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Tony Pulis may have been spending too much time at the swimming pool and contracted athlete's foot. "I've enjoyed my break, but you get itchy feet," the Welshman said, five months after he left Stoke. Somehow, when I think of Pulis, I think of fungal infection.
Speculation, as he also said, is speculation, but his likely appointment as Crystal Palace manager may prove an object lesson in being careful what you wish for. It looks to have been overoptimistic to expect the man deemed surplus to Stoke's requirements to start again away from English football's main stage.
It should be borne in mind that his achievements at the Britannia Stadium and elsewhere were laudable. As was written here in May: "Pulis not only brought Stoke up into the Premier League, he kept them from dropping back into the third tier when he was first appointed. In the 1990s he lifted Gillingham from the basement of what is now League Two, with all the fear of relegation into the Conference, into our League One, and thence to Wembley and a play-off final." With a modicum of luck his team would not have surrendered a 2-0 lead and lost on penalties to the predecessors of the Champions League's Manchester City.
The problem with Pulis at Stoke was that he was like a dog who could walk on his hind legs: impressive enough at the first time of asking, and the second or third. But surprisingly quickly a new trick is needed to keep the audience happy, even in the fiercely tribal world of football where reaching the Premier League is greeted with such rapture. If Jorge Valdano was right that Liverpool v Chelsea was like watching sh*t on a stick, then too many Stoke games became like stepping in a dog turd, and eventually too many in the Potteries noticed the lingering smell when they got home, or went to work on the Monday.
While Mark Hughes wrestles with the legacy of a team who struggle to recognise the opposition net, Pulis is set to take over players who may struggle to recognise each other. In Ian Holloway's resignation press conference - which almost made up for Monday's diabolical attempt to turn "Have you considered your position?" into a discussion of his old playing role - the now former manager said that he had changed too much of the squad in the summer, thereby wrecking the spirit that had got them promoted in the first place. Yet had Holloway not revamped his squad then surely he would now be lamenting instead that failure as the cause of Palace's poor start.
As Andi Thomas put it, perhaps Holloway has a "strange knack of getting promoted to the Premier League by accident". The result is surely more headache than opportunity for Pulis, though maybe Andi does not Holloway give quite enough credit. The principal reason why Palace were in a position to be promoted was the extraordinary scoring record of Glenn Murray. Shorn of the unfortunate striker during the first leg of the play-off semi-finals, Palace edged over the line without him. The secondary reason Palace were promoted was Wilfried Zaha and, while Murray hopes to play in the Premier League, ideally before relegation is confirmed, the youngster is gone permanently. Holloway can go on about team spirit but something more tangible had been lost, giving him no choice but to revamp the squad.
Even with Murray fit and Zaha loaned back once more, Palace would have struggled. One can understand Holloway's chagrin, his desire to show that in fact he does have what it takes to be a Premier League manager, but he has allowed his optimism to get the better of him by imagining he could keep Palace up. It would have required a thick skin but embracing the fans' chant of "Here for a season" would have allowed him to concentrate not on survival in 2014 but promotion in 2015, fuelled by the BT/Sky cash injection.
Surely, too, Palace should be thinking that way even now, and not looking for a manager to keep them up but one to get them back up and to build the club. The odds are strongly that Palace will wind up back in the Championship, but in a strong position financially to compete with a team worth watching. Is Pulis the man to do that?
Steve Parish et al should hold their noses, examine Stoke and see if that is the shape of club they want built, and if not then for their sake - and for ours - search elsewhere. If not, then following Palace may require the News at Ten advice from the days when you could find out the scores or wait till the highlights show: "Look away now."