“People say the football’s been boring but the last two games at The Hawthorns have seen nine goals scored,” said a chippy and defensive Tony Pulis ahead of Chelsea’s visit to the West Midlands’ premier entertainment arena. Well make that 13 goals in three games; those West Brom fans singing that they want the Welshman out of their club really have never had it so good. Tony, you really are spoiling them.
We can only presume that Pulis bringing up the fact that West Brom have actually scored more goals than Bournemouth is what prompted the Cherries to batter Huddersfield; there can be no greater motivation than the accusation that actually you are even more boring than West Brom.
Should Pulis be sacked now, there will be many throwing their hands up in despair and saying it is unfair to sack anybody after two home games against the best two teams in the Premier League, and especially unfair to sack The Man Who Hath Never Been Relegated. But this is not about two unexpected defeats, or even the last ten Premier League games without victory, but about an 11-month malaise that has made lifelong supporters dread Saturday afternoons and their stultifying tactics, directed by the man in the cap who still firmly believes he is the victim of increased expectations.
No Tony, West Brom fans are not desperate to see change because they were expecting a top-ten finish this season, but because they are bored out of their minds and they no longer see narrow survival as a reason to endure this boredom. Most cannot even foresee narrow survival anymore, such is the horror of West Brom’s form over this entire calendar year. Their 2017 record now stands at a woeful 29 points from 31 games.
Not a single West Brom fan would have entered the Hawthorns on Saturday with anything other than trepidation, with narrow, battling defeat the very most the afternoon could possibly bring. Pulis clearly thought the same, picking a side with six specialist defensive players and his most creative winger at right-back (let’s not kid ourselves about the word ‘wing-back’ here). What followed was a total demolition rarely seen outside the early stages of the FA Cup.
There will always be those who point out that West Brom are in exactly the kind of situation that often calls for Tony Pulis, but the Welshman has never before been the architect of that situation. You don’t ask a firefighter to put out a fire while he is stood there with matches in his hand.
Pulis could be sacked by West Brom, walk into another job and save them from relegation, but that would not mean that the Baggies were wrong to pull the trigger. This relationship has long since run its course and both parties would be far better off starting anew with somebody else. Imagine what a different manager would do with Phillips, with James McClean, with Nacer Chadli, with Oliver Burke, with Jay Rodriguez? We cannot imagine the players themselves have not pondered a different future with more freedom of expression and fewer defensive drills.
Now is not the time to talk ‘who next?’ as we are now firmly in Anybody But Pulis territory, but as a thousand Facebook memes tell you, you only ever regret the things you don’t do.