Pulis personified in what could be his last game

Posted by James Whittaker

Bryn Lennon/Getty ImagesStoke striker Peter Crouch could make a return to QPR

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. Marc Wilson continued out of position at left back (1), before being replaced by Andy Wilkinson (2). Centre back Geoff Cameron started on the wing (3) but wasn't to be alone as Michael Owen (4) and Cameron Jerome (5) also had a spell out there.

Playing favourites:: Quite what Jerome has done wrong since coming in and contributing massively to Stoke’s turnaround I have no idea. With the Potters safe, Pulis has instead reverted to leaving a completely isolated Peter Crouch 40 yards ahead of his colleagues. While he scored on Sunday, he caused Southampton very little concern all afternoon. Attempting to link up with Crouch was golden boy Jon Walters, who started his 54,786th consecutive game in red and white. Though Walters did read one flick-on, being five yards ahead of the covering defender, he lost possession in two strides as he "ran" towards goal -- maybe Kenwyne Jones put one of his bricks in his boots?

Playing injured players: This ties in with the favourites one above. Once again we saw an unfit Wilson start, and once again Stoke used up a substitute by predictably having to replace him early on after only 20 minutes. Add to that an injured Matthew Etherington who also had to come off and Owen was lucky to get any time at all.

Florent Cuvelier had a chance of making his debut, the Belgian youngster being named on the bench in a desperate move from the manager to say he considers youth. But his hopes though were dashed as he knew that Owen was to be given his swan song.

Hoof and hope: Stoke's negative tactics though were the main thing that set us aside from their youthful and energetic hosts. Hoofing the ball in the general direction of an unsupported Crouch saw it come right back at Stoke time and time again seeing as the Potters only had 37 percent of the possession.

Southampton on the other hand, used Rickie Lambert's height sparingly and their full-backs brilliantly, the diminutive Luke Shaw and Nathaniel Clyne in particular running Stoke's makeshift wide defenders ragged. That the Saints were playing through and around Stoke with such ease was frustrating, but a perfect glimpse of the kind of positivity Stoke fans have been crying out for and indeed hope for next season.

As this campaign comes to a close, the fans wait with bated breath for a statement from the club’s owners on the direction they will be taking into next season and what that means for the management team. I would expect an announcement to be made imminently; as well it should, as whoever the reins sit with has a huge rebuilding task on their hands with so many players expecting to leave.

The level of change this summer will be unprecedented and it is critical that the manager is given as much time as possible to make the many changes that need to happen as early as possible whether that is Pulis or someone new.

So it’s over to "the family" now; every time I hear that I always think of Peter Coates as the Godfather. It was a pig that made all the headlines this week, maybe next week it will be a horse’s head... in the manager's locker.

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