Time to finally credit Pulis
Graham Taylor recognises a familiar tone when he listens to criticism of Stoke City's style and the methods employed by manager Tony Pulis.
Pulis performed the considerable feat of taking the Potters into English football's top tier and establishing them in the Premier League - before embellishing his fine work with an FA Cup final appearance against Manchester City at Wembley on Saturday.
The 53-year-old Welshman has pulled it off against a background of claims that it has been achieved by the simple employment of the long-ball game and freakishly long throws of Rory Delap.
BBC Radio 5 live pundit Taylor has heard it all before during his own time at Watford, when he led the Hornets into the old First Division and the FA Cup final against Everton in 1984 and supports Pulis' approach as passionately as he did his own.
Stoke thrashed Bolton 5-0 to book their place in the FA Cup final - photo: Getty
The similiarities are striking, from the style employed to the criticism attracted by two managers in bringing their unfashionable clubs out of the shadows and into the light.
When Watford reached Wembley, where they lost 2-0 to Everton, Taylor used two wingers in John Barnes and Nigel Callaghan to service strikers Mo Johnston and George Reilly - and a long throw specialist in youngster Lee Sinnott.
Turn the clock forward 27 years to Stoke City's run to Wembley and Pulis has used two wingers in Jermaine Pennant and Matthew Etherington to supply strikers Kenwyne Jones and Jon Walters - and a long throw specialist in Delap.
Former England boss Taylor is revered at Vicarage Road for providing the most treasured moments in Watford's history and Pulis could be on the brink of emulating the feat at Wembley with Stoke, who will also be underdogs against Manchester City.
Taylor told me: "I can't speak for Tony Pulis himself regarding the criticism he sometimes gets, but what I do know is that he has never been in charge of a relegated team and to have that record in the amount of time he has been in the game is first class.
"I was criticised about Watford's style of play in the same way Tony has been, and although it never concerned me too much I do feel sympathy for him. The beauty of football is that if you play within the laws of the game you can play in any style you wish and wouldn't it be boring if everyone played the same way?
"There is also a certain amount of double standards as well. I often say during commentaries about a long ball and a long pass. When is a long ball a long pass? Well it is a long pass when certain teams play it and a long ball when Stoke City play it.
"I know there are also some people who think some of Stoke's tackling is out of order but from my personal point of view that is just not the case. When Arsenal were winning trophies they had the worst disciplinary record in the league so I think it is a bit of a stretch when I hear [Gunners boss] Arsene Wenger criticising Tony Pulis and Stoke. I don't think he has done him any favours.
"I fully understand that Arsenal's Aaron Ramsey was seriously injured at Stoke and no one wants to see that but I do not believe for one moment Tony sends his team out to foul the opposition."
Stoke are one of six clubs managed by Pulis during his career - photo: PA
Taylor has followed Pulis' career with interest since the pair first crossed swords in the lower divisions - and has been increasingly impressed with his development as a manager.
"I remember when I went back to Watford for the second time and we were in League One," Taylor added. "We played Gillingham and the man in charge was Tony Pulis. It was always one of the hardest games we played. They were well-organised, worked hard, knew exactly what they were about and what they had to do and gave everything to the cause.
"He has carried that on with his current Stoke team and I don't think fans can ask for any more than that.
"I have followed Tony's career since. He has done a splendid job at Stoke and I'm not sure he gets the credit he deserves for it. I will defend Stoke and I will defend Tony because there is a lot more to them than people give them credit for. They are dismissed too lightly.
"When I was at Watford we played with wide men in Barnes and Callaghan and Reilly and Johnston as strikers and yet we were criticised. You ask John Barnes if we were simply a long ball team, or about the shadow play we used to employ in training to get things rights - and I'm sure Tony does exactly the same.
"I invited some of our biggest critics to come and watch us train at Watford to see what we did but they refused and said they were only interested in what they called 'the end product'.
"Delap's throw is a huge weapon, but when you look at how many games he has played for Stoke in the Premier League and how much professional football he has played, are people seriously saying he has only done that because he can throw a football a mighty distance?
"And are people saying Stoke have established themselves in the Premier League for the third season and reached the FA Cup final simply because they can kick a football a long way? Do me a favour."
Taylor was equally lavish in his praise for Pulis and his players for the manner in which they went about their work in beating Arsenal 3-1 in the Premier League last Sunday, a performance full of commitment and quality only six days before their date at Wembley, when they will try to emulate the success of the 1972 Stoke side that beat Chelsea in the League Cup final.
"For those players to apply themselves in the way they did with Wembley less than a week away and knowing they could be playing in the biggest game of their careers was truly outstanding," Taylor commented.
"It is a credit to them but also to Tony Pulis for getting them in the frame of mind to approach the game and play like that. It was a performance that told you a lot about Stoke's players, but also a lot about their manager."
Now Pulis and his players have got the Wembley stage to show their talents to a wider audience - and get the acclaim Taylor believes they deserve.