Sunday, January 29, 2006

Tony Pulis

Well I’ve shot through our history as a club and here we are at the present. Time to consider Tony Pulis, his past, his appointment and immediate prospects.

To be fair I have to start with the first occasion Tony Pulis cropped up on my radar and that was when Argyle were mounting a promotion challenge under Neil Warnock. Gillingham were atop of the league for most of the season and were ultimately promoted as Champions, I think. That wasn’t what brought him to my attention, though. It was the signing of Dominic Naylor and their subsequent miserly goals against total. Oh that and a dreadful disciplinary record including a fracas on the pitch leading to an FA charge of “failing to control their players” after a match against Brentford (?).

I went to the away game at Priestfield on Boxing Day that year. A bitterly cold day. Our game was one of only a few that got played anywhere in the country. Sure enough it was a bad tempered affair and after the match there were claims of racial abuse directed at Ronnie Maugé. During the match there were many “incidents”. They won 1-0 with a penalty given when Gary Clayton punched a goal bound shot over the bar (he was sent off – unbelievably the only one) and their goalie, Jim Stannard, made a string of fantastic saves. “They’re a bunch of thugs” was Mrs B’s undeniable conclusion at the end of the match.

The return game at Home Park was just as bad tempered. We won 1-0 (Martin Barlow). Any passing similarity to the beautiful game was purely coincidental. The 2 games were probably the most brutal matches I have ever seen and both times they could have dispensed with the white spherical thing altogether. The players would not have noticed.

Nevertheless Pulis worked wonders at Gillingham and hauled them from the brink of bankruptcy to the 2nd (real terms) division before leaving amid a flurry of accusations and counter accusations flying between Pulis and Chairman Scally which all ended up in court with Pulis victorious, if not entirely exonerated, as I recall.

He bounced around a bit after that managing Portsmouth, Stoke and Bristol City. His departure from each seemed to be acrimonious. Eventually he ended up with us as the successor to Wiliamson.

I was not delighted. He came with a long ball reputation and brought with him that most prodigal of sons: David Kemp. Dour and attritional football seemed to be the best we could hope for. Indeed Pulis had been nicknamed Binary Man due to the results his teams seemed to specialise in (0-0, 1-0, 0-1, 1-1 etc).

Since he has been here he has clearly turned our bunch of desperately failing pros into a competitive outfit. Morale on the pitch seems better. Fitness levels seem higher. We have rediscovered $’s “shape” where once there was none and if relegation once seemed a near certainty we now sit 9 points above the real trouble and have a game in hand. Most of our remaining games are at home. The season’s goal of bettering last year’s finish looks to be achievable.

Still I remain unconvinced that he is the right man for our long term prosperity but having said that there is no denying his short term efficacy.

Where do we go from here? Well our squad is desperately thin and we need new players in virtually every outfield position – if only as cover and for competition within the ranks. We are not safe yet and the immediate job is not yet done.

Our longterm goal has to be Premiership football and Pulis has never been there with any of his clubs. Will he get there with “mine”?

In fact will my club ever get here?


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