Sunday 21 January 2018

Pulis calls for end to big-team bias of refs

Stuart James

Taking on Chelsea evokes bitter memories for Tony Pulis.

At Stamford Bridge last season, Chelsea scored twice in the last two minutes to defeat Stoke and, when the teams met at the Britannia Stadium in September, Carlo Ancelotti's side grabbed an injury-time winner.

Yet, for the Stoke manager, those matches are not so much a reminder of the importance of playing until the final whistle, but evidence of the way referees favour the big clubs at times.

Pulis believes an "elitist" bias exists when officials take charge of the top teams and, ahead of today's trip to Stamford Bridge, he recalled the two most recent meetings with Chelsea to illustrate his point. He was furious with Mike Dean's performance in September, after which he sent a DVD to the English FA highlighting how Chelsea's players continually surrounded the official without being punished, and he also cited a bizarre incident at the end of last season's game in west London.

"There is definitely a bigger split of decisions that go for the top clubs," said Pulis. "Whichever way you cook it, whichever way you don't cook it, I think that happens. It's not just Stoke City saying it, you go to any team lower than midtable and they will show you clips of things that have happened against the top boys that wouldn't have happened against us.

"We had a situation last year at Chelsea when we were winning 1-0 with three minutes to go. They substituted a player who was on the other side of the pitch and he had to run across it to get off, [instead] he just walked off the pitch the far side and walked round. That's not allowed, but it went on.

"I think [the officials] give the big clubs a bit more grace, let's put it like that. It's almost an elitist thing rather than a bullying thing. But the more we highlight it, the more chance we've got as a league to get parity."

The decisions Steve Bennett makes this afternoon could well prove crucial given both clubs' records on set-pieces. Stoke are renowned dead-ball specialists, while Chelsea have conceded a higher proportion of goals from set-pieces than any other Premier League club this season. Pulis, however, is preoccupied with only one statistic.

"Steve Coppell told me the best stat. In Reading's first year, their Prozone stats were good. In the second year, they were brilliant -- but they got relegated. The only stat matters is the number of points you've got."

Chelsea v Stoke City,

Sky Sports 1, 4.0

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