Implosion: Where Next For Crystal Palace?

Ben Mountain

On Sunday evening the Crystal Palace chairman, Steve Parish, tweeted the following; “We are 4 games in, it’s a terrible start but we have to stick together.” On Monday afternoon, he sacked his manager. So much for sticking together, Steve.

Surely things can’t be that muddled down in SE25.

Palace’s shameful sacking of the Dutch gaffer, Frank de Boer, has been well publicised – and, inevitably, criticised – by now. His replacement seemed already to have been in place, with Roy Hodgson braced to take over. Although, at the time of writing, the club are yet to confirm his appointment. He’s pretty much a dead cert guarantee for taking the reigns, though, so let’s run with that.

The whole situation reeks of mismanagement, confusion and an unrealistic smattering of high expectations that runs so typically throughout the Premier League.

De Boer did have an absolutely woeful start, but the fella had played four games and the fourth was not a far-cry from success. So the axe that swung for him so ruthlessly seems to be more than a touch premature.

Palace had appointed a manager highly regarded, bordering on infamous, for his very particular playing style. For a man about as Dutch as the tulips and windmills themselves, total football is obviously going to be the way forward and the board at Crystal Palace knew this. Hell if they didn’t, they certainly wasted a month-long and exhaustive research process.

When de Boer arrived, he was faced with a squad built by the likes of Alan Pardew and Sam Allardyce – men about as Dutch as narcotic legality and with more knowledge about humility and grace than of total football. For those of you unversed in these chaps, that’s very, very little knowledge.

On top of this, the 47-year-old didn’t have the world’s most expansive budget to play with and the summer transfer window he endured smacked of mediocrity and a half-hearted and unsupported attempt to implement his style.

Palace had the shackles of Financial Fair Play firmly around their wrists and the vast majority of their budget was blown on Mamadou Sakho in a last minute, crowd-pleasing signing. At this point, de Boer appeared to have little control over the big decisions, anyway.

It now transpires that following a ‘crisis meeting’ on 28th August, with de Boer, Parish and the former Palace manager turned Sporting Director, Dougie Freedman, motions were made in advance to find a replacement.

This replacement, it would seem, is Roy Hodgson. Palace fans aren’t screaming with delight as is unsurprising, but perhaps the move won’t be the shocker people are predicting.

Essentially, the Eagles are faced with another season like all those preceding them in the top flight. They’ve had their characteristic shaky start early on and have now appointment a nice and stable, safe and tepid saviour. Tony Pulis, Neil Warnock, Alan Pardew and Sam Allardyce were the names who carried this tedious gauntlet previously.

So, naturally, an ageing British boss is the next step for Palace. The frustration that will come from fans – perhaps subconsciously – is that the board had made a refreshing move by signing de Boer. He represented ambition, commitment and an exciting new approach to English football.

De Boer promised ‘evolution, not revolution’ at Palace. And that’s exactly what they needed; nothing radical, just something to lift them from the gently relegation-battling, stagnant state of ‘getting by’ that fans had become so used to.

By appointing de Boer, the board seemed to be settling for something new and something permanent. It was a bold move, but that doesn’t mean it was a bad one. It indicated commitment in a sport of uncertainty, instability and cut-throat point hunting.

Roy Hodgson’s arrival on the scene does seem to be a bit of a backtrack from that positive step forward. Especially considering the fact that Palace haven’t looked into him in a rash smash-and-grab, desperate for a gaffer as the season draws to an unsteady close.

In fact, they’ve arguably appointed him at the worst stage possible. And with months left until serious panic time.

Hodgson won’t have a chance to adapt that squad until January and, at the moment, it is troublingly under-equipped in certain fields, most notably up-front, where Hodgson likes to have an established and reliable forward who gets the job done. Should Benteke pick up a knock, Palace will be blown wide open.

Their team is littered with de Boer signings and several players of considerable flair. Again, not to the tune of Hodgson’s music. Wilfried Zaha, for example, is going to be playing far from his flourishing best under – with the greatest of respect – a manager who isn’t renowned for igniting inspiration among his team.

Hodgson is a good gaffer who’s career has been tarnished by a few poor spells and the fickle nature of football fans. But his standing shouldn’t be undermined as a result.

What will happen to Palace this season? It’s obvious, isn’t it?

It’ll be the same old, same old down in south London. Palace will scoop things back together just enough to survive the season with a small degree of comfort and Hodgson will quit once his (predicted) two-year contract runs out and the board see him for the short term fix he is.

After him, who knows? Palace might go for some radical, new-wave preacher who has revolutionised and flipped the game of football on its head.

Then again, they might just plump for a greying Brit with about as much flamboyance as a beige Croc.

But Palace will be fine. They’ll settle back into the status quo, perhaps enjoy a little cup run and sit at the ugly end of mid-table come May. The thing that will save them is that they’ll be singing all the way, however.

Perhaps that’s their only saving grace at the moment. It’s a shame the board are letting such passionate fans down with such poor decision making. Sort it out.

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