Crystal Palace’s 2013/14 Premier League campaign got off to a woeful start – losing nine of their opening 11 games.
An unbelievable 4-1 derby loss to Fulham – who ended the season 19th and relegated – was the straw that broke the camel’s back, ultimately leading to then manager Ian Holloway being sacked in October.
It was former Stoke manager Tony Pulis that replaced the West Countryman and he soon went about turning the Eagles’ season around. The Premier League new boys saw a miraculous rejuvenation under the tutelage of the Welshman, grinding out some big results and proving many naysayers wrong.
Pulis led them to 11th in the league – just missing out on a spot in the top half of the table and in the process, winning the Premier League Manager of the Year Award.
However in a bizarre turnaround and with a baffling lack of activity in the transfer market behind him, Tony Pulis abruptly ended his time with Palace last month. With all that Pulis had given to the club he was looking for the same backing in the transfer window – something he felt he never received. Missing out on some of his prime targets such as Gylfi Sigurdsson and Steven Caulker appeared to be the deciding factor.
Rumours that it was the fact Crystal Palace were among the league’s stingiest teams this transfer window that lead to Pulis’ departure were everywhere, but why just a day before the new campaign kicks off?
You have to wonder why on the eve of the Premier League Tony Pulis would want to vacate his role and following his departure, questions were asked of Palace, many of which were directed at co-owner Steve Parish.
‘Second Season Syndrome’ often has recently promoted teams relegated but under Tony Pulis, who has never been relegated as a manager, you just couldn’t see The Eagles going back down to the Championship.
Once Pulis walked out many were pointing the finger at Malky Mackay for his obvious affiliation with Sporting Director Iain Moody. It seemed like he was the man to come in at Selhurst Park before his appointment ended in shambles as allegations of racism, sexism and homophobia against former colleagues were revealed.
Add to this the fact that the LMA (League Managers Association) defended Mackay and brushed aside his prejudice as mere ‘banter’, and a dark cloud began to hover over what only days ago seemed to be a stable club.
If all that wasn’t enough, Neil Warnock was surprisingly thrown into the role. Looking like a step down from Pulis due to his patchy at best Premier League record and taking into account the fact that he walked away from the Palace job just four years ago to join London rivals QPR and it’s unsurprising that the announcement was met with dissent.
With all that being said Eagles fans will have to hope that Neil Warnock has what it takes to give the team that necessary boost. Along with the addition of new deadline day signings and the timely return of fan favourite Wilfried Zaha.
Zaha already received cheers from the Palace fans scoring the goal that earned a point on the weekend against a strong Newcastle side at St James’ Park.
If he is able to find his best form, Zaha, with a point to prove after failing at Manchester United, could well be the club’s most important player this season becoming the driving force behind a mid-table finish this season.
While many felt he wasn’t the right man for the job, Warnock may still be able to take them out of this temporary rut, but you have to wonder why Palace didn’t do all they could to keep hold of Tony Pulis.