Tony Pulis 'best defensive coach' as Stoke City target clean-sheet record
PETER Coates believes manager Tony Pulis could be the best defensive coach in the country as Stoke City home in on a clean-sheet record.
Saturday's 1-0 win at West Bromwich Albion was their seventh clean sheet in just 15 league fixtures – currently the best in the top flight – and already halfway towards their best in a Premier League season of 14.
And that makes it 122 shut-outs in the 381 league games Pulis has been in charge at Stoke.
"His record speaks for itself," said Coates. "He is very good at organising defensive play and that is a great credit to him. It is a talent, like everything else in the game.
"I think it's one of the features of modern-day reporting that not much credit is paid to defences.
"They just want to talk about goals, but defending is an art as well."
He says Pulis is heavily influenced by his study of Italian football in the 1970s when he began taking his coaching badges.
"I know he cut his teeth on Italian football during his early interest in coaching," said the Stoke chairman, pictured.
"The so-called Catenaccio defensive system interested him and the Italians haven't done too badly, have they, with their four World Cups?"
Coates acknowledged the chances of beating the 14 clean sheets achieved in 2009/10, Stoke's second season in the Premier, but said nothing was being taken for granted.
"I don't want to tempt providence, but fingers crossed that we stay on course," he said.
"I realise the vagaries of football, so you have to keep a proper perspective on things.
"But yes, we are having a great run at the moment and it's nice to get away from drawing games to winning them. It makes a fantastic difference to where you are in the table.
"The irony is that our worst performances of the season was probably against QPR... and we won that game."
He said he was delighted to see midfielder Dean Whitehead enjoy some rare limelight with Saturday's only goal at The Hawthorns.
And he is confident that the possibility of a new contract for the 30 year-old midfielder, who is in the last year of his present deal, will be broached in due course.
"I thought it was a well-taken goal and I think the manager has to be praised for bringing him on to score the winner," he quipped.
"Dean is a good lad with a great engine on him and if anyone deserved to get a winner, then it was him.
"I'm sure we will plan how things go (on a new contract), but it is a bit early for that yet.
"We have been busy concentrating on improving our position in the league."