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. While Pulis' ways drove me to distraction, he was still the manager to deliver Premier League football to this Stoke fan, to set up a date or two at Wembley for a meaningful cup, to travel to Europe following my beloved team.
He's been an amazing manager -- Stoke's progress on and off the pitch during his time at the club has been phenomenal and he deserves every plaudit he receives for his part in those successes.
That said, the last couple of seasons have seen Stoke regress to a point where those memories are becoming increasingly cloudy, and that's not fair to those achievements or to Pulis. Mutual consent might be a nice way of saying 'I haven’t been sacked', but I like to think that Pulis' last act was one of selflessness, a recognition of his own limitations for the good of the club, having come up short when it came to pushing on.
I'm still in shock to be honest. But as much as football is about sentiment, it's also a business and the best move for Stoke City is to move to a more sustainable financial model to ensure the club survives in the longer term, and it’s those policies that seemed so at odds with Pulis' own.
With a number of questionable and costly failings in the transfer market, a club of Stoke’s size simply couldn’t maintain their level of financial commitment to the playing squad. Pulis' insistence on age and experience over youth and evolution was always going to be contrary to the direction the Coates family want the club to go.
Reports of him rarely visiting the Academy will not have sat well with a family who have sunk millions into ensuring their youth setup was up with the best the country has to offer and very much key to the future.
Peter Coates will no doubt have found the decision a very difficult one, but you get the impression that it perhaps had a hand from the younger members of the family, John and Denise, who have long been earmarked to progress the club as an on-going personal asset of their local empire.
Whoever takes charge though will have one hell of a job on their hands and we must praise the owners for acting swiftly in making their decision. They will hopefully do the same in respect of Pulis’ replacement, who will need as much time as possible getting used to his new surroundings, the players and most important, the many challenges he will face.
But for now let us congratulate Tony Pulis for the job he has done, let us celebrate the good times and be thankful that he managed to turn around Stoke's fortunes these last few weeks to ensure the club will be in the Premier League once more. You drove me mad, Tony, but I’m glad we had you, I wish you well whether you choose a new project or take some time out to spend more time with the long-suffering Debs and the family over in Orlando.
I’ll be looking into Pulis' tenure in more detail over the coming weeks so keep an eye out as we take a trip or two down memory lane.
Vis Unita Fortior