“Someone has just asked me what the difference was – I said about £220m”
Those were the words of Stoke manager Tony Pulis following his side’s abject defeat to Manchester City on New Year’s Day. He continued by saying “They’ve [Manchester City] got a bit of a head start on clubs like us”. The hypocrisy of Pulis knows no bounds. He frequently moans about topical issues such as refereeing decisions and diving yet when the shoe is on the other foot and his club get the rub of the green, Pulis’ smug shit-eating post-match grin is nauseating. A prime example is in the previous fixture between Stoke and Manchester City back in September where the Potters secured a 1-1 draw – their goal coming through a handball by Peter Crouch. Asked about the decision, Pulis said he was “delighted”, “It’s lovely for us, a smaller club getting a decision against a big club”
What Tony Pulis would like us all to believe is that Stoke are this small club that have been built on a shoestring budget, which is insulting. The Potters’ starting eleven vs Manchester City cost £35m: Asmir Begovic (£3.5m), Andy Wilkinson (academy), Robert Huth (£5m), Geoff Cameron (£2.5m), Ryan Shawcross (£2m), Cameron Jerome (£4m), Jon Walters (£2.75m), Charlie Adam (£4m), Glenn Whelan (£500k), Steven N’Zonzi (£3m) and Kenwyn Jones (£8m). If you include Stoke’s bench, of which their record signing Peter Crouch (£10m) sat then the cost of the matchday 18 rises to £55m.
Naturally, the money spent does pale in comparison to that of Manchester City, but only City and Chelsea have had a higher net spend than Stoke City’s £75m over the past five seasons. Pulis’ side have spent an average of £15m per season over the last five years during their time in the Premier League. The club’s transfer record has been broke six times since 2008. Pulis may have not had the magnitude of money that City or Chelsea but he has had significantly more to spend than a lot of other managers in the Premier League.
Defeat against City was only their fourth of the season, their other three defeats have come against table toppers Manchester United, fourth placed Chelsea and Norwich. They are the only side yet to suffer home defeat in the Premier League in keeping with the cliché that the Britannia Stadium is a tough place to go. Pulis, who has never been relegated as manager nor have Stoke been ever sucked into a relegation battle have finished 12th, 11th, 13th and 14th respectively with points totals of 45, 46, 47, 45 over the last four season. Steady progress? Hardly. Yes, Stoke have reached an FA Cup final and played in Europe over the past two season but for Pulis to suggest that the reason for defeat to Manchester City comes down to money is belittling to footballer watchers out there. His side showed no ambition and didn’t register their first shot on target until near the hour mark.
Even on Wednesday, as Ryan Shawcross signed a new long term deal, Pulis was quoted as saying: “We’re not going to do what Manchester City have done, we’re not going to do a Chelsea,” What, spend money? “we have to build gradually and steadily, and that’s what we’ve done over the last five years.” Perhaps, Tony. But you’ve done it by spending a significant amount of money. The players didn’t just arrive at Stoke.
This might seem like a rant against Tony Pulis and in some respects it is. But it is Pulis’ small time mentality that has irritated me the most. Stoke are by no means a ‘small club’, they attract near enough to 27,000 for the vast majority of their Premier League home games. Pulis has had money to spend, his side wasn’t build on small change scrimped together from down the back of a sofa. Questions can certainly be raised as to whether the money has been spent wisely enough. Should Stoke be getting more bang for their buck?