Tony Pulis is not sexy. It’s something about the glasses, the baseball cap, the club tracksuit, it’s not something that gets the pulse racing. Tony Pulis’ football teams are not sexy. They focus on keeping it tight in defence, packing the midfield and lumping it up to the big man - it’s not what the era of memes and gifs wants.
But by God, it works.
Today Sunderland head to The Hawthorns, a place where we haven’t won in the Premier League since 2006 (viva Anthony Le Tallec!), to find a resurgent West Bromwich Albion side enjoying the warm glow of Pulisball. West Brom are not a fashionable team - any team that play four centre backs across the defence isn't - but in 2017 they find themselves in 8th place and in formidable home form.
Under Pulis they have not only survived but thrived moving from relegation candidates to top half contenders and it only makes our failures look even more devastating. Taking over in January 2015, he has dragged a team nailed on for the drop under Alan Irvine to a stable, Premier League mainstay.
With the prospect of the drop this term all but irrelevant for the Baggies it has allowed Pulis to unleash flair players like Matt Phillips and Nacer Chadli while getting the best out of Salomon Rondon. Add that to a spine of Jonny Evans, Darren Fletcher and Ben Foster and you’ve got a side that is difficult to beat and has many options available to exploit a side’s weaknesses.
There is a conception that if you press the Pulis button you resign yourself to turgid football to avoid relegation. The mere suggestion of his name when our annual managerial sacking comes round is normally met with derision but this club shop enthusiast has proven this season he is much more than a one trick pony.
Remember this is a man who got Stoke (STOKE!!) into the Europa League within a few years of promotion and managed to keep poor Crystal Palace and West Brom sides in the league. What would we give for that level of consistency and, God forbid, success?
The match-up at The Hawthorns on Saturday will highlight the polar opposite of how clubs should be run and managed. On one side you see a team intensely drilled, where every member of the squad know their role and execute the gameplan with precision and on the other you see a collection of players, a group of individuals.
Some don’t want to be there, some aren’t good enough and some simply don’t care, a manager with a demeanour of someone who has seen their dog run over and over again and a fanbase growing more and more frustrated at the constant rubbish they have to stand through week after week.
West Brom are an example of what Sunderland should be but sadly will not be anytime in the near future. There are many reasons for this but Pulis’ pragmatism, tactical nous and willingness to adapt is one of the driving forces behind it.
And if don’t think Tony Pulis is sexy, imagine him headbutting James Beattie in a shower completely naked. What’s not to love?