Like most Stoke fans I was shocked and disappointed by the story emerging this week that after Saturday’s defeat at Arsenal club manager Tony Pulis and striker James Beattie were involved in some sort of dressing room fight after Pulis refused to give the players Monday off training after their Christmas party on Saturday night. The details are sketchy, depending on who you want to believe Pulis may have head-butted Beattie, possibly while wearing only a towel after hearing him making a critical comment while he was in the shower, while the pair might have been broken up by the club masseur. One thing’s for sure though, the whole situation is very unwelcome, with rumours that Beattie, whose seven goals last season after joining Stoke in January played a large part in keeping us in the Premier League, will look to quit the Britannia Stadium when the transfer window opens next month now rife.
It seems that Pulis has apologised to the players as a group, but it’s not clear whether Beattie has yet apologised to Pulis. While I’m aware that the chances of Beattie reading this are slim to say the least, I’d urge him to do so. Team spirit has been integral to the success of the club over the past few seasons, allowing the team to equal much more than the sum of the players’ talent, and it’s vital that we don’t let this incident ruin that. Last year, when Ricardo Fuller caused a strir by getting sent off for slapping his teammate and captain Andy Griffin on the pitch at West Ham, it seemed to shake the side, but, all those involved seemed to put it behind them, and the season went on, with Fuller excelling. I hope Beattie can see sense and try to put the incident behind him and move on, not least because Pulis is notoriously stubborn, and if any feeling’s of resentment are not nipped in the bud they could easily spiral out of control.
Though I’m by no means defending the action of either Pulisor Beattie, I’d also like to know how often such incidents occur and go unreported. With a group of thirty testosterone charged and often not particularly intelligent men spending almost every day in close proximity, tempers are bound to flare once in a while, I’d worry about the mindset of the players if they didn’t. It’s after they have flared that as professionals all involved must do the right thing. Beattie; it’s not the end of the world if you just get one day off not two after the Christmas party. Pulis; everyone says things in the heat of the moment that they probably shouldn’t, there’s no need to react aggressively. Now let’s put this behind us and get on with our so far successful season.