Players should do their talking on the pitch

Posted by James Whittaker

Laurence Griffiths/Getty ImagesTony Pulis has had two separate stints as manager of Stoke City.

It comes as little surprise that Stoke's ex-manager, Tony Pulis, continues to divide the fans despite his departure back in May. However, what is unexpected is that there have been rumours of factions in the dressing room about it too.

- Report: Cameron denies Stoke rows

Ever since his arrival, Pulis has split opinion throughout the fan base, his first coming in 2002 was a low brow affair as he was ushered in less than 24 hours after George Burley's last minute change of heart at taking on the job. It was a difficult task, one where he had no money to work with, yet he achieved his goal of staying in the league by virtue of a goal from the astute signing of Ade Akinbiyi. Fans were naturally delighted, but once the dust settled and the new season began, Pulis found himself facing another battle against the board who believed he should be exploiting the foreign transfer markets.

His dismissal for that very reason took place not long after, but then it wasn't too long after the return of Peter Coates as Chairman that Pulis was immediately sought out to lead the side knowing that he could work well within a budget. Work well he did, and making use of the under-utilised loan market he managed to propel the Potters to the dizzying heights of the Premier League with very little financial outlay. Money clearly wasn't an issue the following season though as he brought in a plethora of new faces; the problem though is that very few of them actually featured, let alone impressed.

Pulis' system was steadfast, and not for changing. His penchant for shoehorning willing workers into unfamiliar positions saw line-ups favouring perspiration over inspiration. Often these were players grateful for a chance to play in the Premier League, who would do exactly as they were told and who wouldn't complain at the constraints being placed on their game. That was something that would become an issue though, as by attempting to improve the quality of player, Pulis found himself bringing in established Premier League stars who wanted to play football. These players weren't grateful in the same sense and could play at any number of top flight opponents, and as such, needed to be motivated by something more than simply drinking in the last chance saloon.

That was something he struggled with and as a result, many of his high-profile signings were shunned for daring to dream of something more than midfield-bypassing percentage play. Tuncay, Eidur Gudjohnsen, Dave Kitson, Charlie Adam, Michael Owen, Diego Arismendi, Jermaine Pennant, Cameron Jerome and Wilson Palacios were all brought in to improve the side, but weren't able to because Pulis refused to improve his system to accommodate them. Instead, they were ostracised to the detriment of the team and its fortunes, leaving fans to draw comparisons to familiar frustrations during his time under the Icelandics of Stoke Holding SA.

And so we arrive at present day where some of those players have been given a second chance, and given the huge shift in style under the new manager, questions and comparisons were as obvious as they were expected. Jerome, Adam and most recently Kenwyne Jones all expressed their joy at the new ways of working, some making sly digs and some just outright attacking what had happened before. Their dissatisfaction is understandable. For too long they were ignored, despite their efforts when they managed to get on the pitch; in some cases they were just plain ignored on a day to day basis.

But that's in the past now and while it might not be easy to bite your tongue, it serves little purpose dragging the comparisons and criticisms out as the new regime attempt to make their own mark on the training pitch. I'm sure there will be differences of opinion and even altercations on a variety of subjects, but for all his faults, this was always something that was kept in house by Pulis. This time it was left to the Chairman to sort, who stepped in to stop the criticism of his former manager, publically levelling the playing field by pointing to his many successes. The players need to focus on the here and now and given last Sunday's performance, that can't happen soon enough. I'd rather they do their talking on the pitch instead of the back pages and take the lead of the man they have been criticizing, who has refused to comment on any of it.

Vis Unita Fortior


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