Tony Pulis’ sacking – Another story of warped Premier League expectations

“We’re in the results business” is the familiar cry of the bigwigs at every football club who decide to oust their manager following a poor run of results. Tony Pulis is the latest Premier League manager to be relieved of his post following a fairly desolate spell with just two wins in 21 premier league games.

Although Tony appeared to have accepted his fate during his round of interviews following the 4-0 defeat to Chelsea last weekend. The temperature had been rising under the Welshman’s famous baseball cap since the Baggies’ last win in August.

Pulis’ appointment at West Brom raised a few eyebrows amongst those at the Hawthorns as the Welshman’s direct style of play was a departure from the style of play that West Brom had been known for in recent years. Historically Pulis had acted as tormentor-in-chief to the Baggies during the Tony Mowbray years as his former club Stoke consistently came out on top when the two sides met.

Tony’s Track Record

Purely from a results perspective, Tony Pulis is one of the most reliable performers in the Premier League era. He is one of only 12 managers to take charge of a team for over 300 Premier League games. Only a select few have enjoyed such a consistent run in the top flight avoiding relegation with the kind of resources that Pulis has had at his disposal.

In his nine years of Premier League management Pulis has averaged a 12th place finish with last season being his best yet as West Brom finished 10th with just a £9 million net spend, which is next to nothing in the context of the Premier League.

In their first Premier League season Pulis guided Stoke to a comfortable 12th place finish without significant investment (unless you count £5.5 million for Dave Kitson). Pulis went on to guide the Potters to an FA Cup final and a Europa League soirée, whilst sticking to his principles and spending fairly modestly.

The recent poor run of four straight losses, that ultimately led to his firing, included home defeats to Man City and Chelsea, and two narrow away losses. West Brom’s poor start to the season may have been overstated by some when you consider the nature of their recent defeats and that they suffered only two losses in their first eight games of the season.

Survival is Progress

The sacking of Pulis from West Brom did not happen merely because of a recent poor run. The process was helped along by the Welshman’s direct, no-nonsense style of play that many West Brom fans grew tired of. Tony’s departure from Stoke followed a similar narrative as he was dismissed at the end of the 2012/13 campaign having finished in a comfortable 13th position despite a similar dip in form mid-way through the season.

Aspiring to play more expansive, sexy football is admirable. But where do you draw the line between ambition and naivety?

Since the Premier League began, the average stay of a team in the league is seven years. Discounting the current top six teams (due to their financial advantage) brings the average stay of the lesser clubs down to five years. So, on average, the lesser teams are relegated from the Premier League after a five year spell.

History proves that for clubs like Stoke, who don’t pack the financial clout of the top 6, simply maintaining your place in the Premier League for a prolonged period is an achievement in itself. Every season spent in the league comes with significant financial reward and the opportunity to invest in much needed infrastructure. Since promotion to the Premier League the Potters have invested around £13 million in a new training facility at Clayton Wood and an estimated £6 million on stadium development earlier in 2017.

Football fans often perceive regular mid to lower-mid table finishes as stagnation rather than progress, which simply isn’t the case. Continued survival in the Premier League allows teams to develop in a sustainable manner rather than risking the house in a bid to crack the top four.

The primary objective of every team outside of the big six at the start of the season should be to avoid relegation, and who better to achieve this than the track suit wearing Welshman who has never been relegated in his 42 year career as a player, coach and manager.

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