Tony Pulis, the Stoke City manager, drew James Beattie into a team meeting yesterday at which he attempted to prevent his confrontation with the striker at the Emirates destablising the club's fabled dressing-room spirit.
Pulis asserted his authority during the meeting but any inclination to punish Beattie severely over the events which unfolded after Stoke's 2-0 defeat are tempered by a desire to draw a line under the issue before it poisons the squad's sense of togethernes before the critical Christmas period.
Though there were reports yesterday that Beattie had been the sole member of the squad to skip training, the 31-year-old does seem to have made a brief appearance at the Clayton Moor training facility before heading off for the gymnasium at the Britannia Stadium, where it is understood he needed treatment to a knee injury. He returned at around midday, two hours after training had started but did participate in the team meeting which Pulis had called in an attempt to resolve matters.
The Stoke manager is adamant that Beattie was wrong to have told his team-mates that he had reneged on an agreement, made ahead of the Arsenal match, to give the players Sunday and Monday off, allowing them additional time to enjoy their Christmas party. Pulis is understood to have distributed a training schedule last Thursday for this week, which included a normal training session from 10am yesterday.
One version of events is that Beattie, as one of the senior players, told the players that he would be able clear it with Pulis for them all to have Monday off, only to find the manager only prepared to release his players for a night out in London on Saturday. When the manager said words to the effect of: "Well done, enjoy your night off and I'll see you on Monday" it was clear that Beattie's confidence in his own power of persuasion had been misplaced.
After showering in an area of the Emirates dressing room around the corner from the players, Pulis seems to have walked in on Beattie criticising him and his decision. It was at this stage that manager and player clashed. It is understood that Pulis insists no punches or head-butts were levelled at Beattie. Stoke refused to comment on the incident yesterday, confirming only that training had taken place as normal and that Beattie had made a brief appearance at the training ground before leaving for the gymnasium. The Stoke chairman Peter Coates said: "As far as the club is concerned, this is an internal matter and will be dealt with internally."
Stoke's desire to draw a line under events means that Beattie will not necessarily be disciplined. He came off the bench in the second half against Arsenal, having failed to start a Premier League match for the Potters since the 1-0 victory over Portsmouth on 22 November. Fitness problems have impeded the former Southampton and Everton forward this season and he has found the net only twice in 15 appearances.