The cracks are beginning to show at just the wrong time for Middlesbrough – but calls for Tony Pulis to go are too premature.
The last article I posted I was extolling the virtues of gritty away performances and how they are indicator of a promotion chasing side. Four games later and we are without a win – and questions are being asked.
The fingertip grip we had on the top two has slipped and we are now clinging on to a play off spot. That is where I saw us being at the beginning of the season.
Tony Pulis repeatedly saying at the start of the season ‘they’re a good bunch of lads, but we won’t get promoted with them without strengthening’ can be taken many ways.
He could be challenging them to raise their game, which is understandable. The flip-side is that you keep telling someone they’re are not good enough, they will eventually believe it.
Now I know that Tony isn’t on the training pitch and in the dressing room shouting that at them over and over again. But in difficult runs like this, it isn’t a massive leap to think that the statement made at the start of the season doesn’t echo in their minds.
I am by no means a fan of Tony Pulis. I have give credit where credit is due for our performances and criticise when I think it is warranted.
Just when he is at the point of winning me over, he goes and does something that makes me question if he is the man that I want to lead us.
For the great 3-0 win vs Sheffield United, to the 1-0 defeat to Fulham at home last season. For the gritty away win against Brentford to the poor defeat to QPR Saturday. It isn’t the defeats themselves, they are part and parcel of the game. It’s the manner of the defeats.
Vocal fans on social media and on message-boards are too quick to be calling for his head and at the other end of the spectrum fans who are firmly behind Pulis need to be able to accept or give criticism of his work.
They say football is a great indicator of society at the time and in certain aspects it rings true. In a time of political turmoil in our country, hardliners on both sides will brae at each other but not listen to one another.
No nuanced debate, no listening to or reading of a rebuttal. The “I’m right and you’re wrong” culture that is displayed on social media between warring factions is no different in football.
It is also evident about Tony Pulis.
People either behind or against him. That is everyone’s right to be able to question or back their manager. As long as the players get 100% of the support, then that is fine.
As for the camp that I am in, I believe that Tony Pulis is not the man I want to be manager of our club.
But he is, and he has done enough to warrant the job so far. The football is dire and painful to watch but for 75% of the time, it has been effective.
I believe that good football and success are not mutually exclusive, whereas some people believe it’s one or the other.
It is possible to play attractive football and achieve your goals. With a little more adventure and the right additions in January, we could resurrect our promotion bid that is faltering going into a crucial period.
It is a very narrow minded view that some believe it’s entertaining football or success and only that. For a game as multi-faceted and intricate as football is, a black or white but never grey argument does not seem to fit.
I do believe that “effective” (dire) football can serve a purpose and is a means to an end for stability in short term but as a long term strategy, it won’t bring success.
To think that Pulis will change or could change is folly. There is no way he is going to change how he plays. So for those like me who don’t like it, we’re going to have to stomach it.
The signs are he is here for the long haul, as he is being given access to all areas behind the scenes to assess the situation and change how he sees fit. And for me, that is worrying.
The manager should fit the club, not the other way around. Managers and players will come and go but the club will always be.
Managers can make some changes to put their own stamp on things (coaches and such like) and the club can accommodate them to give the manager tools to do the job.
But allowing someone to have access to all areas of club operations is staggering. There can be no excuses if he gets his way.
His statement about the recruitment strategy that he thinks we should employ is a little worrying also. I agree that there is value to be found out there. However, signing potential has its pitfalls.
Signing potential alongside established players could be what were aiming for (I hope so anyway) but he just openly admitted that we’d be signing players with potential and if they realise their potential, selling them on.
Buying them for £1 million or less and then selling for £15, £20 and £30 million was the short version. If it pays off, then the club will be on sound financial footing but it will essentially be making us a stepping stone or feeder club.
You can’t build anything meaningful or successful, if the player turnover is going to be high. There has to be a constant nucleus.
Southampton and Brentford have went similar ways but eventually the well runs dry and now both are struggling.
This could be a blip and I hope it is. We could put things right, Pulis has a recent record with us of putting things right very quickly. Time will tell.
I’m not calling for him to go, that’s far too premature.
We could slip outside the play-offs if Nottingham Forest win tonight. If we have a poor Christmas period, we could be adrift.
But the question that could be asked is if things do turn for the worse, How long would you wait? Do you give Pulis January to recruit?
As much as I don’t like his style of football, I’m backing him. For now.
Let’s put it right on Saturday. A win tomorrow as well would put us in a Cup semi-final and boost morale. These 2 games could have a profound effect on the rest of the Christmas period and the season as a whole.
Let’s take these chances with both hands and push on.