I loathed him on sight, I came to loathe him because of his footballing philosophy, I was given cause to loathe him further for his petty politicking with my football club, I was given extra cause to loathe him further by the way he routinely insulted my intelligence and that of all the other fans with his post-match piffle which would have been absurdist but for the delivery; and then was the way he treated one of the great loves of my life, Tuncay Şanlı. Not even an attempt to understand him.
The outside world won’t believe it now, but the fans were all tuned up for a mutiny had we not beat West Ham four weeks ago to get into Sunday’s FA Cup semi-final; I had emails with a prominent sports writer on the Sentinel who was certain doom lay ahead. There have been some great results since and the performance against Chelsea a fortnight back was the best I’ve ever seen us play in the Premiership. We’ve still not won an away match this year though, and are not mathematically certain to avoid relegation, but we will because Tony Pulis has a supernatural talent for getting a result when he most needs one. It may sound like sour grapes to say it, but it is an indubitable fact that he is a lucky manager; better lucky than good, some say. As Stoke City have never made an FA Cup Final in more that 140 years of existence, he is now 90 minutes away from becoming a serious contender for our most successful gaffer ever (Would losing an FA Cup Final be a greater achievement than winning the League Cup: debate) and he only has one genuine historical rival, Tony Waddington. I loved Waddo not least because he once chatted my Mum up by taking her outside a country club to ‘show her his car.’ The car was an Austin Maxi. Tony Pulis would never in a million hoofed balls have the elan, nor the imagination, to pull off a stunt like that. I never want to see his car and neither does Mum.
However I am willing Pulis to his personal moment of Greatness and my fey authorly thoughts amount to less than a slew of footballs thrown long in the great scheme of things. Because on Sunday only two things will be of any matter, and neither of those will be the London Marathon.