No one in the game could have done as well as Pulis at Palace
When Tony Pulis took charge of Crystal Palace following Ian Holloway's departure, they sat firmly bottom with a meagre 4 points from 11 games to their name.
Going into the final few rounds of games, they are only 3 points from 10th, and are clearly safe from relegation.
In my opinion, Tony Pulis is the only man currently working in football who could have achieved such results. I honestly believe that.
As a Stoke fan, I was sorry to see Tony leave at the end of last season, but it was a justified change, especially given Mark Hughes' performance in the latter stages of this season.
The style was always a controversial topic. Stoke fans are, despite what the media, and Arsenal fans, say, football connoisseurs, and expect their team to play open, exciting football. However, they are also a fiercely pragmatic bunch, having endured season after bitter season of disappointment.
The Tony Pulis system rankled with many of the Stoke faithful, but they conceded it was what was needed, at least in our first few seasons of Premier League football. It got results, at least at home, and actually united the club and supporters because of all the criticism it got from outside.
It was great to see the big clubs come to the Britannia and try and play flamboyant football to show just how superior they were to little old Stoke, and come unstuck against workmanlike pros.
In the end though, the fans decided they wanted more. Pulis brought better technical players in, and eventually the team outgrew his tactics. They became better on the ball, and started to grate against Tony's straight-lined principles.
As a result, we had to go in a different direction. We needed another manager who would allow the team to better express their own abilities. Mark Hughes has struggled at times this season, but a strong end to the campaign has silenced the doubters. Stoke are now getting praised for their style, if a little patronisingly, by Lineker and co.
When he took the job at Palace, I don't think anyone expected them to stay up, but there was a little niggling doubt in the back of my mind which told me if anyone could do it, he could.
Pulis works in simple, broad brush strokes, and instils his principles into a team day after day on the training ground. He expects nothing less than 100% and will only punish players if they fall below that standard in terms of work rate, not quality.
That's because he knows quality doesn't always win football matches. If you're incredibly hard to beat, as Palace now are, then you have a chance of nicking a 1-0 win, which is a vital ability to have in the Premier League. Even Mark Hughes must give credit to Pulis for his own job, as Stoke haven't minded a 1-0 scoreline this season.
Palace will stay up this season, and you wouldn't bet against the same result next season, providing Pulis is the manager. That's because his ridiculously simple formula, honed and perfected over many years of getting results on shoestrings in the lower leagues, works. It's that simple.
He may be criticised by those who claim so confidently that football is an entertainment industry. Not every game can be entertaining, for one reason or another, so surely the most important aspect is the result.
While Pulis is at a club, that club can always be confident that they are in safe hands. That's why so many Stoke fans were nervous when he left our club. Genuinely though, I don't think you'll find one Stoke supporter who would criticise him, and they will give him a superb reception when he next visits the Britannia.
He deserves it as well.
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