrying TP for playing down the FA Cup.

    TP is right that the league comes first but be under no illusion he'll be busting a gut to win at City - although very realistic about our chances. TP is very understated - in public he'll say one thing, but to his players he'll be bulling them up so as to believe they can win it.

    Contrary to all the rubbish written about the James Beattie affair - and a lot of it was rubbish, there's even some of it above - yes he is a disciplinarian but he's also an extremely shrewd person and an excellent man manager.

    Stoke's style of play doesn't suit all, including some Stokies, but it has evolved from last - we play a totally different way this season and do play the ball around on the ground as well as knocking it long.

    And as for the last comment above (posted at 5.13) - total rubbish.

  • Comment number 46.

    "this talk of being a "purist" reeks of delusion, an excuse for failure."

    In fairness I see what you mean pidgeGULL. What I meant when saying I'm a purist is that I prefer to watch fluid, possession keeping football, like Barcelona, Brazil, and while Mowbray was at the Club, my beloved West Brom (we mix it up a bit more under Di Matteo these days!). I didn't mean to sound arrogant or delusional. As I stated in a previous post, there's no right or wrong way to play football (unless you resort to blatant violence, and I won't accuse Stoke of that).

    I do wonder how you could have enjoyed that recent Mersey derby however. I'm all for passion, but that match was a disgrace. Reckless challenge after reckless challenge, there should have been more than just two red cards in that one. I find it hard to believe that professional footballers cannot control themselves enough so as not to resort to violent tackles. To go in two-footed like Kyrgiakos and Fellaini did (at the same time!) is pre-meditated, pure and simple, an attack on a fellow human being. You don't 'accidently' go in with two feet. Anyone who does go in two-footed deserves more than just a red card as punishment in my opinion. When a game of football, especially a derby, is played up as a 'battle', or a 'war', I don't like it because it merely incites violence. As I said before, it's braver to go out and take on the opposition at the game itself, even if the opposition are supposedly superior, than to simply try and rough them up.

    Oh and Albion didn't go down because they tried to play aesthetic football; it's because they lost Kevin Phillips and didn't replace him with another striker as clinical to bury the host of chances that we created but didn't take almost every week.

  • Comment number 47.

    Too much is made of Stokes football. Pulis's job is to keep the team in the top flight, and well, that's it really. It may not please the purists, but then, they didn't seem to bothered when Liverpool played dull, turgid football in the mid 70's and 80's. The whining only starts when it's a 'lesser light'. It's hardly anything new either. Wolves played (highly successfully) the long ball game in the late 50's, Watford, and Wimbledon were both tough, direct sides in the 80's and 90's. I doubt very much any of their fans gave a monkeys what anyone thought.

    On the flipside, if a team is dull, effective and successful it can have a very negative effect as everyone tried to copy them - as happened with Liverpool in the early 80's. I bring this up, as famously, John Barnwells Stoke did exactly to Liverpool as they did to everyone else (rang up a ring of steel in their half and picked off teams on the break) and this howls of hypocritical outrage. As I say, one rule for some........

    As for the FA cup, this is a far more serious problem, and not just for that trophy but in the wider game. It's weird to think that it was only just over a decade ago teams were more likely to field a weakened team in a league game than an FA cup match, that the League cup was still taken semi seriously, that Europe had three premier trophies, that the UEFA cup carried only slightly less weight than the European cup, and that everyone tried to win the league, and that everyone tried to win every game - not just win the ones that they thought 'mattered'.

    A very dangerous trend has set in. Money first, football second. Football by it;s very nature should be competitive. As soon as you limit your horizons it ceases to be - and that creates the current situation, it's not created by it.

    The excuse that 'the top clubs are too big/rich' et al is no excuse. They ALWAYS have been. It's only an excuse, ready made to excuse failure.

    Would Brian Clough have been daunted by the big four? Not on your life..........

  • Comment number 48.

    Tony Pulis is undoubtedly the most successful Stoke City manager since the legendary Tony Waddington in the 1960s and 1970s. He has led us back to the top division after more than 25 years in the wilderness, and he looks like he is going to keep us there for a while yet.

    The vast majority of Stoke fans are delirious about this and will be eternally grateful to him.

    But under the surface there is simmering discontent amongst some of the Stoke faithful. To understand why this is you only need look back to our game at Sunderland last week. It was truly one of the worst games of football I have ever seen. Our football was totally one dimensional involving a big boot up to Mamady Sidebe hoping that we would win a free kick or throw in. As a spectacle on national TV it was frankly embarrasing. It was an extreme example but it has to be asked why do we need to play that way so often?

    If we had been shopping in the bargain basements then it would be acceptable, but he has spent £40m and a good portion of that has been wasted. We have two of the best flair players we have ever had at the club in Fuller and Tuncay and yet Pulis has publicly declared that he doesn't think they can play in the same team, this despite glaring evidence to the contrary in their brief cameo appearances together this season.

    Some of us are slightly frustrated, not because we think we should be higher in the league, but because with the resources and players at his disposal, he could be mixing it up and playing with just a little more flair and style to go with the qualities of hard work, organisation and team spirit that have been so spectacularly successful.

    To be fair he is completely inexperienced at this level and we have seen enough good football recently(e.g. the second half at Wigan on Tuesday) to suggest he may now be beginning to set his better players free to play more entertaining football.

  • Comment number 49.

    I am slowly learning, as the years are coming on, to ignore the likes of 'teatime' who wax on about the 'beautiful game'. You only have to listen to Talksport for 5 mins and count the number of times they mention the top four in the Prem that talk is exactly that - hot air. I am a season ticket holder at the Brit and have witnessed (partic. this year) some of the most exciting, passionate, committed and above all skilful football displays I am ever likely to see from the terraces (not the armchair)in my brief span on planet earth. Yes there have been games that have not been showpieces(!), but hey that's life and the wonderful reality of the game - you really never know what is going to happen next! Heck I can even lay claim to being bored to tears by a game I went to a few years back at the magnificent River Plate Stadium....yawn...it really was a non event! I am a big supporter of TP, his methods and just how well he is building up Stoke in all departments. I also appreciate the many positive comments about Stoke above and as for the detractors, well....we do our talking on the pitch! Will be at Eastlands tomorrow and I am looking forward to a riproaring cup tie, just the way it should be. Nothing to lose, everything to gain! Come on Stoke!!!

  • Comment number 50.

    Let's get inside this "style of play" stuff shall we? I know there is a contingency who look back to the Waddington halcyon days and think Hudson et al and a strong passing game. So what is it? We don't pass the ball these days? On the contrary, this idea that we hoof the ball up-field a la crazy gang is nonsense. Pullis learned heaps from last season when we conceded so many goals in the first ten games. To their enormous credit Stoke now get players behind the ball at speed and in numbers. Teams get little time on the ball. You can't play without the ball and we close down teams well and then in possession work to strengths. Anyone who saw the last four or five games will have seen us passing the ball with relish when we are in possession - not quite in the class of Arsenal but we work the ball well and this is no kick and run side. Come on let's deal in the truth. This is a footballing side - physical and aggressive yes but mindless hoofers no.

  • Comment number 51.

    It's startling to me to hear so many people continue to refer to Stoke as a one-sided team, capable of only long ball, brutish football. Was the Man City game rough? Indeed it was, but not because that's the only way Stoke knows how to play; this was not a one-sided match by any means.

    Stoke may not be Brasil, but they are not without ball handling ability. Perhaps you're only seeing highlights, and perhaps Stoke's reputation is so ingrained that editors choose clips which fit their preconceptions. I don't know--I live in the US and don't see what you do.

    But I do see Stoke games. I see a team that, yes, uses Rory Delap's long throws to great advantage. But a handful of those in a game do not make them a long ball team. They make them a team that uses the skills at their disposal. Fuller, Etherington, Tuncay, Lawrence and others also have truly fine skills with the ball on the ground, and they use them to their advantage, too. Put together a series of highlights from a game using only those moments, and you'd be left with an entirely different impression of the game.

    In the final analysis, the Stoke game is indeed conservative in its defensive focus, but as we've seen in 2010, sometimes a team emerges capable of dominating offensively, as well. Not through intimidation or the long ball, but through outstanding teamwork and management.

  • Comment number 52.

    Ref #48 from Chester Stokie: I live in Ukraine, although I am a season ticket holder and get back for as many Saturday home games as I can. The Sunderland game was on the TV in Kiev and the ex pat crowd who I drink with gathered round to watch the match. At the end of the match, a Millwall supporter (for God's sake!!) turned to me and asked me "You don't watch that effing ess h eye tee EVERY week do you?" Embarrassment ain't the word. I spent the next hour trying to reassure him that we are actually capable of playing football and I only wish the TV had covered the win against Blackburn Rovers a week later. I agree with everything that TP is doing at The Brit. Step by step, although games like the televised Sunderland just reinforce the perception that we are a dull, one dimensional pack of hoofers.Let us see of Man City in the replay next week and then give it a real good go against Chelski.

  • Comment number 53.

    Since the beginning of this season, Stoke have improved with every game and are now as good as they can be with the current squad. Its no secret that Pulis is on the look out for a striker, and probably a midfielder but will wait until the player and price is right - he will not pay ridiculous wages/transfer fees and send the club into debt as other clubs have done. I also listen to 'Praise and Grumble' after home matches and often wonder where these people come from - Port Vale?
    Say what you like about Stokes football but you wont see them diving or bad mouthing the Ref, or the opposition(though after the Man City match it could be understood if this wasn't the case), and if they go down hurt - they ARE hurt! Tony Pulis and Peter Coates have built a club to be proud of and the fans certainly are and long may it continue.
    Having read previous comments it is easy to establish who supports which club and why Jonas has lots of time on his/her hands. Get a life Jonas and enjoy Football in all shades and colours my dear, not everyone wants to see 20 passes before the ball goes past he half way line.

 

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