Tony Pulis resignation from Crystal Palace a day before the new season comes as a shock but in truth it has been simmering, ready to boil over for months now. The former Stoke boss was brought in last season to save Palace from near certain relegation after a disastrous start under Ian Holloway. Infighting between the players, shot shy strikers and a leaky defence lacking in confidence awaited Pulis when he took charge in November 2013. He swiftly transformed the team into a solid unit that over the remaining 28 game racking up 35 points that in the end proved good enough to secure Premiership football this season.
Pulis leaves the club after a disagreement with owner Steve Parish over Palace’s summer transfer policies and who ultimately had the last say. After identifying a list of players he felt the club needed to progress, Pulis stepped back to let Parish and Ian Moody, the clubs Sporting Director take over negotiations. However as the summer rolled on, Pulis became more and more frustrated at the lack of activity and in particular seeing the targets he had chosen slip through the clubs fingers. After being beating by Harry Redknapp to the signing of Cardiff’s Steven Caulker, he confronted Moody and Parish to ask what was going on. Sources close to the club suggest that Pulis wanted full control of the summer arrivals; something that Parish felt was in the clubs best interest to stay within his control. Parish, a 25% owner of Palace along with three other investors has grand long term plans for the south London club and would prefer a more cautious approach to developing the squad. His fear was that releasing this control to the manager, not just Pulis but any manager would see the club repeat mistakes from past administrations when Palace spent heavily on players, only to find it in vein at the end of the season. Pulis however knew the club could only really focus on long term when their short term future was secured. That meant building a team that could compete, not just this season but in future seasons much like he had done at Stoke.
In the end the only arrivals at the club have been squad players like Frazier Campbell from Cardiff and Martin Kelly. Pulis did convince Fulham’s Brede Hangeland to cross London to join Palace but that was on a free transfer after the player was released following Fulham’s relegation. To date, Palace have only spent £2.4million this summer on new players and have missed out on most of the names included on Pulis’ list including Caulker, Swansea’s Michu and Gylfi Sigurdsson. In a league that has seen every club strengthen this summer, Palace look weaker than before and a potential candidate for the drop. Malky Mackay has been installed as the favourite to take over and having been out of football since being dismissed by the Welsh club last season, will be happy to take the job regardless of who finalizes the transfers. However the Scotsman should take a moment to reflect on the difficulties he encountered at Cardiff working for troublesome owner Vincent Tan and the potential for a repeat performance under Parish. But the appeal of working with Ian Moody again may swing it for Mackay. The pair forged a strong working relationship and friendship at Cardiff before Tan dismissed Moody for what he saw was wasting the clubs money on exuberant transfers. Moody’s approach at Palace has been a more cautious one, leaning more towards the owner and his long term vision than this needs of the manager in order to secure his long term future at the club.
For Pulis, retirement from the game is unlikely and it won’t be long before we see his trademark training top and cap combo on the sidelines again. Pulis knows firsthand how to turn an unfancied team destined to fall into a regular fixture in the league having proven it at Stoke and then at Palace. If Premiership newcomers Burnley or Leicester fail to ignite in the first few months of the new season, they may turn to Pulis to provide the spark needed for them to secure their place in the league for next season.
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