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Tony Pulis at odds with realities of Crystal Palace

Aug 14, 2014, 6:23 PM EDT

Southampton v Stoke City - Premier League Getty Images

In England, the manager’s role has traditionally had a very special significance. Pick a man, hand him the keys (and the checkbook), and let him do his job. If that takes you to the top, congratulations. You picked the right man. If you end up in the cellar, well, you should have done your homework.

Over time, parts of England have started moving away from that model. While Arsène Wenger is the be-all and end-all at Arsenal, clubs like Chelsea, Manchester City, and Tottenham have instilled more collaborative models. The general feeling: The soccer world has become too competitive for one man to do the job by himself.

Still, consider how deeply you have to buy into the one man philosophy to condone what Tony Pulis did today. Walking away from Crystal Palace two days before the new season, the man who saved the Eagles from relegation appears to be standing on principle. If co-chairman Steve Parish and the rest of Palace’s board won’t pour more money into the club, Pulis was willing to walk.

How can Pulis justify this decision to Palace’s players, some of whom chose South London based on the manager? None of them have the luxury of walking away because reinforcements aren’t coming. What kind of loyalty has Pulis shown by throwing their fall into chaos?

How can he justify this decision to the rest of the club? The staff whose allegiance goes beyond what happens in Steve Parish’s office? Rather than accept the reality of the life he chose (Pulis did only join the club in November), Pulis has made a power play, one that threatens the team’s first division survival.

And how can Pulis justify this decision to the supporters, whose presence helped make Selhurst Park so imposing at the end of last season? With hopes this year can be more stable than the last, fans have seen the man who fostered spring’s stability exit after a game of chicken. Without more money to improve his squad, Pulis followed through on his threat and walked out the door.

In light of Palace’s circumstances, Pulis’s principles are ill-placed. He knew what he was getting into when he signed on: A small club; one that would have to use guile like Pulis’s to transcend its modest situation. As we saw in the last two transfer windows, there are no big checks to cash. Crystal Palace can’t throw away money, the way their manager did at Stoke.

We mentioned it earlier today: Pulis’s net spending over his last five years at Stoke was negative £80 million. What did the Potters get for that investment? Stability, yes. And they got an FA Cup final. They also got a dour brand of soccer that left supporters defending the most unromantic of virtues: Pragmatism. And in time, fans got a team that failed to improve, one that reached new heights after one season under Mark Hughes.

Crystal Palace can’t afford those pursuits, a reality Pulis must have known when he signed on. It was only three years earlier that Palace was in administration – pushed to the brink of the third division by its financial woe. Newly stabilized, newly successful, Palace has shown they need not return to their reckless ways, yet Pulis was demanding they do so.

It all adds up to one sneaking suspicion: Pulis just wanted to go. Either that, or he’s the most short-sighted of old school bosses. If the 58-year-old really was dense enough to overlook Palace’s recent history, last year’s success, and the realities of life at Selhurst Park, it was best he left now. There’s no dramatic change coming in South London.

I refuse to believe Pulis is that dumb. Instead, I buy into his guile. Coming off a stellar showing last season, and knowing jobs will open up over the next five months, Pulis engineered a scenario that would allow him to move to greener pastures – to a club without the limitations of Crystal Palace. And as an easy escape route, Pulis relied on an outdated truism: You have to back your manager.

Some will buy that tale, particularly in light of last season’s success. And there’s a little part of me that sees that point of view. But how to explain that to the players, who are two days away from facing Arsenal? How to explain that to a club whose life in the Premier League is under new threat? How to explain that to a fan base that should abhor this kind of selfishness from their now former boss?

There’s only one explanation: Tony Pulis was acting in the best interest of Tony Pulis. While that’s understandable, managers should be able to transcend that base instinct. In the long term, showing a broader perspective is in a manager’s best interest.

For as tough as life may be for Palace this season, the club was right to let him walk. And for anybody willing to bring back Tony Pulis, they know what they’re getting into.

  1. renhoekk2 - Aug 14, 2014 at 6:58 PM

    Mr. Farley,

    The players he wanted didn’t sign with the likes of Arsenal or Chelsea. They signed with Swansea and QPR. If those clubs could afford the players, CPFC could as well. They spent 2.5M this summer for three players. Give us a break. They haven’t even spent the prize money the earned for finishing 11th in the table last season. I’m sure Mr. Pulis knew the clubs limitations and the reported players he targeted seem reasonable, considering were they eventually signed. He wasn’t looking at top shelf talent. There is spending wisely within your limits, and then there is being cheap for the sake of stuffing your own pockets. It seems Mr. Parish and his partners have other ideas for that money Mr. Pulis helped put in their pockets. And it apparently doesn’t involve re-investing it in the club. But your right, let’s talk about how Pulis did the club wrong. Are you related to any of the four CPFC owners? Or did you just write one of those obviously one-sided over the top pieces for page hits?

    • julesfosteruk - Aug 15, 2014 at 10:01 AM

      ‘Both players signed for QPR and Swansea respectively for over £8m each! The thing is, did we ever have a chance of securing them from the off anyway? Caulker had played with Redknapp at Spurs previously and we would never have been able to compete with the wages on offer there. Swansea had the upper hand on Sigurdsson as they had previously had him on loan, he enjoyed his time there so we were never going to get him. Would I have liked them both? Absolutely. Definitely. Would I have liked the club to spend £16m on them both and the subsequent high wages? No not really. Here lays the problem.’

  2. bruceeff - Aug 14, 2014 at 8:17 PM

    I’m going to leave fans and management out of the equation for a moment. This manager walked out on his players (some of whom are at CPFC specifically because of Pulis) 48 hours before the start of the season. He hung his squad out to dry.

    Whether or not Pulis got his transfer targets, Crystal Palace was going to put a competitive team on the pitch this season and the manager up and walked away on the eve of a new campaign anyway.

    In spite of his managerial prowess, I wouldn’t want to entrust my squad to someone who takes such a mercurial attitude toward their job if I was on the board of one of these clubs.

    Good luck to Mr. Pulis on his next managerial endeavor. A note to all the club directors in need of a manager this season: this guy comes with a “buyer beware” sticker.

  3. loudclapper - Aug 14, 2014 at 8:35 PM

    Did he leave a note on each players locker like Bobby Petrino?

  4. navyeoddavee9 - Aug 14, 2014 at 8:45 PM

    Do they call David Moyes?

  5. kevmason - Aug 25, 2014 at 1:04 PM

    I am not a relation of Parish, Browett or Long… Nor of Pulis… However I am a Crystal Palace fan of 50 years and have see us play on over 100 grounds home and abroad. I am not qualified for the manager’s job but I reckon I am qualified to comment…. So hopefully won’t be shot down 😊

    We as football fans are all guilty of living in the moment, and as in life we have setbacks to overcome (3 steps forward, two back) … We have to be positive through these. With the new club (cpfc 2010) we have come so far… Is it just 5 seasons ago we were one match from bring league football. Since then the managerial and corporation decisions have taken us forward… And some wonderful memories (Brighton away twice, wembley, promotion, actually staying in the premiership for the first time… (Not counting the old division 1)… My point is that who knew pulis was going to jack it in? Who knew that malkie and moody had those skeletons in their cupboard? … These are the unexpected set backs that occur in life and these guys need (CPFC 2010) will have to make a decision but from the other candidates I see there is no one who is going to do is any favours… I think we are right to wait and appoint in the international window and just be patient. We can use the loan window to strengthen the squad …

    It’s a shame that Tony has gone.
    Maybe we could have worked something out, but as the article states we have been in admits ration twice.
    These guys running the club are all four self made millionaires, they all know how to run a business…
    Their decisions so far have been successful… Where they haven’t I’m sure they will learn from them (that’s what makes anyone successful)

    It sounds like Tony and Steve was a brief affair rather than a lasting marriage.
    Let’s just see what the next manager brings and we move on to the next chapter of our wonderful club.

    Thank you for reading .

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