Analysis: Time is up for West Brom boss Tony Pulis – and he knows it
It now seems like a case of when, rather than if.
At the time of writing, Tony Pulis is still officially head coach, if only in name.
Saturday’s 4-0 rout at the hands of the champions felt like the end of a chapter and the Welshman seemed resigned to his fate afterwards.
He came out swinging in his programme notes with a staunch defence of his three years at the club in an effort to ‘remind’ fans what he had done for them.
But all that fight had drizzled out of him by full-time and he spoke to the press afterwards like a dead man walking.
Pulis passed on the opportunity to make a case for himself, saying that it was now up to the board to decide ‘what was best for the football club’.
His responses suggest that even he thinks a parting of the ways is probably the answer.
Pulis knows he’s lost the fans and his relationship with them is now past the point of no return.
He even thanked supporters for taking it easy in what could have been construed as a back-handed compliment and parting shot. “I’ve been at clubs where the whole place would have taken off,” he said.
That’s because there was just as much apathy in the stands as there was anger.
Swathes of empty seats at kick-off were a visible reminder of how much interest has waned, and even more streamed out of the gates when Chelsea’s fourth went in on the hour mark.
This run of two wins in 21 league games has killed people’s passion for the club they usually follow so fervently.
Those who stayed behind made their feelings heard, deeming it necessary with owner Guochuan Lai in attendance, but it was not the toxic cauldron of hate some were predicting.
That’s because the fans, the head coach, and the players all know that time is up.
Pulis refused to criticise his team and they did start brightly, before fading once the third goal went in.
It’s impossible to know whether that would have happened in normal circumstances – conceding three first-half goals after such an opening is a sucker punch at any time.
But apart from a determined few, and in particular Claudio Yacob, in the second half most of the shell-shocked team looked like they were simply going through the motions.
The players have been given Monday off and are returning on Tuesday, when it would be surprising if Pulis was taking training.
It was telling that Albion’s most threatening player going forward was Matt Phillips and their most influential defensive wall was Yacob – two players the head coach has ignored too much recently. And it served as a stark reminder of his mistakes this season.
After the Southampton game, Williams was still eager to give Pulis time to turn form around, he believed his head coach had deserved it after guiding the club to the top half last season.
But he couldn’t have predicted the Huddersfield and Chelsea games would go so badly.
Supporters will wonder why Williams hasn’t cut the cord yet when it seems even the man himself is pleading him to.
No doubt he wanted to speak to Lai after the game and sleep on the decision as well.
It’s also highly likely that he’s trying to get his ducks in a row, hoping to announce a new face soon after removing Pulis to make it a smooth transition.
Everton have proved this season that having a caretaker manager in place is an unnecessary complication.
But even if Williams can’t agree a deal this week with whoever he wants to bring in, it is now clear that Pulis can’t take control of the team against Tottenham next weekend.
There was no fight left in him. This must be the end.