Having written last week about our Nothing’s Ever Good Enough tendency, I got to thinking about the managers we’ve had during our unprecedented current spell in the Premier League (not including Keith Millen), and whether the way that history has judged them tells us anything about where we should be looking post-Roy.
I remember being at Leicester in October of the promotion season, seeing one of the most complete Palace performances I’d ever seen away from home. Lennie Lawrence and Curtis Fleming were in temporary charge. Our winning run continued uninterrupted as Lennie, then Curtis, went off to join the Freedman revolution. At the start of November, Holloway was announced as the new boss. We beat Ipswich 5-0 under the floodlights to go top.
We said ‘all you’ve got to do, Ollie, is put your feet up, and say ‘carry on doing that lads’’. By the return match at Portman Road in April, we were devoid of all inspiration, stripped of any width, thoroughly outclassed 3-0 by the Tractors, and we sneaked into the playoffs on the last day. Incredibly, for a man whose managerial prowess was 50% quotability and 50% self-aggrandisement, he managed to get his tactics right for us twice; Brighton away in the playoff semi, and Watford in the final.
For those that like activity in the transfer market, that summer was great. For those interested in having an extended spell in the Premier League, it was an utter disaster. Thankfully, he was gone by October. The legend persisted; my Millwall mates were genuinely blown away that he decided to join them 3 months later. ‘There’s only one place he’s taking you lot’ I warned. I was spot on. 2/10
‘We get Pulis here, I’ll eat my hat’ said my gobby neighbour in the Holmesdale. But thanks to Parish perseverance, we did. And no, reader, he didn’t. The impact was almost immediate, with a couple of crucial clean-sheet wins in December. Scott Dann brought some real nous to the back four in January. We were a long way from accomplished, but stopped looking like primary kids on secondary open day. Then came Terry’s own goal, and that fabulous run of 6 wins which guaranteed us another PL season, culminating in Crystanbul.
Pulis has his own schtick; the ‘in the gym at 6am every day, and praying at the Catholic church Sunday’ asceticism has served his own reputation well, but don’t tell me that you didn’t enjoy the fourth centre-back being brought on to protect a 1-0 in the 87th, or that the cynical time-wasting isn't very funny when it’s your lot doing it? And...boring? I don’t think Yala has had more fun than the second half of that season. At Goodison, in the replayed game that secured safety, I swear he put his foot on the ball, said to Baines ‘I’m going to push the ball past you, then we’ll sprint for it’ and did exactly that. You’d have thought Glen Johnson might have noticed.
Cameron Jerome was the unsung hero of that Pulis era; never has a man worked so hard for so little personal reward, but he encapsulated the ethos of that dogged, scrappy team of fighters that gave us the basis for everything good that’s happened since. By the way, controversialists, I really like the red & blue halved shirt. 8/10
The return of the old fraud himself. Another whose media-friendly persona always guarantees a warm welcome, he also knows how to press all the right buttons for the fans. Unfortunately, he;s a piss-poor Premier League manager, managing to take the regimented unit Pulis had created, add to it the returning Wilfried Zaha, and turn it into something close to the shambles Holloway left us with.
It says something about Liverpool’s resurgence since Klopp joined them that we managed to beat them 3-1 in some comfort (and a lot of rain) under Warnock’s leadership. Emblematic player of that era? Kevin Doyle. 2/10
In many ways, the hardest of all our PL managers to rate, simply because there was so much light before the shade. His arrival that January felt like a proper homecoming. A home win against Spurs followed. The season played out in what was to become a familiarly streaky pattern, but the home win against City, and the by-now obligatory defeat of Liverpool at Anfield were classic Palace. We even managed to go up two places in the table by winning 1-0 on the last day, earning £4m in the process. Golden bollocks?
The legendary Pards ego was on top form over the summer. On 10 July this year, my daughter said to me ‘and what was happening 5 years ago today, Dad?’. I thought long and hard. ‘Yes! We signed Cabaye!’. ‘Err yes...but it was my graduation..’. Of course. But we were buzzing with ambition, and hadn’t yet realised what this would mean for many of those who’d formed the basis of the previous three years’ success. I was at Norwich on the first day to see Johann score in a comprehensive 3-1. We won twice more in August, including at Stamford Bridge. Right up until December we were flirting with the European places, and it really felt we’d arrived. A whole year with the same manager, himself a Palace legend; what could possibly go wrong?
We all know the answers to that. Alienation of all the key dressing-room characters. Three months without a league win, offset by a fortuitous cup run that just kept the feelgood tap running. Until that f***ing dance...The following season saw him decide that the answer was to be more Pardew. Inexplicable substitutions, chasing wins when a draw would suffice, the Swansea debacle...following a great September, where we reached 8th having not won our first three, there was only one way it was going to end. Never has the fable of Icarus been more apposite. I guess for all the obvious reasons. Connor Wickham sums up his stint. 5/10
Undoubtedly the author of our best transfer window; PVA, Luka and Schluppy plus Sakho on loan, but there’s an instant emptiness as a supporter of a Big Sam club. It really is all about him. Despite some incredible highs - the 3-0 at Selhurst v Arsenal was a sublime night that summed up everything we love about Palace - given the squad he had, there were some utterly absurd lows. And the inevitability of his departure was signalled early when he indicated the need for £30m full-backs. His end-of-season words on the pitch in May were laughable in their perfunctory shallowness. Not our kind of boss. Signature player; Mamadou Sakho. 4/10
Frank De Boer
The great enigma. There’s no question as to his utter unsuitability for us. It appears from his work elsewhere, that indeed, his ego may well be the factor that prevents him ever becoming the respected international coach he clearly longs to be. Pinging a 40-yard free-kick on to the crossbar, then turning to your players and saying ‘do that’ may work on some motivational level for a certain type of player, but Damien Delaney will just go to the chairman and say ‘this fella’s an arse’.
As the Roy Must Go voices gather together their wit, wisdom and grammar guides for September, I am still utterly bemused by the ease with which almost any foreign name can be thrown into the ring without any appraisal of this calamitous episode. Without doubt the very worst managerial appointment made since the Coppell era. Three years down the line, Jairo Riedewald might just turn out to be his one good bequest. 0/10
And here be dragons...I’ll lay my cards on the table; in the circumstances we’re in, the very best manager this football club could have. Respected, competent, never knowingly oversold, gets the 37 bus home after winning at the Etihad. From where he began with us, three further mid-table finishes is exemplary. Yes, his conservatism can be stifling. Yes, his unwillingness to use substitutes can be baffling.
But it would be a very sad day for me was he to leave in any way other than one of his own making. As I write, we’ve confirmed Eze, and are expecting at least one more forward signing. We know from games like that demolition of Leicester at the end of 18/19 that Hodgson sides really can play football, and when they do, it can be exhilarating. 7/10
Managerial eras are deceptive. A couple of great nights can easily blind your memory to whatever godawful numbness you felt on a sub-zero night in SE25 as we lost without fight or inspiration. The stats say Pulis was the best of our PL managers on 42.86%. But Pardew is only just behind on 40.23%, and I'm guessing few would rank him there. Similarly, Roy is at 34.43% behind Allardyce on 37.50%, but would many prefer to have the wine-pint-drinking kimono-wearing con-man at the helm here?
I hope Roy survives 20/21. For me, now, it’s about managing the start of the post-Wilf era, and leaving a blueprint for the next man to build from. And the identity of that next man? I make no apology for reminding all my mates pre-FDB that Warnock had recommended Chris Wilder to Parish. I thought he looked like the ideal man for our bench; you could say we went slightly the other way. If we want to stay in the PL, I’d be very nervous about going down the stone-washed German route. Wagner and Farke seem like great blokes, but they both got their clubs relegated. Like it or not, clubs do have DNA. I really can’t see past Dyche.