GERRO’S GOODI TO GO Kop king tar­gets derby re­turn

Mir­a­cle worker Pulis is a REAL man­age­rial gi­ant Tony wants his Mama back

Midweek Sport - - TV GUIDE - By DAR­REN WITCOOP By JOHN PERCY

WHEN the votes are tot­ted up at the end of the sea­son, the man­ager of the year gong will prob­a­bly end up in the bath­room cup­board at Alex Ferguson’s house.

It might end up at Roberto Mancini’s plush pad. Or it could end up in An­dre Vil­lasBoas’ arse pocket.

Be­yond that? The rest of the Premier League’s man­agers have got about as much chance of lift­ing that prize as Mark Lawren­son has of win­ning Bar­net of the Year.

The book­ies agree. I asked. The lat­est odds for Ferguson are 11-8. Mancini is 2-1 and Vil­las-Boas is 7-1. The rest? All dou­ble fig­ures.

Like the desti­na­tion of the league ti­tle, or the Cham­pi­ons League, it’s all just so pre­dictable.

So how about the pow­ers that be do some­thing dif­fer­ent for once? How about they look at the big­ger pic­ture?

For­get the clubs that fork out the big­gest wages and pay the most eye-pop­ping trans­fer fees. Or the gaffers that can tempt tal­ent with an hon­ours list, a swanky sta­dium and the lure of more guar­an­teed sil­ver­ware.

In­stead, look at the REAL bosses. The men who have to bridge that gap any way they can. The chiefs who have to dream up a sys­tem to up­set the big boys. Those left to feed on the trans­fer scraps left on the side of the plate by the cash-splash­ing big four, or five, or what­ever the f*ck it is these days. ick­ing all the boxes in this depart­ment is Stoke’s top man Tony Pulis. In his favoured cap and shell-suit he looks more like a chav on the rob than a Premier League man­ager.

But he’s up­set­ting the old guard again and again. A draw with Chelsea. A win over Liver­pool. A draw with Manch­ester United. All with a team of play­ers cast aside by the elite.

That’s true man­age­ment. A real feat. Pulis has Stoke play­ing to their strengths. Strong on set­pieces, full of spirit, dif­fi­cult to beat. And they can play a bit, too.

Three years ago they were in

Tthe Cham­pi­onship. Yes, they stick the boot in now and again, and they’re not averse to a meaty boot up­field but so what? That’s al­ways been a part of foot­ball. And if it works for Pulis and the Pot­ters, why stop? ulis has en­joyed some steady back­ing in the trans­fer mar­ket, let’s not for­get that. But come on, have you been to the place? Lur­ing top play­ers to that neck of the woods is a real feat.

And jok­ing aside, es­tab­lish­ing Stoke as a side now ca­pa­ble of a top-six fin­ish – and in Europe too – is a mir­a­cle of water into wine pro­por­tions in the modern game.

Don’t for­get, too, that last sea­son they were 90 min­utes away from win­ning the FA Cup be­fore, like a huge wash of piss pour­ing into your bag of chips, big bad Manch­ester City came along and ru­ined the fairy­tale.

The Stoke fans de­serve a men­tion too. Ear plugs should be stan­dard is­sue on en­trance to the Bri­tan­nia. Be­cause the noise gen­er­ated by the City faith­ful is some­thing to be­hold.

The con­sis­tent strain­ing of vo­cal chords in Stafford­shire is re­fresh­ing. That’s true sup­port.

So Tony Pulis, I doff my chav cap to you. It’s just a damn shame the bor­ing f*ck­ers who hand out awards won’t do the same.

PSTEVEN GER­RARD is in the frame to be fully un­leashed on Ever­ton in Satur­day’s Mersey­side derby.

Ger­rard has made two sub­sti­tute out­ings af­ter a seven-month ab­sence with a groin prob­lem.

Liver­pool chief Kenny Dal­glish has al­ready claimed he will have to judge when the time is right for the star mid­fielder to be plunged back into his side.

Pace

But the Reds skip­per will now step up his fit­ness in train­ing with a view to mak­ing his first start of the sea­son at Good­i­son.

As­sis­tant boss Steve Clarke said: “Steven will dic­tate the pace of his come­back with how he pro­gresses in train­ing.

“We’re de­lighted with the stage he’s at and with every­thing he’s done for us.

“We’ve got a full week now and we can use him well in train­ing.”

Ger­rard’s pres­ence will add to Liver­pool’s at­tack­ing op­tions with ra­zor-sharp Luis Suarez in top form.

The Uruguay hit­man’s goal and man-of-the-match dis­play helped Liver­pool bounce back from suc­ces­sive league de­feats to down Wolves last time out.

But Clarke has branded fifth-placed Liver­pool’s start to the sea­son as “av­er­age” af­ter Dal­glish’s sum­mer re­build­ing job.

Clarke added: “With­out get­ting too car­ried away or too dis­ap­pointed, it’s prob­a­bly just an av­er­age start.

“You’re prob­a­bly look­ing at about a seven out of 10.

“There have been some pleas­ing per­for­mances and some not so pleas­ing.

“But you’d ex­pect that from a group of play­ers where you’ve made so many changes and you’re try­ing to bed a few things down.” TONY PULIS is set for a triple in­jury boost to power up Stoke’s Europa League bid.

Pot­ters striker Mama Sidibe is ready to end 13 months of in­jury hell and play for the re­serves against Not­ting­ham For­est to­day.

Sidibe, 31, has not played since the clash with Spurs last Au­gust af­ter two se­ri­ous Achilles in­juries but is pen­cilled in to make his come­back.

Ri­cardo Fuller and Danny Hig­gin­botham are also ex­pected to re­turn in the next fort­night to bring ex­tra bod­ies to Pulis’s Europa League cam­paign.

Fuller, 31, and Hig­gin­botham, 32, have not played since April af­ter Achilles and knee in­juries re­spec­tively.

Pulis said: “We are play­ing a lot of games this sea­son and we need all the play­ers we can get avail­able.

“Mama has had a lot of bad luck over the last year but is a big player for us.”

UP­SET­TING THE OLD GUARD: Pulis FIGHT­ING BACK TO

FIT­NESS: Ger­rard

HON­OURS

LIST: Ferguson

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