So Tony Pulis is set to leave Stoke City and for all the plaudits he will probably receive in the coming days, if I was a Potters fan, I would be pretty pleased to hear the news.
It has been confirmed that the Welshman will depart after a seven-year stint at the Britannia Stadium following discussions with chairman Peter Coates on Tuesday.
But how will his time at the club be viewed?
The prevailing narrative, pushed most furiously by the man himself in recent times, is likely to be that keeping ‘little old Stoke’ in the Premier League for five straight seasons is a remarkable achievement.
As we know, Pulis is not a manager to be challenged (just ask James Beattie), but for my money this particular line of rhetoric smacks of trying to pull the wool over everyone’s eyes.
The murmurs of discontent this season from Stoke fans – usually so fierce in their backing of the manager – are a tell-tale sign that Pulis has not been performing miracles in the way he would have you believe for quite some time now.
Yes, winning promotion in his second season and stablising the Potters in the top flight was a decent effort – initially, at least – and it is true that the club have never been in grave relegation danger on Pulis’ watch.
But what he conveniently forgets to mention is the amount of money he has lavished on a squad which has never accrued more than 47 points in one season during his tenure.
Remarkably, figures released at the start of the 2012/13 campaign showed that Stoke had the third-highest net spend of any Premier League club over the previous five years at £60.1 million – more than everyone bar oil-rich Chelsea and Manchester City.
This, of course, makes a complete mockery of his tendency to paint Stoke as some kind of poor relation who are consistently punching above their weight.
On the contrary, Potters fans – and the generous Coates, for that matter – are entitled to have expected much, much more than finishes of 12th, 11th, 13th, 14th and then 13th again for such an exorbitant outlay from a club of their size.
Pulis does not have to deal with the level of scrutiny experienced by some of his contemporaries at bigger clubs, but a closer look at his signings reveals a number of expensive blunders – particularly in the striking department.
For instance, Dave Kitson (£5.5m), Tuncay (£5m), Peter Crouch (£10m), Kenwyne Jones (£8m) and Cameron Jerome (£4m) were signed for a total of £32.5 million but have repaid that faith with just 45 league goals between them.
In other words, Pulis has spent about £722,000 of the club’s money per league goal when it comes to his big-ticket forward signings.
And when you consider that £8 million was splashed on Wilson Palacios (22 league appearances since arriving from Tottenham almost three years ago and just four this term) and £5 million was paid for the desperately disappointing Charlie Adam, it is hard to escape the sense that Stoke’s recruitment in the Pulis era leaves plenty to be desired.
An FA Cup runners-up medal and a run to the Europa League last 32 provided some memories for the loyal Potters fans, but this is surely scant reward for such a sizeable splurge and the fact that the 55-year-old could not deliver a top-ten finish is a major black mark against his record.
The likes of Swansea City and West Brom have shown what promoted or so-called lesser clubs can achieve on smaller budgets than Stoke’s with a consistent philosophy allied to shrewd signings and managerial appointments.
Swans boss Michael Laudrup, who has brought silverware and European qualification to the Liberty Stadium in his debut season while turning a profit in the transfer market, is a prime example.
The Dane’s signing of Michu (£2m, 18 league goals and counting) from Rayo Vallecano last summer compares pretty favourably with Pulis’ consistently botched attempts to find a reliable goalscorer.
The same can be said of Baggies boss Steve Clarke’s loan capture of Romelu Lukaku (17 league goals this term) from Chelsea.
Admittedly, Pulis did provide one side of the equation by creating the modern Stoke in his image and making them hard to beat.
But once all the fun and games about Rory Delap’s long throws died down, dour resistance and the occasional memorable home win was about as good as it ever got for the Potters and the malaise has been painfully apparent this term.
Where, for example, has all the direct, swashbuckling wide play from the likes of Matthew Etherington that characterised Stoke at their best suddenly disappeared to?
Their record at the Britannia in the Pulis era has been decent, but that’s probably just as well, because a total of 15 wins in 95 Premier League away games since 2008 is truly shocking and further underlines the Welshman’s tactical limitations.
Simply getting ten men behind the ball and then lumping it forward to an isolated big man on the rare occasions when you do have possession has been the height of his ambition in recent times – is this really a formula for picking up points regularly on the road?
Swansea and West Brom again spring to mind as examples of teams who have been rewarded for a more positive approach on their travels and Stoke should now be looking for a manager who can bring the same philosophy.
Because ultimately, the challenge of producing a team which can compete in the Premier League while also playing an attractive brand of football has proved beyond Pulis.
He deserves credit for his early successes in maintaining the Potters’ top-flight status, but if the club is to progress to the next level he is not the man for the job.
Pulis will no doubt depart with his head held high, but don’t allow his rose-tinted view of his time at the Britannia fool you into thinking that Stoke will be lost without him.