It’s been a year since Tony Pulis’ shock departure from the Hillsborough hotseat. A 45-day reign saw him notch up only one win in 10 league matches.
Though tensions between the Welshman and those above had grown beyond breaking point over the previous week, December 28 2020 had started like any other at Sheffield Wednesday.
Pulis took training and went as far as to tell the players his team for a Tuesday evening clash against Middlesbrough the following day, The Star understands. Hours later he was out of a job.
What exactly happened in those intervening hours remains something of a mystery but what is clear is that the marriage of Pulis and Wednesday was an unhappy one; short and lacking in communication.
He brings with him a particular style, both in terms of man management and football ethos. A year on, The Star understands a shift towards a more rigid, defence-minded approach was a major source of frustration among players, some of whom politely said so in private meetings over a style of play many felt the squad was unsuited for.
As a man however, he was believed to have been largely popular with the majority, overcoming a first couple of days in which he repeatedly got players’ names wrong.
But Star sources suggest as time went on his demeanour seemed to grow more and more distracted. With his family based on the south coast he was spending hours travelling to and fro. Coupled with results and the sinking feeling that had long since set in at S6, that travel seemed to take its toll.
“It was difficult from the start, to be honest,” Pulis later said. “We’d [he and his wife] booked a holiday and because of the Covid it got cancelled. With the dark nights and everything else coming I thought ‘go on then’. It was one of a few job offers that I’d been given.
“I personally think Sheffield Wednesday is one of the biggest teams outside the Premier League. But it didn’t work out.
“That was my fault as much as it was anybody else’s fault. But I’m one of those people, if I don’t see it the way is right then I can’t do it. That’s just me and the way I am.”
Pulis’ short time at Wednesday came and went without much time for him to truly work things to his liking. He bemoaned the schedule of the post-Covid break fixture calendar, which had been designed to front-load midweek fixtures before Christmas. Time to work on a change of playing style was minimal.
Tweaks were made to how he did things – the squad trained more often than under Garry Monk, who preferred a recovery-based approach to fixture congestion – and he bore a different approach to his predecessors when it came to media engagements and behind the scenes his handling of club affairs.
He wore his heart on his sleeve, sometimes possibly to his detriment, in team talks and publicly.
Not that it was anything particularly new, the style of delivery of his assertion that Wednesday’s was a changing room lacking leadership after a defeat at Huddersfield Town is understood to have ruffled feathers within the club.
Alongside results, what appears finally pulled the plug on Pulis’ time at Wednesday was a breakdown in his relationship with Owls chairman Dejphon Chansiri.
The then 62-year-old isn’t all that tech-savvy and with Chansiri rooted in Thailand due to coronavirus travel restrictions, video meetings between the two are understood to have been few and far between.
For reasons unknown, Pulis cancelled a video call with his employer after Wednesday’s 2-0 win over Wycombe Wanderers at short notice. Communication wasn’t particularly forthcoming from the manager’s side and the feeling grew from above that his heart wasn’t all that in it.
There was frustration from the top over Pulis’ demands ahead of the January transfer window and as trust dwindled Chansiri swung the axe in order to change things ahead of that transfer window opening. Pulis described the need for an ‘influx’ of new faces. Wednesday signed free agents Sam Hutchinson and Andre Green.
As was the case with Monk less than two months earlier, his sacking arrived off the back of a win and a draw.
It could well have been that his departure was announced days earlier, however, and by way of mutual consent. But the wording of an agreement put forward by the Welshman’s people was not agreeable to Chansiri and he was sacked the day before the Middlesbrough game, presumably to the financial cost of the club.
The Owls owner later said, sensationally, that he feared Pulis’ close relationship with Boro owner Steve Gibson would cloud his judgement for that match. He claimed Pulis had threatened to ‘call in sick’ as the relationship soured. Wednesday, under caretaker boss Neil Thompson, won the match 2-1.
The affair also signalled the end of Wednesday's relationship with long-time Chansiri advisor Amadeu Paixao, the behind-the-scenes figure that had pushed Pulis’ case not only in replacing Monk, but before Monk’s appointment in September 2019.
Though there were other circumstances at play, that Paixao is no longer directly involved at the club is no coincidence.
A year on, Wednesday are in League One and are rebuilding under Darren Moore. Much has changed.
Tony Pulis is yet to jump back into management.