Pulis Deserves To Be Remembered For Shameful Ethics Rather Than Success At Palace
The 2013/14 season was a historic campaign for Palace. The Eagles avoided relegation from the top flight for the first time since 1992 and for the first time in the Premier League era.
The famous picture of the Palace players celebrating, arms aloft, hand-in-hand, in front of a jubilant away end at Upton Park tells a thousand stories. A club, so soon after being on the brink of liquidation, was maintaining their place in the most lucrative division in European football. The relationship between the players and fans was indestructible.
That season encapsulated everything good about the club throughout its history. Its ability to battle against adversity. Its honesty and transparency. Yet Tony Pulis’ actions upon the culmination of that campaign went against everything the club stands for.
As exposed in the media last week, Pulis’ treatment of the club was abhorrent. The Welshman had been appointed in November following Ian Holloway’s unsuccessful start to Palace’s first top flight campaign in nine years. Although the pair distinctly differ in the ability to manage a football team, Holloway’s departure was much more admirable, he was happy to accept his failings and resigned while refusing to take a single penny. Pulis, however, simply couldn’t have been any more different.
A bonus in Pulis’ contract meant that he would earn a hefty £2million upon earning Premier League survival, on the condition that he stayed beyond 31 August 2014. When survival was achieved, Pulis asked co-chairman Steve Parish to be paid the bonus early and was awarded the £2million in full on 12 August. Pulis’ excuse for needing the money, having to prove that he could afford to buy a property for his children, turned out to be complete fiction. In addition, Pulis claimed an event referred to in the resulting court case as the ‘heated players’ meeting’ was a deciding factor in him wanting to leave and told the court that it occurred on 12 August, the day before he told Parish that he would not take charge of the first game of the forthcoming season.
Parish proved that the HPM, reported at the time as being a dispute over squad bonuses, actually took place on 8 August, the very same day that Pulis coincidentally told him that he was committed to the club. It became clear to the judicial panel that Pulis “had not been willing” to accept that the HPM did not happen on 12 August because “he realised that he had otherwise no explanation for his sudden desire to leave the club.”
The judgement continues, “Once Mr Pulis’ case is rejected that it was the HPM which convinced him that he should seek a parting of the ways, one is left with the objective facts that he was happy and committed to the club on 8 August and he sought to leave five days later on 13 August. The only thing that had changed was that he had received early payment of his bonus on 12 August.” Palace’s argument was that the early payment of the bonus and Pulis’ decision to leave were “inextricably linked”, something that the judicial panel agreed with.
The sad truth is that everything Pulis did for the club was for money. His desperation for his lucrative bonus was the driving force behind his success. It is easily forgotten that Pulis rejected Palace’s original offer only to finally accept when a better offer was put forward. One can only imagine that the first offer lacked the huge bonus, while the second offer possessed it, drawing Pulis towards the club when in actual fact, he had very minimal interest in managing the Eagles.
Although the now West Bromwich Albion head coach’s style of football was tedious, he ultimately earned points. His ability to win football matches in any way possible is admirable and something that the club currently desires in the predicament it is presently in, almost three years on. Yet, while a managerial change is seemingly on the horizon, Pulis is one man you won’t see in Selhurst Park’s home dugout any time soon.
Once deemed the saviour, his name deserves to be erased from the credit given to the team at the time. Pulis ultimately left the club in a poorer state than could ever be imagined. His decision to leave shocked the club, which had no backup plan and were eventually forced into appointing Neil Warnock three games into the 2014/15 season. Warnock failed, leaving Alan Pardew to earn a remarkable tenth place finish. However, even the former Palace player’s spell seems to be capitulating into a sorry ending.
Palace have never truly recovered since Pulis’ departure. There was so much potential for the club to go far under his guidance, but he neglected a promising side for mid-table obscurity with West Brom. Meanwhile, Palace have stuttered.
Pulis deserves to go down in Palace folklore as a villain of the club, etched alongside the likes of Alan Mullery, Terry Venables, Steve Bruce and Eric Cantona. His reputation has been shattered.