Former West Bromwich Albion forward Kevin Phillips has leapt to Baggies manager Valerien Ismael’s defence over his style of play, saying all that matters is the results on the pitch in an interview with West Brom News.
These comments come after talkSPORT presenter Adrian Durham’s criticism of the Frenchman’s style of play after their 1-0 win against Birmingham City, labelling his philosophy as ‘Tony Pulis with towels’ and taking aim at their chances of Premier League survival if they were to be promoted back to the top flight.
Ismael first made his entrance into English football as a manager last October when he arrived at Championship rivals Barnsley, after predecessor Gerhard Struber’s departure to New York Red Bulls.
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Sitting in 21st when he first arrived at the club, the Tykes managed to elevate themselves into fifth in just a matter of months, putting themselves within three games of reaching the Premier League and narrowly missing out on promotion as they fell to a play-off semi-final defeat against Swansea City in May.
However, this achievement alone was enough to earn the 45-year-old a move to recently relegated side West Brom, adopting a similar, direct style of football at The Hawthorns in the Baggies’ quest to get back to the Premier League at the first time of asking.
Recent away losses at Stoke City and Swansea have knocked them out of the automatic promotion spots and into third – but they are still on course to have a positive season after a strong start and ex-Albion striker Phillips believes the points matter more than the style of play in responding to Durham’s comments.
Speaking to West Brom News on this subject, Phillips said: “I don’t care what anyone says – whether it’s Adrian Durham or not – at the end of the day, it’s about results.
“You can play the best football in the world and be midtable but for a club like West Brom, you need to bounce back so it’s just about getting results.
“We saw it in the Birmingham game, it’s all about getting that win. Yes, they probably weren’t great on the night, it was a fairly even game at times but they did play some good stuff but it’s all about results.
“Everyone wants to see great football culminating in a win but unfortunately, only the best teams do that in the world. When you’re at the top of the Championship, results matter most, whether you like it or not.
“Don’t get me wrong, I like to watch nice football but at the end of the day, it’s about results and getting back to the Premier League. I disagree, I don’t think it’s terrible football.
“At times, they’ve played good football but again, it’s a new manager and he’s only had 14 games.
“They weren’t saying this about his Barnsley team, there were plaudits for them five months ago.
“It’s a new team, it takes time. I don’t buy it.”
Kevin Phillips has hit the nail on the head. The style of play isn’t an issue when the results are positive, because all that matters for many West Brom fans is getting back to the top flight. For the Baggies, that has to be the short-term aim.
Whether Ismael’s style of football is sustainable in the long term depends on his flexibility and success on the pitch, because supporters will groan if both the results and the performances aren’t up to scratch.
But after going unbeaten in his ten league games in the West Midlands, he’s earned the opportunity to be given sufficient time to ensure his side are competing for the top two throughout the remainder of the season.
On the ‘Tony Pulis with towels’ comment, there’s no harm whatsoever in having a weapon like Darnell Furlong’s long throw in your armoury. Sheffield United are still having nightmares about it – and it will continue to be a problem throughout the season with the attacking capabilities of the likes of Kyle Bartley and Semi Ajayi in the air.
Effectiveness over attractiveness is often required to succeed in this division, so Ismael’s style of play should be welcomed instead of pushed aside by pundits and you certainly wouldn’t rule out the possibility of his men getting back into the automatic promotion spots at some point.