TONY PULIS - 'One hell of a bloke?'



"If I own an English club, I sign Tony Pulis. It's as simple as that - he's a guarantee to achieve what the club wants.
 He has never managed a club that wants to be champion, never managed a club that wants top four, he is always managing clubs that want to survive and want stability, Tony is mathematics. His record is absolutely amazing. " Jose Mourinho, Chelsea manager before their 3-0 defeat to West Bromwich Albion.

Tony Pulis came back in to football at the start of 2015 taking over West Bromwich Albion when they were in desperate straits and had steered them to mid-table comfort and security after a succession of strong performances. In 2014 he was at Crystal Palace reviving their season and bringing hope to a club seemingly destined to be relegated. His achievement was recognised with the 2014 Premier League Manager of the Season award. Following success at Palace though the club failed to agree with him about the need to sign new players and in an amazing twist at the start of the 2014-15 season the club has turned its back on the man who was their saviour in the previous season. This was West Brom's good fortune and Palace's loss.

Never relegated in his managerial career Pulis has brought the same values of hard work and organisation that once inspired Stoke City to Palace and to West Brom and as they have revived they have played some good football. Not the stereotype of defence, hard graft and physicality normally ascribed to Pulis.

Born in Pill (16 January 1958) he grew up supporting Manchester United and Cardiff City as well as Newport County. A competent footballer he played for Newport YMCA. Pulis began his career at Bristol Rovers where he joined their school of football excellence in Eastville from YMCA. Pulis said his time at  Eastville was an excellent grounding with his Rovers team mate and friend Ian Holloway also making it in football management. "We learned our trade at a football club with really, really good people who had old fashioned values," I truly believe that it's because of the way we were brought up back then that we have managed to go on and achieve what we have done in the game. "The basic principles were drilled into us, both on and off the pitch. Nothing was given to us and we had to work very, very hard for everything we got

He achieved his first FA coaching badge at the tender age of 19, Pulis was one of the youngest ever professional players to obtain the qualification and followed it up by picking up his UEFA 'A' licence aged 21.

Pulis made 85 league appearances for Rovers before leaving to join Hong Kong club Happy Valley AA in 1981. He returned to Rovers the following year and made a further 45 league appearances before moving to his Newport County in 1984 playing 77 matches. With County struggling financially Harry Redknapp subsequently signed Pulis at Bournemouth he spent three years there Dean Court before joining Gillingham in 1989. However Pulis returned to Bournemouth a year later to take up a player/coach role. He made 16 appearances, while in this role.

In 1992, after Harry Redknapp decided to move to West Ham, Pulis became Bournemouth manager, spending two years there. In 1995 he moved to Gillingham, struggling near the bottom of the Football League. In his very first season, he turned the club around and earned promotion to the Second Division; in 1999, he nearly took them a step further, leading the Gills to the play-off final, where they were agonisingly defeated by Manchester City in a penalty shootout.

Despite his success, Pulis was sacked after the defeat amid disciplinary claims. Afterwards, he brought court action against the club for unpaid bonuses, and the case was eventually settled in 2001 for £75,000. Pulis was appointed manager of Bristol City. His previous stint with Bristol Rovers meant reaction to his appointment was mixed, and after six months he switched to Portsmouth. He failed here too, lasting only ten months in charge, he was replaced by Steve Claridge and spent two years out of work.

In 2002, Stoke City offered him a job and he kept them up. The following season saw Pulis lead the club to a more respectable 11th place, but a disagreement over transfer funds between the manager and the club's owner, Gunnar Gislason (who Pulis claimed failed to ''exploit the foreign transfer market"), led to his departure post season in 2005. He took over Plymouth saved them from relegation and in May 2006, Stoke offered him the chance to return, and Pulis was back under new chairman Peter Coates.

The Potters finished eighth, and in 2007-8 Pulis lifted the club into the top division/ Premier League for the first time in 23 years the following year. Pulis established Stoke in the top flight over the seasons that followed, and guided the club to the FA Cup final in 2011, unfortunately beaten 1-0 by Man City. Fighting on two fronts League and Europa Cup Pulis led Stoke to a 14th-placed finish but despite going one place better the following season, his time with the Potters came to an end.

He was regarded with affection by Stoke fans for his training kit and baseball caps ""He wears the club shop, Tony Pulis, he wears the club shop" - the Stoke crowd sang in salute of their managerís dress sense. Pulis reminded them in his last season that they must not be complacent even after securing Premier League football for four or five seasons "We must never forget what a tough league this is. There's a certain complacency that can creep into places and we mustn't let that get too deep." He reflected to Sky on his years at Stoke "I had a great ten years [including his 2002-05 spell] at Stoke. I have tremendous respect for the chairman Peter Coates, who is a real football man and has been a great chairman to me and a great friend. It wasn't really a surprise when I went because things were going on behind the scenes and there were changes off the pitch......We had six consecutive seasons in the Premier League, we got to an FA Cup final and won the semi 5-0 at Wembley, we got to Europe and have been selling out 27,000 or 28,000 every year".

His world was thrown into turmoil in the summer of 2012 when his first grandchild, Olivia, contracted a virus and died just a fortnight after her birth. His daughter, Laura, has since given birth to a baby boy, but Pulis told Stoke Sentinel Olivia will never be forgotten. And now he is asking his all fans to donate towards Lauraís attempts to raise several thousand pounds for Bliss, a charity for babies born too soon, too small or too sick, when she and her husband run the London Marathon in April.

In 2010 in a famous incident as Stoke manager he was originally said to have chosen to miss the game against Villa, his mother having died earlier in the day but he turned up during the first half after driving from Newport. "The Guardian said "He gained a warm round of applause from the home fans as he took his place in the technical area after half-time. Had those supporters been aware of his words to the players in the dressing room at the interval they would have greeted him even more enthusiastically. At that stage Villa were leading and with better finishing they could have been home and dry by half-time. "He came in and told us what he wanted us to do," said Matthew Etherington, who laid on both his side's late goals, including the stoppage-time winner from Robert Huth. Dave Kemp, the Stoke assistant who was in charge for the first half, was slightly less diplomatic. "He took the paint off the walls. He drove up from South Wales but I knew he was here in the first half because he kept phoning down to the bench."

Palace offered him the chance to return to Premier League management he duly obliged, taking the reins at Selhurst Park on November 24, 2013. There's an interesting thread on the Palace supporters forum. One fan says "There's been spells where I'm on my feet with excitement. When we played Cardiff and went more 4-4-2 and pressed them right up the pitch and popped the ball around nice and quickly it was superb to watch. He's tactically very astute, especially for what people give him credit for. Take Villa for example, they was one of the sides in the league who are never used to retaining possession and opening teams up. So Pulis let them have the ball to be so ineffective and ultimately getting done to a Palace counter attack and wonder goal from Gayle. We've been getting a lot of credit from the media and pundits about our performances, I think a lot was worried about an overly physical hoofball style game. Well I've yet to seen it, I think he's learnt from his time at Stoke he has to be slightly more expansive, but that could change if he brings in a certain breed of players. " Another says "Taken on a tough job, but works for good people. I like the bloke, he has huge bollox.." Another says "Worried at first, but he has grown on me. Think he might just keep us up, with his discipline and organisation. It would not be the best style of football. But could do the job. "

Tony Pulis is a practicing Catholic and declares he goes to confession to ask for forgiveness because he "sins more than anyone". When it was raised as to whether he was in church after the Arsenal match. "I actually never went," says Pulis, breaking into a smile. "I don't go every week."

What does he think about home. In Andrew Taylor's Newport County history he wrote the foreword stating "In football I always look ahead to the next game, but as a person have never forgotten my roots and am proud of my upbringing in Pill. I set my mind to using whatever ability I had to the maximum of my potential and kept the daydreaming for my visits to the Somerton Park terraces. In 1984 I returned as a player. The club clearly had financial problems and in my two seasons there, given the quality in the squad, we under performed. Like most County players I don't have medals to show from my time there, but do have plenty of fond memories and stories - not all of which could be printed!"

He took a Stoke team to County in July 2012 and in 2011 he sent a strong side to face Albion Rovers when they opened their new clubhouse. Andrew Taylor, who is married to Pulis's cousin, takes up the story. "Albion Rovers were expecting a team of 16 to 17-year-olds to get off the bus. Instead off stepped James Beattie and Dave Kitson. "They played on a little public park opposite my parents house. It was unreal." A Stoke match report of their 9-0 victory states "the welcome was warm but the pitch wasn't the best of surfaces.....A good work out with no nasty fouls and no injuries and an appreciative crowd around 500) in attendance - with the M4 motorway as backdrop." Pulis also donated a Stoke kit that season to Pill AFC, where his brother Raymond is chairman.