“Give Me A Tap On The Back!” – Tony Pulis Looks Back On What Might Have Been

Tony Pulis is one of a select group of managers to have taken charge of over 1000 games in English football, alongside legends such as Sir Alex Ferguson and Arsene Wenger. 

The former Bristol Rovers defender took his first steps into management in 1992, with his first coming away to Preston North EndJohn Beck was in charge that day and the corners of the pitch were covered with sand! 

From Bournemouth, Pulis would move to Gillingham where he oversaw a promotion from Division Three. Short spells at Bristol City and Portsmouth would follow before a first stint in charge at Stoke City and less than a year at Plymouth Argyle. 

It was a return to Stoke where Pulis really found a home and was able to make his mark on the club. His first season saw The Potters narrowly miss out on a playoff spot but he and his team came back stronger the following year to claim second place and Premier League football. 

Throughout his five seasons with Stoke in the top division, Pulis guided the club comfortably to safety and even took them into Europe after losing the FA Cup final in 2011 to Manchester City. 

After his Potteries departure, Pulis was brought in to rescue Crystal Palace from relegation before a nearly three-year spell in charge at West Bromwich Albion.  During his short time at Selhurst Park, Pulis turned the club’s fortunes around and was rewarded at the end of the season with the Premier League Manager of the Season award. 

The experienced manager would spend 80 matches in charge of Middlesbrough before a disappointing 10-game stint at Sheffield Wednesday brought the curtain down on a 28-year managerial career. His final match in management was a 1-1 draw against Blackburn Rovers on Boxing Day 2020.

Pulis has seen it all over his 28 years in the dugout and has competed against John Beck and Jose Mourinho and successfully managed to ruffle Arsene Wenger’s feathers! So, which match of over 1100 would the Welshman choose to relive and change the outcome?

The Real EFL spoke to the Newport-born manager and asked him which of the matches were the one he would change. Pulis was keen to know which match may spring to our minds, and there was certainly one that was the obvious choice.

“The Man City one?”

He was referring to the 1999 Division Two playoff final between Manchester City and his Gillingham side. The Gills had taken a 2-0 lead late in the match only for City to strike back with two goals after the 90-minute mark. Eventually, Pulis’ men lost 3-1 in a penalty shootout. 

“We would have changed the outlook for Man City if they’d stayed down that year because the following year they got promoted.” (to the Premier League). 

“That started what has gone on since then. City supporters need to give me a tap on the back for allowing them to do that.”

“That game was obviously a very difficult game to handle afterwards because we had played so well and I don’t think we deserved to lose that game.” 

Tony Pulis was speaking to The Real EFL courtesy of OLBG.

Writer’s View

Of course, this is purely a hypothetical question but it does get you thinking about how easily things could have been different. Beating Gillingham meant City had bounced back to the Championship (Division One at the time) at the first attempt. 

We have seen recent examples with the likes of Sunderland of how difficult it is to get out of the third tier. From there, Manchester City have gone on, initially establishing themselves as a Premier League side before the money came in and they have dominated the English game.

Who knows, had it not been for Paul Dickov, we could be talking about Gillingham going for their fourth consecutive Premier League title!

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