Tony Pulis: West Bromwich Albion boss on how football has changed

West Bromwich Albion head coach Tony Pulis
Tony Pulis's Baggies have won just one Premier League game in six attempts at The Hawthorns this season

West Bromwich Albion boss Tony Pulis says he would no longer be in football management if he had not learned to adapt in the way he handles players.

The 57-year-old Baggies head coach has been a manager for over 23 years - or fast approaching 1,000 football matches - at eight different clubs.

"It's become a lot different to what it used to be," he told BBC WM.

"But, unless you're prepared to change, if I had not adapted, then Tony Pulis wouldn't be in football."

Pulis has been in charge at Bournemouth, Gillingham, Bristol City, Portsmouth, Stoke City (twice), Plymouth Argyle, Crystal Palace and now Albion since he first entered management.

Listen to BBC WM's interview with Tony Pulis
Pulis' interview will be on BBC WM from 18:00 GMT on Thursday, or afterwards on iPlayer

It was in June 1992 that he stepped up from player-coach to replace Harry Redknapp at Dean Court when his old boss left to return to West Ham as assistant manager to Billy Bonds.

Since then, he has won more of his 958 games in charge than he has lost - 353 to 323 - in the top four divisions of English football.

But, in a revealing exchange with BBC WM's Paul Franks, despite the frustrations of having to keep within the budget of a lowly but now established Premier League club who are still open to takeover offers, he makes it clear that he remains as committed and passionate as ever about football management.

"If you said I can have another three years at the club and do what I wanted to do within those three years, then I'd be more than happy," he added.

What has changed the most?

"Dealing with players. Years ago, they weren't all multi-millionaires. They weren't earning what they're earning now. Players have become like the film stars of the 1960s and 70s. They're recognised everywhere they go.

"Football has gone through the roof in lots of respects. Not all good, in my opinion, but you have to deal with it and work with it. There's too many other things that go on now and surround football.

"There used to be a little bit more respect and perspective and love of what they were involved in. But I don't say that in a bad way."

Players don't talk any more

"You can get on a team bus now and the lads will stick their earphones on and get their computers out and do what they do. But I'm not into all the gadgets. I'm just a human being who enjoys other people's company.

"When we were young, on coach trips to away games when I was at Bournemouth, there'd be four of us at the front of the bus - myself, Sean O'Driscoll, Gerry Peyton and Mark O'Connor (now part of Pulis' Albion coaching team).

Tony Pulis
Welsh midfielder Tony Pulis made 313 league starts in a playing career with Bristol Rovers, Hong Kong side Happy Valley, his home town club Newport County, Bournemouth and Gillingham which spanned 17 years

"All we'd do is sit there and talk football. We'd discuss the game, the training, the things that were relevant to our our lives.

"If we'd been up at Middlesbrough we'd talk football all the way back to Bournemouth. Unfortunately, I just don't see that so much any more."

It's the fans who now do all the talking

"Everybody has an opinion. Everybody understands the game better than you do.

"You respect people's opinions. But, if you listened to what everybody said, it would drive you insane.

"This is the best footballing nation in the world. Without the support the clubs get, the passion and the commitment that supporters show their clubs, we wouldn't be where we are now. It's almost tribal.

"But it makes it more difficult than ever to manage."

And who does the talking at home?

"I'm a nightmare. If we lose, even at this stage of my career, I manage it a little bit better but I'm not good to be around. I analyse things too much. My wife's been able to put up with me for a long time now and the children understand and accept the way I am. But I can be a nightmare at times.

"My wife's been with me since I was 18. She knows how I work, accepts the way I am, how I am as a person, as an individual. She works around me.

Albion head coach Tony Pulis and Chelsea manager Jose Mourinho
Pulis admits that Saturday evenings at home with his family are a bit more special if his team have won

"My son [Anthony] is away working in America at the moment. He's decided to go into coaching now, taking the Under-21s at Orlando City. He understands what Dad goes through and the life I lead. We talk twice, maybe three times a day. It'll be interesting to see how he works and reacts to the rigours of management.

"My two daughters tell me if I need to lighten up. lf there's two people in the world who can get away with it, it's Laura and Stephanie. But the girls are also very protective of me."

BBC WM's hour-long special with Tony Pulis, including his favourite music, will be on BBC WM 95.6, DAB & Online on Thursday's Football Phone-In (19 November, 18:00 GMT).

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