Tony Pulis has left Stoke City by mutual consent, bringing to an end his long and successful career at the club. I'm actually sat in the sunshine with a bottle of beer in Spain as this is written. Having promised myself I would try to stay offline for at least a day, I bit the bullet and paid 5 pounds for a day's internet pass (it hurt) as I had a feeling we would get some news Tuesday. It's finally happened, Pulis is leaving. While this news realises everything I have hoped for over the last two seasons -- now it has happened and my own personal campaign is over -- I find myself reflecting on the good times.
Stoke City played out a final-day 1-1 draw at Southampton on Sunday and in doing so ended the season on 42 points and in 13th place, maintaining their record of never winning on the last day in the Premier League. With manager Tony Pulis' future at the club uncertain, it's more than possible that this was his final appearance in the Stoke dugout, so it was almost poetic that the game personified the man and so many of his idiosyncrasies. - Rann: Lambert brings the curtain down for Saints - Pulis hails Owen after finale Here they are in all their frustrating beauty; Players out of position: This is standard fare for Stoke now.
Asmir Begovic was seen calling on all his handling abilities as he left the Player of the Year Awards clutching no less than four gongs for his, at times, herculean efforts between the sticks this season. Begovic's form was perhaps one of the few highlights of a campaign best forgotten for most as the Potters narrowly escaped the fate of relegation, but it is still unclear whether or not he will return to claim the number 1 jersey next term. The popular Bosnian has been linked with the biggest and best in this country and is even said to be a target for Catalan giants Barcelona as they seek a long-term replacement for goalkeeping stalwart Victor Valdes.
Stoke lost 2-1 amid a backdrop of red and white at the Britannia as Tottenham spoiled their 150 year celebrations with a late winner, the home side having hung on so long with ten men. - Match report: Stoke 1-2 Tottenham Former Stoke City greats flooded the pitch to take the applause of the Stoke fans before kick-off, but feeling left out it was referee Kevin Friend who proved to be anything but to the Potters and seemed intent on stealing the limelight of the day. The team that started was unbalanced and the dropping of Cameron Jerome was incredibly harsh given his impact of the last few games, with Tony Pulis opting to bring back an unfit Matthew Etherington and re-pair the proven-to-be-useless-together Peter Crouch and Jonathan Walters up top.
With Stoke City all but safe following Wigan's loss to Swansea Tuesday, the last two games give Tony Pulis a great opportunity to try out some of the younger players available to him. Midfielder Florent Cuvelier is the obvious candidate for consideration, having returned to his parent club following a disappointing spell at Peterborough. While the rules dictate three clubs can hold a player's registration during a season, he can only play for two. But there is a loophole which could see Cuvelier come into contention for the Potters, one FIFA intend to outlaw next year, and that is around those who have moved under the Emergency Loan system.
Stoke City threw away a winning position against a Sunderland side reduced to ten men for over an hour to come away with a solitary point as they drew 1-1 at the Stadium of Light. The former heroes of Sunderland's Cup winning side were clapped onto the pitch before the game but they weren't the only ones celebrating former glories. Tony Pulis, once again, went about handing his CV around to anyone he encountered to deflect attention from his failings on the night. His insistence that it was a hard fought draw before saying he was delighted with a point sought only to further infuriate those who had to watch their side sit back against a team that conceded six goals the week previous, only this time they only had 10 men.
One swallow does not a summer make, nor does one week absolve the management team for the last two seasons of underachievement. The majority of Stoke City fans have been well and truly on the back of the manager these last few months, but it seems that a portion of those are now beginning to turn back to supporting Tony Pulis based on the fact that Stoke have won their last two games to all but secure their Premier League safety. It seems some are quick to forget the last two seasons of dire management and results given the euphoria of two much-needed wins, ignoring that they got to the point of being much-needed because of those very failings.
Stoke City made it two wins from two as they beat relegation rivals Norwich 1-0 at a sunny but nervous Britannia stadium. It was another clean sheet and another three points for Stoke, making the last week as productive as the three and a half months that preceded it. Tony Pulis finally reached his annual season's zenith of 40 points and whilst the Potters are not mathematically certain of their safety, only a monumental upturn in the form of those around them would now threaten their place in the Premier League.
It's no secret to regular visitors that this Stoke fan would like to see Tony Pulis' reign come to an end at the conclusion of this campaign. Many others are starting to agree and reports in the press suggest it's more than possible. So, with momentum building, it's time to examine a handful of potential replacements. - Pulis ignoring Stoke speculation The names below aren't any that fans won't have seen already, nor do they form an exhaustive selection, but they are managers I believe will be considered.
Stoke doubled their season's away win tally as they beat relegation certainties QPR 2-0 at Loftus Road. It was ex R's striker Peter Crouch who hammered in what must be the penultimate nail in their coffin tapping in the opener after great work by Marc Wilson and Cameron Jerome and then winning the penalty that was converted at the second attempt by Jonathan Walters. - Match report: QPR 0-2 Stoke The Stoke faithful had been praying for a change in fortune and they got it as the side Tony Pulis put out showed intent, creativity and most importantly, heart, as they took advantage of the one side more nervous than themselves.
At a time when it's vital for all to pull in the same direction, Tony Pulis should perhaps think about joining his players in their media blackout as every time he opens his mouth he is fanning the flames of frustration felt by the fans. - Pulis: Relegation fight could go distance Many are now against him, though he'd love to believe otherwise, but there is recognition that negativity when it counts is counterproductive, and as such most have tried their best to keep their emotions in check for these vital remaining games.
Two years ago to the day Stoke fans woke up full of hope, riding on the crest of a red and white wave, as the day before the Potters had annihilated Bolton Wanderers 5-0 at Wembley to reach the FA Cup final. The future was bright, so much promise lay ahead; it was the stuff of dreams. Sadly, since that point it has been more of a nightmare as the side and manager have regressed to such a point that the club now find themselves in a full-blown relegation battle. Where did it all go wrong? The answer is very complex, but put simply, Tony Pulis used the promise of Europe as an opportunity to assemble his dream team of 'past it' stars.