Pulis and Palace

Just when the English Premier League was about to kick start, manager Tony Pulis parted ways with Crystal Palace. This came as a shock to the followers of English football as he seemed to have done nothing wrong which would justify this change. Naman Mehra discusses the dynamics which prompted the change here at Goalden Times.

For many, Tony Pulis is the shrewd and tactically sharp mastermind who oversaw the rise of Stoke City FC, a club known for their physical play and giving big opponents a run for their money. Pulis took relegation favourites Stoke City to 12th place in the league, to their first ever FA cup final and to European football, achievements which earned him the accolade of being Stoke City’s greatest ever manager from chairman Peter Coates. But “creative differences” with the board led to him quitting the club at the end of 2012-13 season.


Crystal Palace, a London side stuck in the championship for 8 years in a row, returned to the top tier of English football in the 2013-14 season,thanks to Ian Holloway and Manchester United loanee Wilfred Zaha. However, things didn’t really go according to plan.  After 12 games in the league, Palace’s record read Won 1 Drawn 1 Lost 10.

On 23rd November 2013, Pulis took over at Palace, another side that was widely expected to be relegated.  Some decent deadline day signings in the January transfer window and a change in tactics led to a remarkable turn-around. Among other good results, Crystal Palace won at Goodison Park, beat Chelsea at home and came back from 3-0 down against title-challengers Liverpool to grab a point. April saw Palace win 5 games on the trot owing to which Pulis was awarded manager of the month award. Ultimately, Palace finished 11th in the league, their 3rd best performance in the top-flight.  A brilliant managerial performance earned Pulis the ‘Manager of the Season’ award and yet, 3 months later, 2 days before the new season, Tony Pulis quit as the manager of the London Club. This was among the biggest surprise exits of the summer, one which made many people wonder if the club or coach were to blame for this falling out.

Tony Pulis

As expected, neither side really came out and provided details on what led to the best manager of previous season quit just 2 days before another season kicked off. The most widely accepted theory, however, is the strenuous relationship between the coach and Palace co-chairman Steve Parish.  Parish is a lifelong Crystal Palace fan and is known for being a very passionate owner. He took over the club, when it was in administration, and is a huge fan favourite as well.

One of the foremost issues relating to Pulis-Palace dispute was issue over transfer funds. The lack of transfer activity and the influence of Parish in transfers, apparently, neither went down well with Tony Pulis. Pulis has always liked to have had the final say in any deals but his authority was undermined quite regularly throughout the summer and the presence of a sporting director at the club (Iain Moody) did not help matters either . There are many who believe lack of money to spend made Pulis question Palace’s ambitions.

Failure in signing transfer targets of Pulis, notably Steven Caulker and Gylfi Sigurdsson, who joined Queens Park Rangers and Swansea City respectively, and Parish’s fixation on re-signing Man Utd’s Zaha, is said to be the final nail in the coffin.  Tony Pulis was sceptical about Wilfred Zaha, raising questions about his character but was overruled in the best interests of the club. Pulis had made his mind set on leaving according to his friends and when talks with Parish over dinner broke down on August 14, 2014, there was only one outcome.

Another aspect suggests that Tony Pulis was tempted by a bigger club. After an excellent season, he was definitely sought-after, though it is worth noting that there were no vacancies in the English Premier League when Pulis resigned. As things have panned out, no manager has been sacked hence, which suggests either talks broke down or there might be something on the horizon in the near future. Crystal Palace, on the other hand, re-appointed experienced English manager, Neil Warnock (First spell as manager of Palace was from 2007-2010). Their start has not been encouraging though with Palace conceding twice in injury time to drop points. They are yet to register a win in the league and ar reeling with only two points from first four matches.

One wonders if there was anyone to blame for all this. Tony Pulis has always been a proud man and his performances have always deserved respect. For a manager taking over at relegation-threatened sides, Tony Pulis’s sides have never been relegated. Steve Parish on the other hand, runs his club with the viewpoint of a fan and Palace did manage 9 signings in the summer, include fan favourite Zaha, experienced Brede Hangeland, Martin Kelly and James McArthur. Ultimately, it is the fans that were denied the opportunity to see where Pulis could lead this Palace side after an amazing start with them. Tony Pulis too would have had a different challenge, with the pressure of repeating last season’s performance and possibly doing better. Also, at the helm of a team with youngsters who have top flight experience, Pulis would have had better resources at his disposal. Unfortunately though, this turned into another case of football folklore’s What Ifs.