8 December 2009 ~ Birmingham City fans can be forgiven for wondering what they've let themselves in for with their club's recent ownership change. No sooner had the previous regime slunk off than new chairman Vico Hui introduced himself to St Andrews with the words: "We are very proud to become part of this great club and the Blues family... Keep Right On. I love you all!" Meanwhile, the PR system pumped out We Are Family by Sister Sledge. The latest tale of the "charismatic" Hui is that he agreed to pay for the players' Christmas party after losing a pint-downing bet with the club's reserve goalkeeper. But whatever the excesses at St Andrews, it is better than all the trouble the party season has caused at Stoke City.
The major story to arise from the weekend's round of matches was the disagreement between Stoke manager Tony Pulis and striker James Beattie after their 2-0 defeat to Arsenal. The dispute apparently arose when the club's players were told to turn up for Monday training, something that Beattie spoke out against as he had believed the squad had been granted a day off, following a planned party in London on Sunday. The confrontation escalated from there.
A number of newspapers have chosen to align themselves with either the manager or the player. This morning, in an "exclusive", the Daily Mail went into detail on the nature of the Stoke manager's embarrassing behaviour. Indeed, the Mail was the only paper to claim that Pulis was naked when attempting to headbutt Beattie: "As he was emerging from the showers in the dressing room he lunged towards Beattie, with the players astonished both by the violence and the fact that the towel he was wearing had fallen to the floor." The mind boggles, had Pulis even removed his trademark baseball cap?
In the Sun meanwhile, Ian Wright supported the "old-school" Pulis, while ranting about Beattie and a lack of respect for managers: "Incidents in dressing rooms are increasing as player power becomes more of an issue... The problem is that many footballers' egos are now massive. Pulis, who reminds me of my old manager at Burnley Stan Ternent, continues to do a terrific job at Stoke. I admire him for that. It would not surprise me if he moves Beattie on in January. The problem is that there will always be someone, ready to take on a certain player, regardless of the situation." Last month too the Times ran a sympathetic feature on Pulis, based around his perceived "common touch" and no-nonsense approach, including an insight into how the Stoke manager views himself: "I'm old-fashioned, very working-class and the training ground, it is first and foremost a place of work."
So there are clear differences between Pulis and Beattie, not necessarily personal but definitely based around more than just the timetabling of a Christmas party. The manager is proudly and defiantly traditional in his character and methods. The player, meanwhile, is very much a modern footballer, one of an increasing number of multi-millionaire, mid-range players whose career is profitably established, despite never having looked particularly comfortable at the top level. Many suggest that following the row Beattie will move away from Stoke in the January transfer window. It has even been rumoured that his agent has been in touch with Birmingham City. He'd certainly get extravagant parties as a member of the Blues family, possibly even bankrolled by the chairman himself.