Matt Etherington laments Tony Pulis’ Stoke exit
Supporters became disenchanted after a run of poor form in the second half of the season in which the Potters won only three of 19 league matches and flirted with relegation.
Stoke’s Sentinel newspaper reports that Pulis had a meeting with chairman Peter Coates yesterday morning at which the decision was made to make a change, although late last night the club had yet to confirm the manager’s departure.
Etherington, however, admitted he was shocked to hear reports of Pulis’s anticipated exit.
“I’ve spoken to a few of the other boys and they’re shocked as well. It’s hit us,” he said.
“Fans were grumbling, saying they wanted him out or wanted a change but it looks like they have got their wish.
“You have to be careful what you wish for in football sometimes. You look at Charlton under Alan Curbishley and look where they are now.
“Hopefully it won’t go that way for us, hopefully we’ll get someone in who will push us on and make us into a top-ten team.
“If you look at where Stoke were when he first came in – mid-table in the Championship – you can’t argue he’s done a fantastic job.”
Pulis was often criticised for his side’s over-physical approach and reliance on long balls. But Etherington said there was reason to his methods and that the manager had tried to change his style as best he could.
“We have definitely got better players at the club than we had when I joined in the first season in the Premier League,” he admitted.
“The manager has a way he wants to play. First and foremost he wants us to be defensively very sound.
“You have to be solid or there is a big chance you will get relegated. That was his main priority, which was fair enough.
“There were times when we weren’t pretty to watch but he had us well-drilled and that shouldn’t be taken away from the job the manager has done.
“The gaffer said in pre-season he wanted the way we played to evolve and we started off relatively well. When it went bad and we weren’t picking up results, we maybe went back to the old ways.
“You can say it worked because it kept us up but we went back to basics to grind out results. The way we finished this season was poor, we all know that and the fans weren’t happy and rightly so.
“We had the quality in the squad to finish higher this year. The players need to look at ourselves because we didn’t perform.
“It was a bad season this year in terms of where we finished and where we should have finished. But if you look at where we finished in the last few seasons you can’t really argue.”
Pulis’s association with Stoke stretches back to 2002. He saved the club from relegation to the third tier in his first season before guiding them to a mid-table finish in 2003/04, but he left the club in 2005 after a fall-out with the board of directors.
He returned to the Britannia Stadium in 2006 – Dutch manager Johan Boskamp had been in charge in between Pulis’s two stints – and within two years guided them into the Premier League and subsequently took them to an FA Cup final and into Europe.