Stoke Focus – Will a change in direction save Pulis his job?

The axe has been swung and it appears that Tony Pulis has reacted to his side’s faltering league form this season. Bar a couple of months before the end of 2012, Stoke City have been rather stagnant and bear all the hallmarks of a squad in need of serious rejuvenation and motivation.

The question in recent weeks has been whether Pulis, who clearly should be lauded for the job he has done at the Britannia, has either the drive or, more importantly the know-how, to make the changes both to the playing staff and the playing style that appear all too necessary if the Potters are to make progress.

Fans are increasingly getting on the Welshman’s back, with the late defeat to Newcastle at the weekend bringing even greater calls for Pulis’ head. It is unsurprising to see news filter through this week of a change in direction at the very core elements of what the club has epitomised since arriving into the Premier League in 2008.

The Telegraph reports that both Jermaine Pennant and Michael Owen will be allowed to leave upon the expiration of their contracts in the summer, with Dean Whitehead, a Pulis stalwart, also set to depart.

Elsewhere, Rory Delap – a player who has signified much of the colour and unorthodox effectiveness – has already confirmed he will leave the Britannia at the end of the season while Michael Tonge, Danny Higginbotham and Diego Arismendi have already departed. There could also be moves for the likes of Wilson Palacios, Kenywne Jones, Matthew Upson, Maurice Edu and Cameron Jerome as Pulis looks to completely revamp his squad.

Funds are set to be provided for potential replacements with Pulis already having talked up Stoke’s new-found creativity in the transfer market, particularly in its moves into America, where the likes of Geoff Cameron and Brek Shea have been purchased. Expensive purchases of ageing big-name players, such as that of Peter Crouch, will be ditched.

However, Stoke supporters will say that such moves to re-shape the squad have been long overdue and that it is a question mark against Pulis and his ambitions for the club that the squad has been allowed to stagnate for such a long period of time.

Indeed, some may even question whether Pulis is the right man to spend the money that will be provided to add to the squad, with his big-money moves for the likes of Crouch, Palacios, Sanli Tuncay and Charlie Adam in the past all failing to come off in the manner that was expected.

Much of those problems were attributed to the manager’s stubborn desire to adhere to the rather agricultural playing style Stoke preach; claims that have grown in voice this season with the Potters’ increasingly poor and defensive nature, particularly away from home.

Thus, both chairman Peter Coates and Pulis find themselves at a crossroads this summer. The latter may have done a fantastic job in cementing Stoke as a Premier League force, but now that they are one there must be evolution and development, both through the squad and the playing style. The question is whether Pulis is the right man to oversee that change.

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