What is Tony Pulis’ best Premier League job: Stoke, Palace or WBA?
Ahead of West Bromwich Albion hosting Premier League champions Chelsea, Jose Mourinho has been full of praise for his opposite number Tony Pulis.
The Baggies may be 7/2 outsiders for a home win with Coral, but ‘the Special One’ had warm words for Welsh coach Pulis.
“If I own an English club, I sign Tony Pulis,” Mourinho said. “It’s as simple as that. He’s a guarantee to achieve what the club wants.
“He has never managed a club that wants to be champion, never managed a club that wants top four, he is always managing clubs that want to survive and want stability. Tony is mathematics. His record is absolutely amazing.”
Mourinho waxing lyrical about Pulis gave our football experts pause for thought. What specific achievement, aside from him never being relegated in his coaching career, is his best? We got our heads together and assessed three Pulis triumphs.
Taking Stoke City into Europe
While reaching the 2011 FA Cup final was hardly taxing (the Potters played a West Ham United side that were relegated and mid-table Bolton Wanderers at the business end to reach Wembley), steering Stoke into the Europa League’s knockout phase is quite remarkable when you consider where Pulis took them from.
From Championship mediocrity to continental competition in five years. The starting XI above comes from the first game of Pulis’ second spell in charge of Stoke; a 1-0 away loss at Southend United in August 2006:
Needless to say, it contrasts sharply with the Potters team that took to the field in February 2012 when facing Valencia at the Britannia in a last 32 European tie:
Stabilising Stoke as a Premier League team certainly helped to raise Pulis’ profile, and the names he could attract to them is clear when you contrast the above XIs. Arguably, however, his best work was yet to come…
When Pulis was parachuted into the Selhurst Park dugout in November 2013 at the behest of Eagles chairman Steve Parish, they propped up the Premier League table with a paltry four points from their first 11 games. Just appointing him as manager gave Palace a lift as they won the same day under his watching gaze from the stands at Hull City.
While his stint at Selhurst was short and sweet, Pulis made history with the south London side. Never in the Premier League era had they stayed up in the top flight, but a sensational springtime saw them record five straight wins to secure survival.
Picking a settled team helped, with the above XI often selected throughout this great escape, helped immensely, including a win over Chelsea. Marouane Chamakh provided an alternative attacking outlet to fellow frontman Jerome, while on-loan Wilfried Zaha, now a per ably deputised for wing wizards Yannick Bolasie and Jason Puncheon.
Baggies bounce back
Leaving Palace under a cloud on the eve of this season, Pulis made his managerial return on New Year’s Day 2015 at The Hawthorns. Albion were one point and a place above the drop zone, again with the new man in the crowd.
Key home wins over Hull, Swansea, Southampton and Stoke followed, plus more recent away day delights at Pulis’ previous employers and Manchester United. Losing number one Ben Foster to injury was a blow, but the Baggies still stayed strong defensively, securing their to-flight status with a score draw against Newcastle United last time out.
More attack-minded midfielder James Morrison and winter window wing addition Callum McManaman have also been involved, while in attack Pulis has got more out of Brown Ideye than many thought he would. Leading marksman Saido Berahino has once again contributed to West Brom’s cause, but speculation will once again be rife about his future.
As the sense of peril was no so stark in the West Midlands, we feel Pulis’ sterling work at Palace, which resulted in him being named LMA Manager of the Year, is his finest Premier League achievement.
Coral betting tip: While beating the champions may be beyond the Baggies, a draw for Pulis is perfectly possible at 5/2.