In a season of turbulent managerial changes, Tony Pulis’ divorce from Stoke City does not come as a huge surprise.
There were problems in the marriage before the season even started. And as the year has gone on, those cracks have become increasingly apparent. Now for the sake of the club, Stoke and Pulis have decided to split up.
Whilst this parting of the ways may have felt inevitable, I call it harsh.
The charge against Pulis is that fans have seen little improvement in their side despite considerable transfer expenditure. The oft quoted statistic is that Stoke are the third highest spenders in the Premiership over the last five years, with only Chelsea and Manchester City spending more.
While that statistic is true if you look at net expenditure (the difference between transfer fees paid and received), the way it is expressed makes it sound as if Stoke’s expenditure over 5 years (£88m) is in any way comparable with Chelsea’s (£326m) or Man City’s (£537m).
A better comparison for Stoke’s expenditure would be to say they’ve spent broadly the same over the last 5 years as Newcastle and West Ham. If you look at the average Stoke spend a year on transfers, it’s about £16m – the same as many other clubs in the Premier League.
If Stoke do have one failing in the transfer market it is that they do not recoup any money on their signings. They are quite some way behind their rivals with only QPR and Norwich receiving less into their coffers. But to try and suggest that Stoke should be pushing for titles and the champion league on the basis of what cash they have spent is – to put it bluntly – ridiculous.
The other criticism thrown at Pulis is the team’s style of play. Direct, reliant on set pieces, and with one of the lowest goals for tallies in the division I am not going to make any defence of the aesthetics of Stoke’s style of play.
All, I’m going to say is that since promotion in 2008, Pulis has kept Stoke in the Premiership and for most of that time in the comfortable surrounds of mid-table. No mean feat given the fate of many newly promoted teams. There’s also been a day out at Wembley and a season of European football to enjoy. If owner Peter Coates wants to watch a different style of football fair enough. But he can’t say he hasn’t been given decent results on the pitch.
If anything then, Pulis is the victim of a disease reaching near epidemic proportions amongst football club chairmen: ‘next level-itis’. It’s distinguished by symptoms of feeling that your club should somehow be higher or achieving more. Unfortunately, Stoke may find out that without Pulis their next level is the Championship.
Written by James Albion