How a beer with 'top drawer' Leeds boss Marcelo Bielsa helped inspire Tony Pulis at Middlesbrough

Tony Pulis has spoken of his admiration for Marcelo Bielsa
Tony Pulis has spoken of his admiration for Marcelo Bielsa

As footballing friendships go, that of Tony Pulis and Marcelo Bielsa is a peculiar one.

The pair's upbringings and roots in the game could not be more different, but they have bonded over a competitive rivalry in the Championship this season.

Both teams are competing for promotion to the top flight and, while they remain fiercely competitive on the pitch, Bielsa and Pulis have taken the opportunity to learn from each other's backgrounds this season.

Indeed, the duo have previously spent an hour talking over a beer - a period which left the Boro chief fully inspired by the 'top drawer' nature of the Whites' boss.

“I think he’s been a breath of fresh air, the way they play and the way they go about things," he said.

"He’s interesting, he’s different.

“People talk about mediocre foreign coaches coming into our game and having a negative effect but Bielsa’s not that.

"He’s not mediocre. He is top drawer. He will enhance our game.

“I spent an hour with him after we played down there and had a beer.

"There was lot of too-ing and fro-ing through the interpreter but it was very interesting.”

That conversation gave Pulis an insight into Bielsa's methodology - leaving the Middlesbrough boss well prepared for what his side will face at the Riverside Stadium.

The clash - which is approaching a sell-out - could prove to be pivotal in the Championship promotion race.

And Pulis is under no illusions as to how difficult the task at hand will be.

"They're very similar - they'll play long, they'll play short but they play very similar and they mix it up," added Pulis.

"They've got good rotation and they certainly work hard.

"He gets everyone up to a certain level and they have to perform to a certain level physically to be in his team."