Tag Archives: Tony Pulis

Premier League Files: Cameron Jerome

Premier League Career: Birmingham City (2007-2008, 2009-2011), Stoke City (2011-2013), Crystal Palace (2013-2014), Norwich City (2015-2016)

Cameron Jerome has played for Birmingham City, Stoke City, Crystal Palace and Norwich City during his Premier League career. He has experienced the pain of three relegations from the top-flight and the joy of three promotions from the Championship. He isn’t the most prolific forward but one thing Jerome has already been capable of is scoring some spectacular goals.

Born in West Yorkshire, Jerome moved about in his youth days, spending time on the books of Huddersfield Town, Grimsby Town and Sheffield Wednesday. However, it was Cardiff City where he would make his first-team breakthrough, making his debut in a goalless draw with Leeds United in October 2004. He finished as the Bluebirds’ top goalscorer in 2005-2006 with 20 goals and this form earned him a move to Birmingham City, who had just dropped out of the top-flight under the guidance of Steve Bruce.

His debut for the Blues was instantly forgettable, lasting a paltry five minutes before being sent off for elbowing a Colchester United opponent in the face. It wasn’t the impact he wanted to make and he scored just nine times in 44 appearances. Nevertheless, Birmingham were promoted back to the Premier League at the first attempt of asking, finishing runners-up to Sunderland. He stayed with the club in 2007-2008 and scored his first Premier League goal after only 32 seconds of a game away at Derby County, which Birmingham won 2-1. He added a further six to that strike at Pride Park but Birmingham were relegated back to the Championship on the final day of the season.

A decent partnership with veteran Kevin Phillips helped Birmingham back once more to the top-flight for 2009-2010 and this was his best campaign to-date. Cameron helped Birmingham to a fine ninth-place finish in the final table. This included a goal in a lifetime strike away at Anfield. Collecting possession from around 30-yards out, he held off Javier Mascherano and produced a dipping volley that flew over Pepe Reina and into the back of the net. This helped Birmingham pinch a 2-2 draw and was part of a club-record unbeaten run in the top-flight. Jerome finished with 11 goals – easily his best return in the Premier League.

The goalscoring boots disappeared again in 2010-2011. He notched just three goals and was reduced to a substitute role for Birmingham’s glorious League Cup final victory over Arsenal. Just two wins in their last 11 games after that Wembley victory saw Alex McLeish’s side relegated and this time, he wasn’t going to stick around for another Championship campaign.

Jerome moved to Stoke City for £4 million on transfer deadline day but struggled to hold down a first-team place under Tony Pulis’ stewardship. His impact came largely from the bench and he didn’t score in the league for Stoke until New Years’ Eve 2011 against Wigan Athletic. His best form was saved for the club’s only European adventure to-date, scoring to earn a creditable draw in Kiev and finding the net twice in a home win over Maccabi Tel-Aviv.

In 2012-2013, Cameron might have made 30 Premier League appearances but only started nine games. He scored three times, including a corking strike to rescue a point in a 3-3 draw with Southampton. Pulis left at the end of that campaign and Jerome was glad to see the back of him. He told BBC Radio Stoke: “No matter what happened, how you trained or if you came on and did well in the games you were involved in, you were still never going to start.”

Mark Hughes decided he was surplus to requirements at Stoke and Jerome moved to Crystal Palace on-loan in September 2013. Ironically, when Ian Holloway quit a month later, he would be replaced by…Tony Pulis! Despite the forward’s previous criticism of the manager, he did feature 29 times at Selhurst Park but only scored twice. His loan wasn’t extended and Stoke would sell him to Norwich City for £1.5 million in August 2014.

18 goals for the Norfolk side would help Norwich into the play-offs, where they prevailed over Middlesbrough to earn an instant return to the Premier League. Yet again, the step-up found Jerome wanting. He found the back of the net a meagre three times in 34 games as Norwich ended the season in the bottom three positions. He remains at Carrow Road nowadays but seems to be playing only a rotation role under current coach Daniel Farke.

He could produce the spectacular from time-to-time but Cameron Jerome is a forward who has always looked good in the second-tier but never quite made the substantial breakthrough in the Premier League.

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The Managers: Gary Megson

Premier League Clubs Managed: Norwich City (1995), West Bromwich Albion (2002-2003, 2004), Bolton Wanderers (2007-2009)

Abrasive is one of the best words to sum up Gary Megson’s management career. If he liked you, you’d play pretty well and frequently too. If you fell out with him, Megson could be a nightmare for your career. He was never the fans’ popular choice at any of the clubs he managed which probably explains why his best finish in top-flight management is 13th with Bolton Wanderers in 2008-2009.

In his playing days, Megson was a tough-tackling, committed defensive midfielder who would play for nine different clubs. The best time of his career was during two spells with Sheffield Wednesday in the mid-1980s, scoring 25 goals in 233 appearances. His worst spell was a five-month period at Nottingham Forest where he didn’t make a single appearance and the late Brian Clough described him as “he couldn’t trap a bag of cement!” Ouch!

Brief fling at Norwich

Megson featured in the first three seasons of the Premier League as a player at Norwich City and when Mike Walker abruptly quit for Everton in January 1994, Megson combined his playing role with a coaching position, working as assistant manager to John Deehan. Towards the end of the 1994-1995 season, Deehan walked away from the job and under-fire owner Robert Chase elected to promote Megson into the hottest of hotseats.

He had five games to try and save the club’s Premier League status but collected just a single point from those matches. Norwich’s relegation to Division One was confirmed on the final Saturday of the season at Elland Road. They collected just 11 points after Christmas which saw them plummet from seventh at the midway point to relegation.

Megson did leave Carrow Road that summer to resume his playing career at Lincoln City and Shrewsbury Town but was back at Norwich before 1995 was out. Martin O’Neill had left for Leicester City but there was to be no magic spark for Megson. The Canaries’ finished a dreary 15th in Division One and he left that summer (this time for good), to seek further opportunities in management.

Beating the odds with the Baggies

Management spells followed at Blackpool, Stockport County and Stoke City. There were good sequences with all these sides but Megson just missed out on possible playoff positions. In March 2000, he was hired by West Bromwich Albion. He preserved their second-tier status against all odds and then spearheaded the Baggies’ to first a playoff finish in 2001, before promotion to the top-flight for the first time in 16 years in 2001-2002. In the closing weeks, Albion had obliterated an 11-point disadvantage on their Black Country rivals Wolverhampton Wanderers to finish runners-up to Manchester City. An unexpected Premier League chance was there for the supporters to savour.

There were no surprises though that relegation followed a year later. Just six wins from 38 matches were achieved and there were to be no wins on home soil from the end of November onwards. In many games, Albion competed well enough but they simply didn’t have the ultimate quality to stay up. Megson mounted a successful promotion campaign the following season but by the summer of 2004, the relationship between the manager and his owner Jeremy Peace had become strained.

It became known that some players weren’t keen on playing for Megson. In 2004, ex-Coventry City forward Darren Huckerby had a choice of joining either Norwich City or West Brom. He chose the former and didn’t hold back either on criticising Megson’s coaching style when asked why he signed for Norwich. He said: “I told him I didn’t like the way he coached, I didn’t like the way he shouted at his players and didn’t like the way he treated seasoned professionals like 15-year-olds. I was just being honest with him. I said: “I’ve seen you on the sidelines and you look like a crazed animal.”

In September 2004, Megson’s job appeared to be under threat after a poor start to Albion’s Premier League return. A month later, he confirmed he would leave at the end of the season and the board decided this was a good reason to wield the axe. Three days after a 3-0 loss to relegation rivals Crystal Palace, Megson left the Hawthorns. He wouldn’t return to the Premier League until October 2007.

Never popular at Bolton

When appointed, the fans at the Reebok Stadium were not impressed with the choice. Megson had been hired despite having only been in charge for nine games and 41 days at Leicester City. He took over with Bolton in the bottom three, having amassed just five points from 10 matches under Sammy Lee’s difficult stint. There was early progress though, including a first home win in 30 years over champions Manchester United.

League form was still ropey in 2008 though. Star striker Nicolas Anelka was sold to Chelsea and no obvious replacement came in. In early April, Bolton slipped back into the bottom three but they rallied to take 11 points from their last five matches and therefore stayed up. It was Megson’s first survival as a Premier League manager.

2008-2009 was a progressive season. He spent £13.2 million on Johan Elmander and Fabrice Muamba in the summer transfer window and guided the club to eighth in the table by November 2008. That was good enough for Megson to claim his one and only Manager of the Month award. Although they dropped to 13th by the season’s end, relegation talk was never considered all season for the Trotters.

It was a different story in 2009-2010. Bolton led several matches but couldn’t close games out and by Christmas, they were in the dreaded drop zone. After throwing away a two-goal lead at home to Hull City to draw 2-2 with their rivals in distress, the board elected to sack Megson two days before 2009 drew to a close. His last management job was at Sheffield Wednesday which ended in February 2012 after a derby loss to Sheffield United.

After a lengthy spell out of the game, Megson returned to West Bromwich Albion in the summer of 2017, becoming Tony Pulis’ assistant manager at The Hawthorns. It is a new role and a new challenge for him after being the no.1 for such a long time.

The Managers: Tony Pulis

Premier League Clubs Managed: Stoke City (2008-2013), Crystal Palace (2013-2014), West Bromwich Albion (2015-PRESENT)

In 2018, Tony Pulis will celebrate his 60th birthday. The Welshman has become a specialist in stabilising Premier League teams. He gets the absolute maximum out of all of his players and whilst his teams might lack the overall superstar who will wow supporters, he will ensure his sides are tough to break down and specialise in their strengths to win football matches.

Pulis has attracted criticism from some of the modern day fans. Some feel his tactics are dull and make games to watch uninspiring. Sometimes, it is a fair point but if you asked fans of his current club West Bromwich Albion, you would want to survive in the Premier League. Survival is more important than substance and Pulis does this brilliantly.

He now been managing for the best part of 25 years and it took a while to reach the promise land with Stoke City in 2008. Since then, Tony has been a regular fixture in the Premier League managerial dugout.

Playing attempts

Like many before him, Pulis went into management after the end of his playing career. He spent 17 years kicking footballs rather than coaching footballers and being a defender, you can see why he always builds his teams from the back.

During his playing days, Pulis played for five teams in his career. He even spent one season playing abroad in Hong Kong for Happy Valley – one of the most successful clubs in the country with six domestic championships.

He began his playing career at Bristol Rovers and also featured for local club Newport County AFC, Gillingham and AFC Bournemouth. He would go on to manage the latter two clubs in his career and his break came soon than expected at Dean Court.

Filling Harry’s shoes

Coaching was always in Tony’s mind, even in his early playing career. He obtained his FA coaching badge at just 19, followed by his UEFA ‘A’ licence aged 21 – making him one of the youngest professional players ever to have obtained the qualification.

He wound down his playing time with Bournemouth, eventually taking the management role in 1992 when Harry Redknapp quit, becoming Billy Bonds’ no.2 at West Ham United. A couple of 17th-place finishes weren’t anything to write home about but he was up and running and his next stop was a more successful spell at Gillingham.

He managed them for four campaigns and turned them from relegation strugglers to promotion contenders. In 1999, he took Gillingham to the Division Two playoff final and a meeting with Manchester City at Wembley. What followed next was one of the most sensational playoff finals of all-time. It looked like Pulis was going to take Gillingham up. They dominated the game and eventually took the lead through Carl Asaba, before Robert Taylor doubled the lead. Then, Manchester City produced an unbelievable turnaround to level the game at 2-2, before winning the penalty shootout 3-1. City would go onto achieve back-to-back promotions. Pulis would be out of work just weeks later. A falling out with owner Paul Scally led to his sacking for a claim of gross misconduct. He would sue Scally later for unpaid bonuses which were eventually settled out of court.

Brief spells at Bristol City and Portsmouth going into the millennium didn’t work out and it wasn’t until 2002 until he seemed to have found a home which was with Stoke City. However, that wouldn’t be without dramas of its’ own.

Reaching the promise land eventually at Stoke

Tony took over a team struggling in the First Division in November 2002 and managed to grind out enough victories and points to survive relegation on the final day of the season. The loan signings of Mark Crossley and Ade Akinbiyi played a pivotal part in the Potters’ escaping the drop. Even to this day, Pulis claims this is one of his finest achievements in management.

An 11th-place finish followed in 2003-2004 but soon, relations soured between Pulis and the Icelandic owner of the club, Gunnar Gislason. Rows broke out over the club’s transfer business. Pulis was furious that his main forward, Akinbiyi was sold to Championship rivals Burnley and no proven replacement came into the club. Gislason wanted the Welshman to spread his wings and use the foreign market. It was never going to end well and he was sacked in June 2005. The official reason given was “failing to exploit the foreign transfer market.”

He went to Plymouth Argyle, who were also flying high as a Championship club and a 14th-place finish was an overachievement considering the club’s own restrained budgets and expectations. Although he enjoyed his time with the Pilgrims’, Pulis had unfinished business at Stoke and when a board takeover happened, speculation intensified that he would return to the Britannia Stadium.

Less than a year after leaving Stoke, he returned to the club as manager with Peter Coates as the new owner. He backed Pulis in the transfer market and Tony started to bring in very solid Championship players including Danny Higginbotham, Ricardo Fuller and Rory Delap. They were in the playoff shake-up for much of the 2006-2007 season but a draw on the final day against Queens Park Rangers meant they eventually finished in eighth spot. A more serious push followed in 2007-2008. Again, Pulis used the loan market to great effect, which included the arrival of Ryan Shawcross. On the final day of the campaign, Stoke’s draw with Leicester City was good enough to take them up to the Premier League for their first top-flight season in 23 years.

His Premier League break had finally arrived.

Finals and Europe visit the Britannia

Stoke immediately made the Britannia Stadium a feared place to come for opponents. Aston Villa, Arsenal and Tottenham Hotspur were among the early casualties to come a cropper in Staffordshire. A poor Christmas programme dropped the club into the bottom three but the January signings of James Beattie and Matthew Etherington were brilliant bits of business that allowed the club to push clear of danger.

Despite starting 2008-2009 as a favourite for relegation, Pulis took the club to an impressive 12th-place finish, securing safety three games from the end of the season. In 2009-2010, there was more progress with a run to the FA Cup quarter-finals and an 11th-place finish in the league, two points better than the previous campaign.

The achievements kept coming for Tony and the club. In 2011, Stoke thrashed Bolton Wanderers 5-0 in the FA Cup semi-finals to reach an FA Cup final for the first time in their history. Although they lost 1-0 to Manchester City in the showpiece event, City’s guaranteed Champions League participation ensured Stoke a place in the UEFA Europa League for the 2011-2012 campaign.

As Europe beckoned, a stronger squad was required. The club’s transfer record was broken to sign the likes of Wilson Palacios and Peter Crouch. Crouch’s £10million arrival meant that record had been broken for a fourth successive season. They advanced to the knockout rounds of the Europa League and only narrowly went out 2-0 on aggregate in the last 32 to former Spanish superpower Valencia.

However, despite all of this success and a strong bond with the club’s owners, Tony couldn’t break Stoke into the Premier League’s top 10. 11th in 2009-2010 remained the highest finish and as progress stagnated, he parted company with the club at the end of the 2012-2013 campaign. He took a six-month hiatus from football but was soon back to try and rescue Crystal Palace.

Reviving Palace and rejuvenating Albion

Pulis succeeded Ian Holloway in November 2013 to take over a Crystal Palace side that had won just twice and were bottom of the Premier League. It was going to be a tough job but early victories in his reign at home to West Ham United and Cardiff City suggested he could turn things around.

He exploited the January transfer market again and did some great business. Joe Ledley from Celtic, defender Scott Dann from Blackburn Rovers and Wayne Hennessey were among the five acquisitions he made. A run of five successive victories in April 2014 saw him take the Manager of the Month award and eventually, survival was comfortably achieved. To put it into context, no Palace manager had previously steered the club clear of relegation in the Premier League era. They finished 11th with 45 points and Pulis’ work was recognised. He was given the title of Premier League Manager of the Year.

However, his time at Selhurst Park would be short. Feeling he wasn’t being backed in the summer transfer market by the Palace board, he left by mutual consent just two days before the start of the 2014-2015 campaign. For the second successive season, Tony would spend the opening weeks away from the dugout.

He returned on New Years’ Day 2015 though, taking over as Head Coach at West Bromwich Albion after they dispensed with the services of Alan Irvine. There was an immediate response to his appointment. Darren Fletcher arrived from Manchester United to take over the captaincy and victories included a 3-0 win over champions Chelsea. West Brom finished 13th having looked like a serious relegation contender until Pulis’ arrival through the door at the Hawthorns.

In 2015, he broke West Brom’s transfer record to sign the nomadic Venezuelan forward Salomon Rondon and also added Jonny Evans, James McClean and Rickie Lambert to the ranks. In 2015-2016, West Brom were in no relegation danger for much of the campaign but did finish a rather uninspiring 14th. The highlights of the campaign were home victories over Arsenal and Manchester United.

2016-2017 saw Pulis finally finish a season in the top 10 as a Premier League manager at the ninth attempt of asking. Matt Phillips, Hal Robson-Kanu and Nacer Chadli for a new club-record fee were among the new arrivals and West Brom started to become a more attractive side to watch. Their 2-1 victory in November 2016 at champions Leicester City was seen as a turning point in their season – a day when they outplayed and outclassed the champions.

There was an excellent 3-1 success over a dispirited Arsenal in March 2017 and for much of the campaign, West Brom were best of the rest, looking set for an eighth place finish. Unfortunately, form tailed off after a creditable point at Old Trafford and they slipped behind Southampton and AFC Bournemouth in the final week of the season. Nevertheless, it had been a very positive season for everyone connected with West Bromwich Albion.

Although club captain Fletcher departed for Stoke after talks broke down over a new contract, Pulis has had an outstanding summer transfer window. He brought in long-time target Jay Rodriguez from Southampton, young Scottish talent Oliver Burke from RB Leipzig and the loan signing of Grzegorz Krychowiak from Paris Saint-Germain. Two wins and a draw from the club’s first four matches of 2017-2018 hints that it could be another strong season at the Hawthorns.

Tony Pulis’ ability to keep struggling clubs away from the threats of relegation can’t be questioned. He might one of the rare breed of old-fashioned managers who prefers the long ball style of play. However, it has always worked for him and there is no need to change this, especially as he has a proud record of never being relegated as a player or manager. Having just extended his contract to stay at West Bromwich Albion until 2019, expect Tony Pulis to be around in the Premier League for some time to come.

Premier League Files: Yannick Bolasie

Premier League Career: Crystal Palace (2013-2016), Everton (2016-PRESENT)

Born in Lyon, Yannick Bolasie has nothing slow about his game. His main attribute is speed. Bolasie has given plenty of full-backs the run-around and he will be hoping to return even better from a serious injury that stopped his first season at Everton in its tracks.

Bolasie started out at the now defunct club Rushden & Diamonds. He spent four months in their youth side when he was just 16. After a spell playing in the lower echelons of English football with Hillingdon Borough in the Southern Football League, he moved back into mainland Europe. Yannick graced the Maltese Premier League with Floriana.

He returned to England in 2008 and spent the majority of his early professional days in this country at Plymouth Argyle, either side of a couple of loan spells in the capital with Barnet. In 2011, Bolasie transferred to Bristol City and impressed the fans at Ashton Gate with his rapid rate of development. So much so, they voted for the DR Congo international to be their Young Player of the Year. Unfortunately for them, Bolasie missed London and in August 2012, elected to submit a transfer request. It was reluctantly accepted and he would join Crystal Palace.

His contribution to the Eagles’ cause was fleeting to start with. They returned to the Premier League in his first season at the club but he was largely an impact substitute. In fact, he was an unused substitute in the playoff final victory over Watford at Wembley Stadium. Ian Holloway didn’t seem to trust his qualities and he didn’t figure in the club’s opening six Premier League matches.

He eventually featured in the top-flight for the first time as a substitute in a 3-1 defeat to Liverpool FC in October 2013. Holloway left the club shortly afterwards and he started more frequently for Tony Pulis although he chalked up a red card in an away win at Hull City in November 2013. Although he failed to score a goal in Palace’s successful survival season, his prominence was clear. Bolasie set-up two of the three goals in the famous comeback against Liverpool FC in May 2014 when the south Londoners came from 3-0 down to rescue a draw and all but bury the Reds’ title aspirations.

2014-2015 was Bolasie’s real breakthrough season. His maiden Premier League strike came in a 3-2 away win over Everton in September 2014. Later that season, he ensured his name in the Crystal Palace record books by becoming the first player from the club to score a hat-trick in the Premier League. His treble came in a 4-1 win against Sunderland at the Stadium of Light and was a quick-fire treble. It took just 11 minutes for Bolasie to register his three strikes on a sunny afternoon in Wearside.

After intense transfer speculation in the summer of 2016, Bolasie eventually moved to Everton just a week into the 2016-2017 campaign for an approximate £25million transfer fee. In 13 Premier League appearances for the Toffees’, he had scored once in defeat to Burnley and was credited with four assists. In early December, he limped out of the draw with Manchester United after what looked like an innocuous collision with Anthony Martial. Tests later revealed a cruciate knee ligament injury which would rule him out for a full year.

Yannick has recently indicated that he hopes to be back in the Everton playing squad by the end of the 2017 calendar year. Whether that is a realistic or ambitious target, time will tell. However, everyone will want to see him return to full fitness because he still has the ability to fulfil his true potential.

Great Goals: Peter Crouch – STOKE CITY vs. Manchester City (March 2012)

This move begins in the typical Stoke City style under the Tony Pulis reign at the club. Asmir Begovic takes a goal-kick which is hit long towards the attackers. The rest is all about supreme skill from a player who has often been underrated at this level.

Peter Crouch wins the initial header and plays a bit of head tennis with a teammate. He then launches a spectacular shot from the edge of the penalty area that flies into the net. England no.1 goalkeeper Joe Hart makes a token dive but is getting nowhere near it. It is a wonderful goal which helps Stoke to take a point off the eventual champions.

Crouch has now surpassed 100 goals in Premier League history. His goals have often been classic headers but this was an example that his game is not all about one aspect.