Tony Pulis’ brand of football hearkened back to the bad old days (or good depending on your footballing preferences) of Graham Taylor’s Watford, long-ball, hoof and chase approach, so it’s more than fitting to tribute him with that oldest and hoariest of Internet traditions: the listicle. Here are ten fairly random and subjectively chosen things that Pulis’ Stoke City bestowed on the world.
1. Tony Pulis’ baseball/golf hats.
The hat was so ubiquitous on the touchline, Tony Pulis looked positively naked without it as his appearance in an Olympic torch relay demonstrated. Whether it was an honest stylistic choice, or a good luck charm, or a poor man’s toupee, the hat was Tony Pulis and Tony was the hat.
2. The salvation of Peter Crouch’s footballing career.
Peter Crouch has always been a square peg in a round hole in English football. The giraffe stick figure with the feet of an angel looked done and dusted after an unfortunate Spurs own-goal in May of 2011 allowed Man City to sneak into the final Champions League spot. Pulis however saw an opportunity and bagged the England international for 10 million pounds in the 2011 summer transfer window.
Since then, Crouch has enjoyed a second-life as the “Big Man up-front,” a parody of the traditional English centre-forward. His fate in a post-Pulis Premier League remains to be seen.
3. The Roy Delap throw-in.
While the “Delap Special” pre-dated his move to Stoke, it was perfected under Tony Pulis’ watchful eye. An attacking throw-in with Delap on the side was a de facto free-kick, and it took several seasons before sides were truly comfortable defending his mesmerising ball chucks into the box.
4. Dean Whitehead’s enormous jaw.
Behold: football’s mastodon.
5. Asmir Begovic by-passing the entire Stoke City midfield to pass to Peter Crouch.
This, from FourFourTwo’s awesome Stats Zone app, was Stoke City’s most frequent pass combination in their final match against Southampton. It’s not atypical. Why bother with all that tiki-taka when you can just go route one?
6. “But could he do it on a cold Tuesday night at Stoke?”
The famous line (approximate) from Andy Gray questioning Lionel Messi’s chances in a Premier League with teams like Stoke. Great because it summed up the state of punditry, the persistence of old attitudes regarding long-ball football, and English football values in one, rhetorical stroke. Or Stoke.
7. Signing James Beattie for £3.5 million in January of 2009.
One the shrewdest moves Pulis ever made on the transfer market, Stoke were facing relegation in the first half of the ’08-’09 season when Stoke swooped for the Sheffield United journeyman. Beattie’s seven goals in the remaining 16 matches of the season saved the team from relegation and preserved Pulis image of a manager able to do just enough to fight it out and remain in the top flight.
8. Fighting James Beattie in the dressing room less than a year later.
Tony Pulis was involved in a row with James Beattie in the dressing room after yesterday’s defeat at Arsenal which is understood to have led to the Stoke City manager and former England striker exchanging blows before a member of the Premier League club’s backroom staff intervened.
The alleged argument is believed to have started after Pulis ordered the players to report for training today, prompting Beattie to object after it had previously been agreed that the first team would not be required to come in until Tuesday because they were due to go out in London last night for their Christmas party.
Tony Pulis will not be messed with.
9. Stoke’s disciplinary issues.
Still on that subject of fighting, Stoke’s approach under Pulis was…unsightly. This was perhaps best crystallized in Ryan Shawcross’ infamous tackle on Aaron Ramsey, which put the Arsenal player out for six months and out of the Arsenal first team for the next season.
This is the major point of contention with Pulis’ football philosophy as it were, and why few are shedding tears over news of his departure.
10. Making the case for the long-ball approach as a style of choice, rather than a last resort.
Most pundits still view the long-ball approach as the only option available to smaller sides unable to reel in the major stars. For them, it’s football’s rear-guard action, an approach inferior sides were forced to take because they lacked the tactical sophistication and the playing talent to do something more adventurous.
Tony Pulis however did his part in changing that perspecive. While Stoke’s wage bill was 14th highest in the league, it took up 75% of total turnover as of the 2011-12 season. Stoke wasn’t exactly skint when it came to player-spending. Pulis additionally sought after players well-suited to his brand of football while sides like Swansea and managers like Roberto Martinez demonstrated that finance need not be an impediment to progressive football tactics.
Pulis’ 4-5-1 wasn’t reactionary; it was a project like any other. He may be England’s last and greatest proponent of the style evangelized by Charles Reep and Graham Taylor. It may not have been pretty, but Stoke’s consistent (though often in doubt) Premier League survival at least stands as a testament to its effectiveness.