What really is the best move for Crystal Palace?

Ian Holloway

Crystal Palace became the eighth league team to have a manager depart this season, after it was announced on Wednesday that Ian Holloway had vacated his position by mutual consent.

The Bristolian exited Selhurst Park having been in charge for just under a year, with the club 19th in the Premier League table, five points adrift of safety.

In spite of the Eagles’ poor start to the season, culminating in Monday’s humiliating 4-1 home defeat to fellow-strugglers Fulham, Palace chairman Steve Parish had maintained his conviction that Holloway was the right man to take the side forward. This opinion, though, had begun to erode the patience of a number of supporters.

But only two days later club and manager parted company, with speculation now rife over who could be the man to save the Londoners’ ailing season.

The hot favourite appears to be former Stoke boss Tony Pulis, who Skybet price as 1/3 to get the nod, an offer no doubt contributed to by Steve Parish’s apparent openness to hold talks with the Welshman.  Speaking to talkSPORT the Palace chief said “I’m sure we’ll try and contact him [Pulis] and if he’s interested we’ll have a chat with him and see where we go.”

One of the main attractions in landing Pulis would be his track record, which boasts consistent overachievement at Stoke and a history of never having been relegated.

To appoint him, however, could represent a U-turn of epic proportions on behalf of the club’s owners, away from the passing attacking style that Holloway tried to implement.

There can be no doubt that Palace’s improbable promotion under their now former boss resulted in the development of a long term plan of investment, a measure taken to ensure the club’s long-term safety and stability after being on the brink of liquidation just three years ago.

This included improvements to infrastructure and stadium as well as a clearly defined direction for the footballing side of things, expected to be implemented under the stewardship of the now departed Holloway.

Indeed, should the club have been relegated come the end of the season, it seems the plan was to stick with the manager as he attempted to win promotion straight back to the Premier League next year.

The problem now faced by Parish and his co-owners, is to what extent they will look to pursue those footballing principles under a new manager.

It is clear that the club has budgeted for the strong chance of relegation, having failed in four previous attempts to remain in the top tier for more than a season. As such, players who could put an unnecessary strain on a prospective and probable Championship wage budget, have been confined to short-term contracts, whilst younger players like Jose Campana and Dwight Gayle, were tied in to longer term deals.

And any new manager will now be forced to get the best out of the group of players assembled by Holloway, which both he and chairman Parish have accepted include some naïve signings.

It seemed Palace had been caught napping for long periods of the summer, embodied by the decision to sign six players in the final two days of the transfer window, a move which in hindsight would appear to have eroded the play-off winners’ morale.

These are the issues that Palace must acknowledge in their search for a new man, and ones that may indeed put off prospective applicants.

It has to be said that the current position of the club, with seven losses in eight league games, makes for grim reading. However, in Parish and co. Palace fans have owners of whom they can be proud, with common sense and proven track record of good business acumen. Though a little out of their depth at present, the club has a solid grounding upon which to build for the future, be that in the Premiership, or more likely, Championship, at least for the time being.

Current personnel though, may impede the ability of a Pulis-type character to play the way they would like, with the present squad having been geared around pace and wing-play as opposed to long-ball physicality.

Other names linked with the post have included former boss Neil Warnock and Ipswich manager Mick McCarthy, though Palace fans would almost certainly prefer to secure someone with a more successful Premier League pedigree.

One potential suitor in that mould could be Newcastle boss Alan Pardew, a legend at the Selhurst outfit and someone who might be keen to work alongside the men at the top of the club. Indeed, with rumours over his future following the appointment of Joe Kinnear as the Magpies director of football, the former midfielder could welcome the chance of a fresh start with his former side.

Regardless of who takes the job, though, Palace fans know only too well that no managerial appointment is forever and would probably accept staying up by any means necessary.

But should relegation occur all will not necessarily be lost for the Eagles, with the opportunity to rebuild and regroup, perhaps facilitating the construction of a stronger side for years to come.

What should Crystal Palace’s next step be?

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