Tony Pulis discusses Bamford and Traore sales, Jonathan Woodgate and Middlesbrough's ‘disastrous’ transfer window

Former Middlesbrough manager Tony Pulis says the club are still suffering from a ‘disastrous’ transfer window in the summer of 2017.

Monday, 4th November 2019, 4:57 pm
Tony Pulis spent 18 months at Middlesbrough after taking charge in December 2018.

The Teessiders spent a reported figure of £50million following their relegation from the Premier League and the appointment of Garry Monk at the Riverside.

Monk, though, lasted just over six months at Boro and was sacked with the club languishing just outside the play-off places.

Pulis was brought in just a couple of days later, and since the Welshman’s arrival there has been more and more talk about cutting costs and abiding with Financial Fair Play regulations.

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While signing the likes of George Saville, Aden Flint and Paddy McNair for sizeable fees during Pulis’ 18 months at Boro, the club also sold Adam Forshaw, Cyrus Christie, Ben Gibson, Patrick Bamford and Adama Traore.

And Pulis, who was replaced by Jonathan Woodgate at the Riverside in the summer, believes the club are still paying the price for overspending two-and-a-half years ago.

“I don’t think anybody in football, and most probably at Middlesbrough , realised how difficult that job was,” Pulis told the Ian Holloway Podcast.

"To sell the players that we sold – Forshaw, Christie, Gibson, Bamford, Traore, to name just five – I think we cut the staff by 15-16 players in the 18 months I was there, just to rejig the finances which was important after an absolutely disastrous window. The football club is struggling today because of what happened two-and-a-half years ago. It’s not what Woody’s done, or what the players are doing; the big, big point was two-and-a-half years ago.

"If you have a bad window, if you have a disastrous window like that, and your recruitment is no good, then you’re going to suffer – and supporters have got to understand and recognise that.”

Selling Traore and Bamford to Wolves and Leeds United respectively at the end of the 2017/18 season significantly weakened Boro’s attack.

And despite finishing just a point outside the play-offs the following campaign, just four teams scored less goals than the Teessiders in the Championship.

Supporters grew tired of Pulis’ ‘negative tactics’, yet the 61-year-old says there was only so much he could do.

“I’ve worked at football clubs where we’ve had more flair than people have given us credit for,” added Pulis.

"Just take last year for example, they complained and moaned at Middlesbrough because we hadn’t scored enough goals, and we hadn’t done this and we hadn’t done that – and we hadn’t done it because we’d sold Bamford, who was the top scorer at the club, and we sold Traore, who was the best winger outside the Premier League.

"If you take those two out of your team and don’t replace them, you’re not going to score as many goals as I did in the first six months there."

Pulis says he had a good relationship with both Bamford and Traore, and the pair produced some of their best Boro performances under the Welshman.

"Patrick was a well educated kid,” said Pulis. “I liked him a lot, I used to smile at him because he's come from a very privileged background but he's a decent kid.

"I used to have him in my room to talk to him at times because I felt he needed it.

"Traore was exactly the same. When I went to Middlesbrough this kid wasn't being played. He had exceptional talent, I used to bring him in, sit him down, he'd make me a green tea, and we'd just talk about his game.

"Even today not so long ago he called me to see how I am and asked whether I'd watched one of his games. You make that connection.

"With others you find they're not your type and you won't spend as much time with them, but they're still important to you so you treat them well."

Following Pulis’ departure, Boro went down a different pathway by promoting first-team coach Woodgate, yet the former defender has endued a rocky start.

Woodgate told supporters he wanted to play an ‘attacking, exciting’ brand of football, yet recent results have forced him to tweak his approach.

Pulis, though, believes his former protege has the ability to turn things around.

“Obviously, they haven’t started very well (but) it’s Woody’s first (job).

"He’s dipped his toe in the water, and, irrespective of what courses you do, and what people tell you, until you actually sit in that seat, you actually don’t understand it.

"So Jonathan will need time. He’s got a good chairman, and he’s got a good football club, and like everybody else he needs to pick up a few results. I’m sure they’ll do that and then Steve will certainly give him the opportunity and the time then to have a right crack at it.”

So what next for Pulis? The Welshman has been heavily linked with a return to Stoke following the sacking of Nathan Jones.

“I’m not so sure I’m ready for retirement," said Pulis when asked about his future.

"I’ve had a really good summer. It was lovely at Middlesbrough, I really enjoyed the football club, it’s a fantastic place – I found the area to be ten times better than I ever imagined, and the people are the same. They’re wonderful people up there.”