Tony Pulis never led Stoke into the top half of the Premier League in five attempts at the Britannia stadium, but the baseball cap-sporting Welshman is on course for his best top-flight finish after less than five months in charge of Crystal Palace.
The Eagles’ shock 3-2 victory over Everton at Goodison Park was their fourth on the spin and took a team that were rock-bottom with four points when Pulis was named as manager into 11th place, above West Ham and just a spot below the Potters.
The Newport native’s first win in charge of the south Londoners was against the Irons at Selhurst Park and there’s little reason to believe a team that’s lost five of their last seven will offer up enough resistance at Upton Park next time out to prevent a 12/5 away win.
Sam Allardyce’s side have lost four and drawn one of their last five Premier League London derbies and have won one of their past seven games against Palace, who haven’t tasted defeat against a team currently in the bottom half since the end of November.
Pulis’ men could conceivably replace Stoke in tenth place with a big victory in east London, if Cardiff beat them at 6/4 odds in the Welsh capital, but with Mark Hughes’ men in cracking form of late themselves – they’ve won five in seven – it’s Newcastle who must fear the Palace surge.
Alan Pardew’s Geordies have lost five of their last six – with their sole triumph since the start of March coming, incidentally, at home to Crystal Palace – and have no walkover fixtures coming up between now and the campaign’s close.
Both Welsh sides travel to Tyneside in desperate need of points between now and mid-May, while trips to Arsenal and Liverpool will surely see Newcastle leave empty handed.
Palace’s remaining fixtures may seem just as daunting, as the Reds and Manchester City are to come at home, but with the Eagles in such flying form and struggling Fulham still to play away, Pulis may well be celebrating his maiden top-half finish at the end of term.