Tony Pulis has been appointed as the manager of Sheffield Wednesday, he has reportedly signed a two-and-a-half-year deal.
The 62-year-old takes up his first job since leaving Middlesbrough in the summer of 2019 when his contract was not renewed by the club.
Pulis replaces Garry Monk at the helm after the former Swansea City manager was sacked on Monday night.
Wednesday currently sit 23rd in the EFL Championship, moving off the bottom of the table with a goalless draw against Millwall before the current international break.
Pulis’ managerial career
Pulis’ pathway into management began at AFC Bournemouth, where he was a player/coach before taking up the role of assistant manager to Harry Redknapp. He then took over from Redknapp in 1992 but left two years later.
His next job saw him manage Gillingham in 1995 before a dispute with chairman Paul Scally saw him leave his position in 1999.
Unsuccessful spells at Bristol City and Portsmouth followed before he was appointed by Stoke City in 2002, guiding the Potters through a tough first season where they managed to avoid relegation on the final game of the campaign.
After two more seasons at the then-named Britannia Stadium, he was sacked, moving onto Plymouth Argyle for a campaign before being re-hired as manager of Stoke.
Pulis guided them into the Premier League in his second season, keeping them firmly in England’s top flight with a 12th-placed finish the next term.
The 2010-11 season saw Pulis make history, guiding Stoke to their first FA Cup final, which they lost 1-0 to Manchester City. This meant that the Potters qualified for the Europa League, where they were knocked out of the round of 32 stage by Valencia.
The 2012/13 campaign was Pulis’ last with Stoke, leaving by mutual consent at the end of the season.
He returned to management in November 2013, joining Crystal Palace where he took them from deep relegation favourites to the Eagles’ highest-ever finish, placing 11th, which earned him the ‘Premier League Manager of the Season’ award.
Pulis left before the next season began, with his subsequent job coming at West Bromwich Albion, where he finished 10th before being sacked the season after, following a poor start to the season.
On Boxing Day 2017, the Welshman took over from Monk as manager of Middlesborough where he guided them to a fifth-place finish, losing to Aston Villa in the playoffs. The next season ended with Boro missing out on a place in the top six, which, ultimately, saw the club decide not to offer him a new contract after losing his final six games of the season.
Is he the right man for the job?
Pulis’ appointment has been met with criticism about the ambition of chairman Dejphon Chansiri, due to his stereotyped ‘long ball’ style of play, with this being somewhat of an uninspiring selection.
He brings a certain level of security, and with Wednesday currently sitting in the Championship’s bottom three, it would make sense for Chansiri to use the Welshman’s credentials to steer the Owls clear of danger – he boasts an admirable stat of never being relegated as a player or manager.
However, Wednesday’s initial 12-points deduction from the start of the season was halved last week after an appeal, meaning that going into the current international break, they are only two points adrift of safety with 35 games remaining.
This could have meant that Wednesday, potentially, could have taken a risk on somebody like Plymouth boss Ryan Lowe, who would have brought an attack-minded style to Hillsborough – something that the chairman has preached about wanting from his manager. Paul Cook and Nigel Pearson were also reportedly considered for the position.
It is a relatively safe appointment for Wednesday, and his managerial CV has been proven to get results. Whilst he was in the Middlesborough hot seat, Pulis recorded an average of 1.64 points per game – the highest of his last seven clubs – and he also has a points-per-game average of 1.53 across all his Championship games since the league’s formation in 2004.
In addition, despite the negativity of his preferred style, Pulis utilised players like Patrick Bamford and Adama Traore – losing both at the end of his first season – to create a more entertaining side to his play, meaning there is room for the Welshman to use the creativity of Barry Bannan and the skilfulness of Kadeem Harris to his advantage.
How could Wednesday line up under him?
One of the first predicaments that Pulis will have as Wednesday manager is finding a formation that suits the squad.
Monk persisted with a 3-5-2 formation after the restart to the campaign in June, which at times looked quite forced upon the side as they seemed deprived of any cohesion between each other.
Pulis did, however, play the same formation whilst at Boro, varying between a 3-5-2, 3-4-2-1 and 4-3-2-1 setup.
In terms of personnel, the 62-year-old will have quite a plethora of options across the field. There is a variety of versatility throughout the squad, however, Pulis needs to avoid chopping and changing frequently to create some consistency about the Owls – something they have failed to acquire for a long time.
Several questions must be addressed also, such as who will start in goal? Will the ostracised Keiren Westwood be recalled? Will Pulis stick with five central-midfield players across the middle as he did with Boro? And who will be the main focal point up front?
Predicted Pulis line-up (3-5-2): Westwood; Iorfa, Flint, van Aken; Palmer, Luongo, Bannan, Pelupessy, Reach; Patterson, Rhodes.
Pulis will need to revitalise a squad robbed of confidence, having won just two of their last 12 games, as well as only registering two home victories in the whole of 2020.