West Brom fires Tony Pulis with team in relegation danger
By STEVE DOUGLAS
Ahead of what proved to be his last match as West Bromwich Albion manager, Tony Pulis detailed in his program notes all of his achievements during his nearly three years at the English Premier League club.
West Brom had always made a profit during his tenure, he wrote.
The team had a record number of players representing their countries.
He held a strong relationship with his chairman, John Williams - a "good man," according to Pulis - and reminded fans he was nominated for coach of the year last season "for finishing as the top manager per pound per point in the Premier League."
The PR offensive didn't work.
Two days after West Brom was humbled at home by Chelsea 4-0 to extend the team's dreadful run of results to just two wins from its last 21 games, Pulis was fired in the first decisive act by West Brom's new Chinese owner.
"We are in a results business," Williams said, "and over the back end of last season and this season to date, ours have been very disappointing."
Owning a reputation for being a virtual guarantee against relegation couldn't keep Pulis in the job. Not with West Brom having slumped to 17th place in the Premier League, within a point and a place of the relegation zone.
Pulis has never been relegated in 25 years and more than 1,000 league games in soccer management, but he wasn't given a chance to extend that record at The Hawthorns.
The Welshman, known for wearing a baseball cap, tracksuit and trainers for games, turned Stoke into an established Premier League team during his second spell there (2006-13) and was voted as the division's manager of the year in the 2013-14 season, after steering Crystal Palace to safety. He took over Palace midway through that season when the team was in the relegation zone, six points from safety.
At West Brom, Pulis achieved finishes of 13th, 14th and 10th place.
Only 12 of 38 rounds have been played this season, so there was still plenty of time for Pulis to turn things around. Yet there was no sign of West Brom's form improving, and the fans lost patience with Pulis and his pragmatic style of football.
A disgruntled section of the support called for his departure in recent games.
West Brom came under new ownership last year, with Lai Guochuan becoming the majority shareholder. He was at the game against Chelsea.
The club from central England had a net spend of about 30 million pounds ($40 million) last summer and enriched the squad with some trumpeted arrivals like Poland midfielder Grzegorz Krychowiak from Paris Saint-Germain, left back Kieran Gibbs from Arsenal, and winger Oliver Burke from Leipzig.
Pulis had better players and a deeper squad at his disposal, but failed to get the most out of them. He clearly missed Darren Fletcher, the club captain and experienced midfielder who surprisingly left in the offseason to join Stoke. Dovetail that with continued criticism of his approach - direct, risk-averse - and it was no surprise there were calls for change.
West Brom has just nine goals in 12 games this season.
Pulis is the fifth manager to lose his job in the Premier League this season, after Frank De Boer (Crystal Palace), Craig Shakespeare (Leicester), Ronald Koeman (Everton) and Slaven Bilic (West Ham).
"Today, it's like this," Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola said on Monday. "When I was young, you saw in England they respect the contract of the managers. They never be sacked, it was so, so difficult.
"Now everywhere is the same. We have to accept that, we know that. Everyone knows when we don't have results, managers here can win the Premier League and a month later they will be sacked."
Assistant coach Gary Megson will take temporary charge of the team, whose next match is against Tottenham on Saturday.
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Steve Douglas is at www.twitter.com/sdouglas80
Updated November 20, 2017