Tony Pulis, Defender of Virtue, Will Field Strong Crystal Palace Side Against Highfalutin Liverpool

Steve Bardens

Tony Pulis is a strong candidate for Premier League Manager of the Season, and he's positioning himself nicely for the honor by promising to protect the league's integrity against Liverpool while also talking down the Reds' title challenge.

Few managers would have envied Tony Pulis when he took over Crystal Palace in late November--the London side had lost nine of their first twelve matches and were bottom of the table on seven points with Sunderland, seemingly punching their ticket back down to the Championship before a third of the season had been played. Fast forward to the start of May and they've secured top-flight survival on the strength of five straight wins, including a 1-0 victory over Chelsea and a 3-2 shock at Everton.

The plaudits for Pulis are well-deserved, and he's rightly one of the frontrunners for the Manager of the Season award. Palace's squad looked one of the weakest through the fall, and while a handful of signings in January have helped, the work done by Pulis has been superb. Even more impressive is that they haven't quite been Stoke City 2.0, at times playing a more open style of football and showing more versatility than their manager's previous side did.

With their safety assured, some might have expected Pulis to check out for the season a la Newcastle, but honorable, admirable, cap-wearing Tony has assured hand-wringers worldwide that his side will be as strong as possible while also talking down Liverpool's dramatic turnaround:

"I care about this game and I am sure the players do. It is our last home game of the season so it is very, very important that we try and finish on a high. That is our tribute to the supporters for the way they have got behind us this year. We owe them a performance - and everyone in the Barclays Premier League a performance.

"If you look at Liverpool, it is on a different level from this football club in every way, shape and form. I think there has been a lot of investment in Liverpool. I think people forget. When Kenny (Dalglish) was there, they spent over £100m. I think Brendan has spent over £100m, they are paying players in excess of hundreds of thousands of pounds a week. I think the biggest bonus for Liverpool has been the fact that they have had no cup competitions or Europe to worry about so they could focus from week to week so that certainly helps you."

Positioning himself as the moral protector of all that is good and virtuous about English football and the greatest Barclays Premier League in the history of Barclays Premier Leagues while also rehashing Jose Mourinho talking points and using a variant of the same comments about transfers and spending that he used to cover his failures at Stoke?

If that's not Manager of the Season material, I'm not sure what is.

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