In the immediate aftermath of Stoke’s depressing and somewhat predictable collapse at home to Aston Villa, a defeat that left the Potters just three points above the drop zone, the fans’ internet forums and radio phone-ins were inundated with messages calling for Tony Pulis to be sacked.
Time to change before it becomes too late was the call. Time for a younger, modern manager. Time to ditch the long ball football that looks set to make Stoke the division’s lowest scorers for the second season running. Time for chairman Peter Coates to put aside his personal friendship with Pulis and show the sort of conviction that Southampton and Sunderland showed in sacking their managers to help preserve their Premier League status.
Certainly, on the face of it there appears to be little doubt that Pulis’ relationship with the club is coming to an end. However, those supporters craving for the change to be made before the end of the season should perhaps just hold the reins in a little.
The question must be asked that with only six games to go, a challenging set of fixtures that sees them not only play Manchester United and Tottenham, but also relegation rivals QPR, Norwich and Sunderland in three consecutive weeks, is the upheaval that a change in manager would cause really likely to pay off?
Those that point to the example of Southampton’s successful managerial change are blind to the starkly different circumstances between the Saints at the time of Nigel Adkins’ dismissal for Mauricio Pochettino and Stoke at the moment. Southampton at the time were on nowhere near the same sort of run that the Potters have endured. Indeed, the sacking of Adkins came just days after a 2-2 draw at European champions Chelsea, a result that left the Saints in 15th position and on an upwards momentum.
Perhaps more importantly, Pochettino did not attempt to revolutionalise the squad’s playing style. Under Adkins, Southampton were already a passing, attack-minded side and the Argentine wisely chose not to embark on a change mid-season with the club still set in Adkins’ methods.
Confidence however could not be lower at the Britannia at the moment. There is certainly no recent draw at Stamford Bridge for any potential new manager to build on. Instead, Pulis’ prospective replacement will find a set of players that have only taken one win since the turn of the year at home to bottom club Reading.
More pertinent though is that should Stoke choose to replace Pulis now, then the new boss would almost certainly be under immediate pressure to employ a more progressive, passing game. Now unlike Southampton, the Potters certainly do not possess the players to embark on such a style and with the transfer window long shut, could a new manager possibly turn players so in tune with Pulis’ style and methods into the next Arsenal with only six games to go?
The likelihood is that such a move would result in relegation from the top tier for this proud club.
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