Why Sheffield Wednesday chairman must shoulder much of the blame after Tony Pulis sacking

Tony Pulis joined Sheffield Wednesday in mid-November promising to be up front with chairman Dejphon Chansiri. A fat lot of good it did.

Short reign: Tony Pulis. Picture: Martin Rickett/PA

“There’s been a lot of sugar-coating going on, putting teams and squads together at this football club, and they are reaping the rewards,” warned Pulis at Nottingham Forest, one of many press conferences when he did not explicitly lay out his frustrations, yet made them clear.

His replacement needs honesty from Chansiri, particularly with regards to what can be done in the January transfer window.

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Pulis might only have been at Hillsborough 45 days, but it was still a colossal waste of time.

Ten games were squeezed in – more than a fifth of the season – with very little progress. It is hardly that surprising.

Garry Monk was sacked during an international break and the timing seemed important – he had just achieved a breakthrough home win then a draw but there was a two-week window for a new man to get his ideas across. Half was wasted getting Pulis in, and faced with a relentless schedule of play, recover and play again, his first training-ground time of note came in his last full week.

He certainly could have done better, chopping and changing so much between formations when he needed the clear formula that is usually his hallmark.

He had been round the block so many times he should have known it like the back of his hand, but Covid-19 changed the environment. He never seemed to get to grips with the temporary rule allowing five substitutes, but only in three “windows” (plus half-time).

Troubled times: Sheffield Wednesday chairman Dejphon Chansiri. Picture: George Wood/Getty Images

In the 2-0 defeat at Forest, Tom Lees was injured in the build-up to Lewis Grabban’s goal but could not be replaced even though Pulis had only used four substitutes. Jordan Rhodes was getting ready as Alex Hunt and Izzy Brown came on. A triple change would have left a window open.

These were details. The bigger picture is the main concern.

Wednesday are a mess largely of Chansiri’s making, product of a litany of his bad decisions compounded by the financial fair play breach which makes avoiding relegation six points harder.

Days before sacking him, Chansiri told the media Monk still had his support, and he was aiming for the play-offs this season.

Pulis could barely pass a microphone or dictaphone without telling a journalist the squad needed strengthening, and he was right.

Left wing-back Matt Penney was the only left-sided defender – oddly counter-productive, then, that Pulis never picked him – and whilst there were three fit centre-forwards, the manager did everything to talk Callum Paterson down as a striker and did not need to with Rhodes – the lack of minutes shouted loud and clear.

But when asked if funds would be forthcoming and transfers were in the pipeline, all we would get back was an enigmatic “We’ll see.” He left before assembling the full coaching staff he wanted.

When last we heard, on Boxing Day, the much-promised one-month review meeting with Chansiri was yet to happen.

You do not need to be Sherlock Holmes to work out the “other issues” on top of results referred to in the official statement whispered out late on Monday night.

Whether Pulis was misled, whether the picture changed, whether he naively joined without assurances or persuaded himself he could twist Chansiri’s arm, the result was the same.

This is not a call for Chansiri to spend lavishly. Relegation will hit him badly in the pocket, but more irresponsibility in these Covid-19-scarred times could have even more serious implications.

The sale and lease-back of Hillsborough which led to the six-point deduction was needed because debts were rule-breakingly high. The players were not paid on time and in full in June or November. Even if that is settled in time to avoid a transfer embargo, it does not inspire confidence there will be much in the kitty.

Wednesday have saleable assets but not many, and staying up will be much harder without them. Barry Bannan and Adam Reach are in the last six months of contracts, as is Rhodes. Given his wages, age and Owls record, suitors will not be queuing up.

This season’s third “full-time” manager must be crystal clear on what he can and cannot do in January, and comfortable. Someone will be. Carlos Corberan, for example, appears reconciled to austerity at Huddersfield Town.

He also has to be able to work with a squad built for 3-5-2 Monk football – physical and direct at times but not high-pressing or pretty passing. Managers in the style of Corberan or Valerien Ismael, two Yorkshire success stories in this season’s Championship, need not apply.

Again, former captain Nigel Pearson would seem a good fit but may be too in tune with events at his old club to make himself a hostage to its fortunes.

Initially, Pulis looked a sensible choice for the job required, if not Chansiri’s delusional ambitions.

But no manager can operate without mutual trust with his chairman. Any manager will struggle to keep this unbalanced squad up without alterations.

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