As Crystal Palace prepare for their third league game without a manager; fans, staff and players alike may cast their minds back to the sunny afternoon of May 27th this year, when the top flight beckoned with undiluted promise.
Then, having managed to crowbar their way into the Championship play-offs and dispatch a much-fancied Brighton side, there truly was nothing to lose as they lined up against Gianfranco Zola’s Watford at Wembley.
Six months on, the Eagles sit bottom of the Premier League having collected just three points from a possible 30.
The departure of Ian Holloway a fortnight ago served to compound the misery, as he leaves behind the haphazard squad he assembled, which now constitutes a very tricky sell for chairman Steve Parish as he hunts for a new manager.
With the early touted candidates for the vacant post seemingly out of the running, fans’ attentions are turning to the second string of potentials that could take the reins at Selhurst Park.
The withdrawal of Tony Pulis from contention, and the appointment of Martin O’Neill to the Irish national job has meant the front runner for the position would now appear to be Wales boss Chris Coleman.
The former centre-half made 190 appearances for the Eagles between 1991-1995 and has the Premier League experience that Parish and his colleagues are said to have been looking for.
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He has, however, not been in club management since his acrimonious sacking from Coventry on the final day of the 09/10 season. His record in charge of Wales doesn’t make for hugely impressive reading either, with just four wins from 15 matches in charge.
That is not to say that being in charge of Wales is by any means easy. It isn’t. But the more games that Palace go without a win, the more it becomes clear that they need a manager with an exceptional ability to galvanise a team inferior to almost every opponent the face. With Wales, the international equivalent of Palace’s present situation almost, Coleman has not done that.
Historically speaking, the obvious choice would be someone like Iain Dowie. His last spell at the club saw him take them from being relegation candidates to play-off champions in just five months, while his time in charge during the ill-fated Premier League campaign the next season, at least demonstrated some intent.
Though fans would never accept his return, a fact that Parish and co. will know only too well, it is this kind of turnaround that they are ultimately searching for, and one that they are unlikely to get with Coleman.
Another name infinitely more popular with the Selhurst Park faithful is that of Roberto Di Matteo. The former Chelsea manager has both Premier League and Championship experience, and of course has won the Champions League to boot. A recent poll on Palace supporters website holmesdale.net, showed the Italian carried 32% of the vote for who should get the job, 13% more than the second placed Martin O’Neill, who is now, of course, unavailable.
Other names in the frame for the job include the unpopular choices of Alex McLeish and Avram Grant, both of whom have previously been relegated from the top flight and the mysterious Aitor Karanka, the assistant to Jose Mourinho during his time at Real Madrid.
And it appears that Karanka has conjured some interest among fans who are starting to feel that now is the time to be brave. The Daily Mail reported that he had been flown in for talks with the club, though the outcome of any such discussions has yet to emerge. Meanwhile the odds on Newcastle manager Alan Pardew, another former Palace player, have shortened considerably, though Parish had previously expressed an unwillingness to part with a fee to secure a new man.
The Eagles will need to act quickly though, as with four of their next five fixtures against possible relegation rivals, their chances of survival could be all-but extinguished if they fail to pick up any points.
Who should Palace appoint as their next manager?
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