Tony Pulis may be ‘sick of being known as an escape artist’, but his move to Sheffield Wednesday who are currently 23rd in the Championship will do him no favours in the eyes of some people.
Pulis doesn’t simply see the job as a matter of escaping relegation however, instead aiming to ‘turn the club around’ and make the Steel City Derby a Premier League fixture by leading the Owls to promotion.
While probably out of reach this season, this ambition may not be an impossibility. Wednesday were in the play-off places just before the start of 2020 last season, before rapidly dropping off and finishing 17th. But if Pulis can galvanise the squad, it is certainly possible for them to compete strongly in the upper reaches of the table again.
He certainly has the CV to suggest he can do it, which is something he himself likes to point out. The now Wednesday manager has been promoted out of all three divisions in the EFL, and took his robust Stoke City side to an FA Cup Final and the round of 32 in the Europa League.
At his last club Middlesbrough, Pulis was sacked having missed out on the play-offs by a point, the season after managing to guide them to 5th place despite only taking over in December. This becomes more impressive when we see that the same side finished 17th last season after Pulis left, having to be saved by the vastly experienced Neil Warnock. Perhaps Pulis will be hoping somewhat ironically to have a similar impact on Wednesday to that Warnock has had on his former club, who currently sit 7th in the Championship – four points off top with the least goals conceded in the division.
While it is very possible that Pulis will get Wednesday into a good position, what ultimately could be the deciding factor in whether he is a long-term appointment is how fans and the chairman take to his style of play. His style at Stoke has been described as ‘Hoof-ball. Hammer throwing. Anti-football’, and it was clear with the appointment of Jonathan Woodgate and the talk of developing a ‘new identity’ that style had also become a problem at Middlesbrough.
Make no mistake, Pulis has some good footballers at his disposal, the likes of Izzy Brown and Barry Bannan to name a couple, but I’d expect we are more likely to see Callum Patterson launching long throws into the box in a Rory Delap-esque manner than any radical overhaul in the new manager’s style, although he himself claims that people have ‘pigeonholed’ his tactics.
For short term improvement then, Wednesday have arguably a great man for the job. Whether he can succeed long-term perhaps rests more on whether people can accept his style in exchange for his results.