Tony Pulis has become something of a cult-hero in English football ever since he took Stoke City to the Premier League in 2008, with his style of football emerging as something of a benchmark for how managers should utilise squads of limited individual talent.
Whatever your standpoint is on Pulis, there is absolutely no question that his tried and tested methods are consistently effective. He will never inspire supporters to drool over his philosophy but you cannot argue with his results.
His style has been manufactured with one incredibly fundamental objective in mind: to win football matches. If three points are earned with a 1-0 win following a goalmouth scramble which sees the ball cannon off an opponent, onto the post and off the back of the keeper’s head before squirming over the line, then so be it.
It’s a question of what and not how; Pulis has built his career off making his side incredibly difficult to break down, and it’s those foundations which have made him something of a go-to manager for Premier League clubs hoping to beat the drop, and also for Championship clubs dreaming of promotion.
And that’s why he now finds himself at Middlesbrough this season. Boro are a side who are no strangers to relegation from the top-flight or promotion back to it, and with Pulis at the helm it seems they are in prime position to return in 2019.
That Boro have conceded just 8 goals in 17 Championship fixtures is a testament to Pulis’ expertise in constructing an unbreakable defensive unit, but every Pulis back-four needs a leader who commands from deep and embodies the spirit of his philosophy.
At this moment in time, that man is Aden Flint, Boro’s cunning summer signing from Bristol City. Flint showcased his never-say-die attitude in the Robins’ journey to the Carabao Cup semi-final last season with a series of valiant performances in central defence, and he has continued his fine form under a manager who simply adores players of his character.
Flint epitomises everything that is so successful about Pulis’ style: he relishes a physical battle, is an excellent defender at this level, willing to adapt and comfortable playing long-balls to ensure a quick transition from back to front.
Signed for a fee of just £7.2 million in the summer, Flint is already shaping up to be a genius signing and, if Boro ultimately clinch promotion to the top-flight this season, there is no doubt the quality of his performances will represent a core component of that achievement.
Middlesbrough fans – thoughts? Let us know below!
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