Throughout this article, I will be indulging my emotions for Richard Anthony Pulis; aka Tony Pulis. Mr Pulis has been at the club for over two years now which seems like a long time considering the short-life expectancy for any manager in the Premier League these days.
For me, when it was announced he would be taking over from Alan Irvine as head coach; I for one was a bit hesitant towards the appointment purely for the fact that the style of football he drilled into his players at Stoke wasn’t very attractive. Definitely effective but not very attractive. At school, myself and a friend of mine made a list of things we dislike in the world, Mr Pulis was number one.
I was only made aware of who Tony Pulis was and what he stood for at Stoke, he had the reputation of the classic manager that knows the game inside out and is respected by all players and staff associated with the club. A bit like Harry Redknapp or even Steve Bruce for that matter. Pulis spent a number of years at Stoke which saw him guide them to the Premier League for the first ever time in the clubs history, they were a revelation; with the long throws from Rory Delap which seemed to always find Ricardo Fuller in the box, unmarked. Something that might even shock people reading this article but Pulis managed Stoke in the Europa League; which saw them get knocked by a very good Valencia side back in 2012.
It was very apparent that Pulis was a very well drilled defensive manager; the bigger teams in the league evidently struggled against that. It wasn’t like the team was set up just for a 0-0, it was set up to not concede goals while being patient and when the time is right; to counter attack and get a goal on the counter-attack, set piece or from a dangerous throw from Delap.
Furthermore, he replaced Ian Holloway at Crystal Palace to eventually becoming one of the elite managers in the Premier League by being crowned Manager of the Season (after only having the job for a matter of months). A game that sticks out for me at his time at Palace would have to be the game against Liverpool which later on stopped them getting their hands on the title for the first time. His time at Palace was cut short for a reason I have absolutely no idea about so I will not comment on them.
You always remember where you are when important things happen to you; I was on a train to Birmingham when Oasis split up. I was eating toast in my living room when Beckham scored that goal against Greece. Then during a shift at work; on the 1 January 2015, he was announced as head coach of West Bromwich Albion and again, I had made a list of things I disliked and Pulis was cemented to that top spot. I wasn’t expecting much from the remainder of his first season with us because what we had under Irvine was not great at all but he did come in and he did change things; big executive decisions like bringing in Darren Fletcher to the club and immediately taking the captain’s armband off Chris Brunt (who held that armband for numerous consecutive seasons) and giving it to Fletcher.
Throughout the 2015/16 season, the season as a whole can only be described as ‘mental’. Leicester winning the league, Big Sam keeping Sunderland up from being certain for the drop to the Championship with only a handful of games left. It would be a season to remember for any neutral football fan.
Distinctively though the 15/16 season from an Albion perspective, finishing 14th and being knocked out of the cup in the third round on both occasions would be have to be a season where we clearly below par on objectives for that season which got a few Albion fans rattled, evidently at the game against Reading which resulted in Brunt being assaulted by one of our own “fans”. If I’m being completely honest, I thought Pulis was going to get sacked at the end of that season purely for underachieving for where we want to be as a club but that wasn’t the case.
Finally, we get on to the current season and into our seventh consecutive season in top-flight of English football in our history. We did get off to a good start picking up eight points from our first six fixtures, included in that is a very impressive 4-2 winning performance against a West Ham side still hungover from an excellent season they had previous. Also, towards the start of the season, Pulis reached the monument milestone of having 1000 games under his belt as a manager, a feat which is rarely achieved by most managers who have been in the game for the same amount of time he has. Following that, we did lose two games on the bounce against Liverpool and Man City, two of the finest teams in the league.
After the Man City game was a game that I will never forget, Leicester away. Not only because we beat the reigning Champions but because it was the start of the best couple of months in the Premier League I’ve seen as an Albion fan and to motivate us to where we are today; on course for our best ever season in the Premier League which I can honestly see becoming a reality.
There is a reason Pulis has managed these amount of games, worked with a number of clubs in the Premier League, managed some of the best players to ever played in the league and that is because he is not only a good manager but a manager that will one day be associated with the likes of Bill Shankly, Brian Clough, Graham Taylor, Sir Alex Ferguson as one of the greats. I mentioned the opinion I had towards him before and I can honestly say I have well and truly been proven wrong.
I do hope that someone at the club was to read this so I can honestly say that as long as Pulis is the manager of the football club that I love then he will have my full backing.