By guiding Stoke to a 13th-place finish this season, Tony Pulis secured the team’s status in England’s top division for a fifth straight year but he came under increasing fire for failing to change its direct and physical style of play.
Pulis was the second longest-serving manager in the Premier League, behind Arsene Wenger of Arsenal, in the wake of Alex Ferguson’s retirement from Manchester United last week.
Pulis joined Stoke in 2006 for a second spell in charge and received plaudits for guiding the midlands club to the FA Cup final in 2011, where the team lost to Manchester City, and consequently a place in Europe for the first time in 36 years.
The decision continues the coaching upheaval in the Premier League this month, with Ferguson leaving United after nearly 27 years and being replaced by Everton manager David Moyes. Everton and Manchester City, which fired Roberto Mancini last week, are on the lookout for a new coach, while Chelsea will also soon be without a manager once Rafa Benitez leaves his interim position.
Pulis, who was renowned for wearing a cap and a tracksuit during matches, has never been relegated in his 21 years as a manager and is widely recognised as a coach that makes his teams more effective than the sum of their parts. In 1999, he took tiny Gillingham to within an injury-time goal of promotion to the top flight, and his achievement in keeping Stoke in the Premier League since 2008 may only be appreciated once he is gone.
“No denying he did a great job getting them to the Premier League and keeping them there,” former England striker Michael Owen, who retired on Sunday after spending the last year of his career at Stoke, said on Twitter.
But his playing style and tactics, which usually involve deploying hard-working midfielders and sending long balls to tall strikers, have never been universally loved. In 2010, Wenger accused Stoke of using a rugby-style approach to games, and even the club’s own fans became disgruntled this season.
Despite a big outlay on players in recent years, the team was embroiled in a relegation battle until the final week of this season and finished 13th — six points clear of safety.
Pulis was also previously manager of Bournemouth, Bristol, Portsmouth and Plymouth in the lower leagues. His first spell with Stoke was between 2002-05.
After Wenger, the longest-serving manager in the Premier League is Alan Pardew, who has been at Newcastle for 2 years, 156 days.
Sections of the British media have linked Phil Neville, who recently left the playing squad of Everton, and Brighton manager Gus Poyet with the vacancy at Stoke.