Merry Christmas everyone. If you had said to me that a big, fat, jolly, loud, old, figure of a man would be descending upon Selhurst this festive season, I’d have rolled my eyes & gone along with it for the sake of any nearby children/idiots.
Well, as it turns out, there IS a big, fat, jolly, loud, old, figure of a man descending upon Selhurst this festive season & no, it’s not Father Christmas. Instead, we have been visited by the ghost of football past himself – Sam Allardyce.
Let me get this straight: this is not, I repeat, NOT a pro-Pardew piece.
I considered that goose cooked long ago. But it seems to me that the issue has been boiled down to this: if you wanted #PardewOUT, you by default wanted #BigSamIN.
Whilst that’s probably true of Harris & Blitzer (no, not 2 of Santa’s Reindeers) it’s by no means a good system to divide & categorize the fan base in general.
Alan Pardew needed to go yes- something clearly wasn’t right behind the scenes. Players not playing/fit/motivated can all be discussed elsewhere- & whilst you can level a fair chunk of blame with the team, you definitely can’t get rid of all of them (just the influential ones it seems.)
Whether it’s stalwarts like Ward & Dann, or obvious talents like Townsend – Pardew was somehow sending them backwards in the name of progress. And at this festive season of giving, something had to give.
So fast forward to yesterday afternoon- Pardew had been given his P45, Parish had given half of Twitter what for & Allardyce had been given Wat-ford away!
First of all, the timing & the manner of the appointment: there had quite rightly been grumblings about 2016’s set of results & yet, up until the October international break, Alan Pardew seemed to have a sizeable, if not overwhelming majority still onside. Then, game-by-game that majority gently dwindled, as we lost 8 out of 10 with only a luck-riddled victory against off-colour Southampton to celebrate. One victory, one awkward thumb’s up, one poorly worded dig at the US investors & yet, one assurance from the chairman that his job was “totally safe”.
Three games later and the change has come- with a mere 24 hours between one manager going & the next holding up the shirt.
With a turnaround that quick, you have to wonder:
- At what point was the decision made to replace Pardew?
- Did Steve Parish genuinely believe Pardew’s job was “totally safe” post-Southampton?
- How long ago was contact made with Allardyce? And by whom?
- Did we interview anyone else before opting for Allardyce?
Chances are we’ll never know those answers. As forthcoming as Steve Parish is (if you’ve heard him on Holmesdale Radio you’ll know this,) I think we’ll have to draw our own conclusions. Whatever the answers- Allardyce it is & whatever side of the line you’re on, it seems to be very black & white.
“Guaranteed to stay up” seems to be the go-to justification for the appointment & I guess that’s enough for a vast number of Palace fans & perhaps it should be enough for me- but it’s not. For starters, survival is never guaranteed: no matter how many stats you dust off, they ain’t no crystal ball.
Furthermore- is “just staying up” really all we strive for now? Again, in the immediate scenario in which we find ourselves perhaps it should be enough. But we’ve done more than “just stay up” for the past 3 seasons:
-2013/14: 11th place, 12 points clear.
-2014/15: 10th place, 13 points clear.
-2015/16: 15th place, 5 points clear… ahem, and proud F.A Cup finalists.
All things considered, that’s a remarkable achievement & more importantly, a solid foundation for us to be building our future on. Instead, it feels like we’ve dug up those foundations & uncovered a fossil: the most fearsome of all the footballing dinosaurs: the Bigoneuptopasaurus. (‘bi gwun up top o sore us’ – carnivore, never really dies, able to survive in the bleakest conditions on red wine alone.)
I can take the more basic approach to tactics- I’m someone who actually enjoyed how we played under Pulis. I can take the siege mentality – I think that’s how we thrive… but with how far we’ve come & the undoubted quality we added in the summer, is a 62 year old Allardyce really what we need to push things forward? What legacy has he left at a previous club? What legacy could he leave us?
This is much bigger and much wider than his massive fucking face the sort of football on offer. This is about identity & integrity.
It’s at that point that I’ll clearly nail my colours to the mast… if there were any lingering doubt.
I’m not happy about the appointment. The job can’t always go to one of the dwindling number of “ex-Palace” (no thanks Cookie) & I don’t expect us to poach Jose Mourinho from Manchester United. I’m also realistic enough to accept that “more realistic” candidates like Howe or Dyche aren’t actually that realistic.
However, in a game plagued by unscrupulous individuals & few morals- I’ve always seen Palace as a brand club that stands up to that. No matter the cost.
Whether it’s Simon Jordan vs Bruce/Dowie/The F.A/everyone, The Fans vs Lloyds, doing a U-turn on reptile-basher Malky Mackay, or Parish vs Puli$, I’ve always been proud to say that most of the time, my club did the right thing when it came to the crunch… until now.
The aforementioned Malky Mackay essentially lost out on the Palace job due to unsavoury comments made in private text exchanges. On a basic human level, that’s arguably a worse crime than anything levelled at our new manager and though it went un-punished by the F.A, it was still enough to rule him out of the Crystal Palace job. Quite rightly.
Sam Allardyce however, lasted a mere 2 months in the England job before getting caught out. Caught out for being open to some of football’s extra curricular gains whilst also suggesting he knew ways around various rules and regs.
Okay, whilst not the greatest crimes ever committed, surely it’s enough to be put on the ‘better safe than sorry’ pile with Mr Mackay?
That & the well-publicised shenanigans with his agent Mark Curtis (whose pockets we’ll also be lining) was enough for me to confirm what Panorama suggested 10 years ago: there’s no smoke without fire & the only smoke I want to see at Selhurst, is the stuff coming out of the Tasty Jerk’s chimney.
In conclusion, I just can’t help feel we’ve jumped for Allardyce without really exploring the alternatives (Monk, Warburton or a short-term Hodgson, would have been my first 3 interviewees) and at what price?
Staying up is obviously the preferable option; nobody genuinely wants to go down. However, there are plenty of people (approx. 14,000) who wouldn’t care care if we did. Palace is Palace in whatever league, right?
As long as we have that South London spirit, that togetherness and some of those talented academy boys pushing to be the next Wilfried Zaha – that would be enough right? It certainly used to be…
Now it’s starting to feel like our players’ rankings on FIFA, how the American market perceives us & how much we contribute to Sky Sport’s January spendometer is how we’re judged when ultimately, it’s the soul of the club that’s important. Hopefully, we’ve not just given too much of that away to be another Allardyce ‘success’ story.
Of course, I could still be proved wrong. My fingers are crossed.
Whenever I have negative feelings about the manager, I always hope to be proved wrong. It was the case with Pulis, Pardew & it’s now the case with Allardyce. Afterall, if I’m wrong, it means that Palace are doing well:
Something we all want for Christmas. Here’s to you and yours, to 2017 & to the Palace.
Listen to our thoughts on Pardew leaving and the (then potential) Sam Allardyce joining in our latest podcast