On the eve of last season’s Premier League campaign, Tony Pulis quit as Crystal Palace manager after guiding the Eagles to the great escape the season before.
Pulis was named Barclays Premier League Manager of the year in 2014, after leading Palace to an 11th place finish, having taken over a side that had won just one of their first eight league games and looked destined for the drop.
Neil Warnock returned for his second spell in charge of the club in August 2014 but after a torrid run of just three wins in his first sixteen games in charge he was dismissed, leaving the Eagles firmly placed in the relegation zone. But who could possibly take over? And could they complete another great escape?
The appointment of former Palace player Alan Pardew in January 2015 as their new manager was a surprise to many. He had only just led his Newcastle side to a well-deserved 10th place in the 2013/14 Premier League season and eyebrows were raised as to why he was leaving the North East giants for a side at the wrong end of the table. But what a masterstroke it has turned out to be by Chairman Steve Parish and Pardew himself.
In his first season in charge, Pardew led Palace to their highest ever Premier League finish of tenth, along the way masterminding some fantastic results, beating both Tottenham and Manchester City at home and also Liverpool at Anfield. Palace and Pardew were soon becoming every football fan’s favourite underdog, playing their electric counter attacking style.
Pardew not only led Palace to their highest finish, but he has also bought well during his time in charge. He has Secured the permanent return of wing wizard Wilfried Zaha from Manchester United, the eye catching signing of his former Newcastle playmaker Yohan Cabaye from French giants PSG, relatively unknown left back Pape Souare who has been one of their most consistent performers this season, and also the free transfer of the all action Bakary Sako from Wolves, who provides yet more pace and trickery to a side already containing the likes of Zaha, Bolasie and Puncheon.
This season has seen the Eagles continue to soar and, after seven games, Pardew’s men currently sit sixth in the Premier League table, having won four and lost three, and have so far gained ever more plaudits and fans for their performances and style of play. Among those results Palace defeated last season’s Champions Chelsea 2-1 at Stamford Bridge, and all three of their defeats have been by a single goal against top sides. They lost at home to Arsenal, away to Tottenham and ran big spending Manchester city all the way, being defeated only by a last minute winner.
It is no surprise to see Pardew’s former club Newcastle stuttering to a 15th place finish last season, just four points above the drop zone, and currently sitting 19th in their current campaign. The job Pardew has done at Palace is nothing short of remarkable, after all they hold the record for the most (4) Premier League relegations.
Pardew currently has the second highest win ratio of any Palace manager in their history at 60%. With a side that consists of such fearless attacking players as Zaha, Sako, Bolasie and Puncheon, Cabaye supplying the ammunition and Scott Dann fast becoming one of the Premier League’s most consistent centre backs, it is hard to see how this Eagles side will not finish in the top half again this season.
Palace under Pardew have fast become one of the most exciting teams to watch in the Premier League and one of the most feared to play. Whether it’s their Fantastic support, which has a packed Selhurst Park, literally bouncing every home game, or their lightning quick attacks, or their no fear, never say die approach.
How far can Alan Pardew take this Palace side? Who knows, but one thing is for sure: you can guarantee it will be an exciting journey and one that will have many following the League’s new darlings along the way.