Possible Pulis replacements

Posted by James Whittaker

Alex Livesey/Getty ImagesRafael Benitez: Could he really end up at Stoke City?

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. In order of personal preference:

Rafa Benitez

Whilst this might seem a fanciful choice, I honestly think he is an achievable target. Rafa is a friend of the club and has spent a lot of time at the Britannia and Clayton Wood over the last 18 months or so and as such already has a feel for the place and its aspirations. He lives less than an hour up the road and has made no secret of the fact that the North West is very much his home. Obviously, he would love a return to Anfield, but that's not on the cards and it would be a struggle to find another realistic option for him at the top of the table.

He has spoken in the past of wanting a new project and having influence right through the club, from the academy to first team, and with the former being a big part of Coates' vision for the club's future, Stoke City start to sound like a decent prospect.

Gus Poyet

Poyet is a name that a couple of national newspapers have said is high on the club's radar and I for one would welcome him at Stoke. Whilst he might not be the most experienced manager he has shown during his short time in the dugout that he knows how to build a successful attacking side and maintain a respectable goals-against column. Gus is very ambitious and has made no secret of his aspirations to manage at the top level and was quick to publically state his interest in jobs at Chelsea and Arsenal. You would think any appointment would be dependent on Brighton not being promoted, making stoke a viable next step in the top flight, but whether or not the Potters would be seen only as a stepping stone to the bright lights of the top four he seems so eager to reach, and not a long term commitment, is another story.

Sam Allardyce

You get the impression that Sam has never really fitted in at West Ham and with his future under discussion the managerial merry go round may well see him ousted from the helm at Upton Park in favour of a more aesthetically pleasing option. Allardyce's Bolton side were a magnificent achievement and set the precedent for lower to mid-table top-flight clubs with their flirtations with Europe. He has always had time for creativity and perhaps represents much of what Stoke wanted form Pulis - a marriage of hard work, defensive solidity and flair. This would obviously be the 'safest' appointment and would see less of a sea change from Stoke's current style and ethos whilst still improving the side.

Martin O'Neill

O'Neill has always been a favourite of mine over the years and is a manager that Peter Coates also thinks very highly of, having attempted to bring the Irishman in to manage Stoke in the past. Martin's recent history though would perhaps suggest that his star is starting to fade somewhat and the spark that was difficult to ignore is now all but gone from the touchline. An acrimonious departure from Aston Villa that centred on available funds, as well as his most recent failing at Sunderland having spent heavily, might not lend itself to Coates' vision of self sustainability.

Harry Redknapp

Harry, much like O'Neill, is another manager who Coates has tried to recruit in the past so it's safe to assume he would be considered as his position at QPR hangs in the balance. Whether or not bringing Harry in would be sensible or not is another matter entirely. It seems an age ago when he was being seriously considered for the England job and whilst he worked miracles at Spurs it didn't come cheap. The rest of his managerial career leaves a worrying trail of financial disaster. Whilst one could argue that much of that is down to those in charge of the purse strings, it seems more than a coincidence that many of his previous clubs took a long time to recover following his departure. With that in mind and a strategic focus of youth over euros you'd expect it's maybe a challenge he himself would not relish, regardless of any interest from Stoke.

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