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Head to Head: Laws v Pulis

Brian Laws and Tony Pulis meet at Turf Moor tomorrow night in what has become a must win game for Burnley. Whilst Tony Pulis has all but secured Premier League survival for a second successive season, Brian Laws’ Burnley is a club in freefall.

The Clarets have lost their last four Premier League matches, and Laws has not enjoyed a win at Burnley in over a month. However, whilst Burnley and Stoke are enjoying diverging fortunes in the Premier League, Laws and Pulis do in fact share a common ground. As Harry Redknapp pointed out earlier in the week, as English managers, Laws and Pulis are a dying breed. So let’s scour their managerial records, and decide who comes out on top when the pair go head to head…


Laws: At Scunthorpe United Laws achieved promotion twice, taking Scunthorpe out of the fourth tier of football (formerly Division Three, now Coca Cola League Two) in 1998/99 and 2004/05 respectively.

Pulis: In 1995/96 Pulis took Gillingham out of Division Three (now Coca Cola League Two), turning a team that was floundering at the bottom of Division Three to the brink of Division One, only to lose to Manchester City in the Play-Off final at Wembley in 1999. However, taking Stoke City to the Premier League in the 2007/08 season is his biggest achievement to date.

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That round has to go to Pulis. It’s 2-2 on promotions, but getting Stoke to the Premier League has tipped the scales in Pulis’ favour.


Laws: Brian has been sacked twice in his 16 year career as a manager. The first axe fell whilst he was in charge at Grimsby Town in the 1996/97 season, the second coming whilst he was at Scunthorpe in March 2004, although he was reinstated soon after. He agreed to leave Sheffield Wednesday by ‘mutual consent’, in December 2009, but in essence he was again sacked with the club languishing at the bottom of the table.

Pulis: Tony first sacking came in 1999 whilst he was working for Gillingham amidst claims of gross misconduct, although whether he walked or was pushed is a matter of contention. His second sacking came at Portsmouth after just ten months in charge, with Milan Mandric upset his side were not on course for promotion in October 2000. Pulis completed his hat-trick of sackings on 28 June 2005 during his first tenure as Stoke City boss. He was sacked for “failing to exploit the foreign transfer market” by then Stoke City chairman Gislason, despite saving the club from relegation to football’s third tier in the 2002/03 season.

Sorry Tony, but Brian wins on the sackings front. Despite three sackings a piece, technically Laws left Sheffield Wednesday on ‘mutual consent’ and so just shades it on a technicality…


Laws: After guiding Scunthorpe to Division Two in 1998/99, The Irons got relegated straight back down to Division Three the following season. This season, it would take a miracle to keep Burnley up, but at present, it’s just the one relegation.

Pulis: Pulis has never suffered relegation as a manager, and doesn’t look like blighting that record any time soon, with Stoke looking comfortable in the Premier League.

Pulis wins hands down, and so tips the balance 2-1 in his favour overall.


Laws: Brian started really well in this capacity. Whilst at Grimsby Town, Laws fell out with Ivano Bonetti, reportedly throwing a plate of chicken wings at the Italian following a 3–2 defeat at Luton Town in February 1996. Then at Scunthorpe, amidst a power struggle at Glanford Park, Laws was sacked by the board, only to be reinstated three weeks later by Chairman Steve Wharton, who had masterminded a coup akin to ‘night of the long knives’ behind the scenes. However, despite a good start, he has tailed off, and controversy appears to have escaped him since. How boring!

Pulis: Right, I’ll have to try and narrow down this section. Whilst at Gillingham, Pulis was accused by then chairman Paul Scally of blackmail. Unless Pulis was paid the £200,000 he believed he was owed, he would release confidential club documents that showed financial irregularities. Pulis left the club in 1999, but the court case rumbled on…

After Gillingham, Pulis moved straight on to Bristol City. Pulis had enjoyed two spells with City’s arch rivals Bristol Rovers during his playing career and lasted just months in the job. After taking over at Portsmouth, he was quoted as saying “it felt good to bring a team back wearing blue“, blue being the colour of City’s rivals Rovers.

During his first stint at Stoke City, Pulis was sacked for ‘failing to exploit the foreign transfer market’. However, more recently, controversy reared it’s beautiful head with Pulis and James Beattie coming to blows at the Emirates Stadium. Apparently Beattie objected to Pulis’s decision to cancel the Christmas Party after Stoke lost to Arsenal 2-0. Apparently, Pulis only backed down after the club’s masseur dragged Pulis away from his player. Nice.

No competition. Pulis wins this round hands down…


Nice cap Tony

Well, there’s only one winner. Take a bow Mr. Pulis, you are clearly the better manager, with a comfortable 3-1 victory over Brian Laws. Brian, you’re lack of controversial incidents really let you down. It would therefore be nice if Wednesday night, you hold a team talk on the pitch at Turf Moor, or punch out Chris Eagles in the dressing room after the match. Come on, Brian, it’s for your career…

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