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West Ham v Crystal Palace… Should teams stick or twist?

As West Ham fans revel in their long overdue revival under the continued stewardship of manager Sam Allardyce, it would seem that the decision of the club’s co-owners David Sullivan and David Gold to stick with the former Bolton boss has been vindicated.

The Hammers run of a draw and three wins in their last four league games has helped to ease their relegation fears, in the short term at least, and shows that sometimes it is best to weather the out-of-form storm.

This strategy, however, has not been mirrored by some of the club’s Premier League rivals, many of whom have been quick to issue their marching orders. Indeed, the current managerial casualty rate stands at eight for the top-flight this season (including Ian Holloway’s resignation from Crystal Palace) part of a collective total of 29 across the top four divisions, with 23 having been fired.

The search for success in the modern game then has seen managers become one of the sport’s most expendable commodities, an outcome that brings with it mixed results.

The faring of newly promoted Crystal Palace since their appointment of Tony Pulis is undoubtedly the best example of a managerial change gone right. Since the Welshman’s arrival in late November, the Eagles have averaged 1.6  points per game, form that would see them occupy 8th place in the league had he been in charge since September. This miraculous turnaround has been well received in South London and seen the memories of the turbulent start under Holloway firmly filed under the heading of ‘distant memories’.

Similarly the exploits of Spurs boss Tim Sherwood, who was unexpectedly handed the hotseat following the departure of Andre Villas Boas, has facilitated a similar turnaround, losing just once in eight Premier League games and placing the club firmly back in the race for 4th spot.

The same cannot be said however, of the League’s more recent permanent appointments.

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, one of the finest substitutes this country has ever seen, raised a number of eyebrows when he accepted the offer of the Cardiff job from unpredictable chairman Vincent Tan. Having had success in his native Norway with former club Molde, with whom he decided to remain having been linked with the Aston Villa job, the move to Cardiff seemed a little ill-considered, on his part rather than theirs, as his appointment marked the end of the English clubs’ campaign to install him as their boss.

The effect however, has been a little patchy. Four defeats from his first five league games was probably not the renaissance package that Bluebirds (or is it Dragons now?) had envisaged, especially not the comprehensive 3-0 loss to bitter rivals Swansea, currently plying their trade under the stewardship of managerial rookie Garry Monk.

The honeymoon start of a 2-1 FA cup win at Newcastle has certainly worn off and the challenge of keeping the club in the Premier League now is more apparent than ever with a number of 6-pointers on the horizon.

Meanwhile Pepe Mel at West Brom hasn’t enjoyed a fairytale start to his time in England. Taking over from popular Scot Steve Clarke, the former Real Betis coach, apparently so committed to the prospect of working in England that he had been taking English lessons for several months, is yet to record a win in his first four games, which have encompassed defeats to relegation rivals Palace and Aston Villa.

The mood of Baggies fans has been bleak of late, with performances under Mel doing little to remedy it, though the securing of his colleague David Gomez as first team coach may aid the recovery, at this stage the Hawthorns outfit’s survival chances hang very much in the balance.

And the fate of Rene Meulensteen’s Fulham is similarly uncertain. The much-lauded Dutch coach was seen as the answer to the Cottagers problems following the departure of compatriot Martin Jol. Aside of an impressive 2-2 draw at Old Trafford, however, the Cottagers performances have been little short of atrocious, encapsulated by the drab 1-0 home defeat to League One strugglers Sheffield United in the FA cup. Their latest defeat against Liverpool saw Meulensteen replaced with former Bayern Munich boss Felix Magath after just 75 days in an attempt to bring an instant halt to the Cottager’s slide in to the Championship.

Thus it would appear that the remedy package of a managerial change is by no means guaranteed. Nor however does it mean that those who take over are bad managers. Typically clubs who make these appointments are not doing well anyway and one transfer window is scarcely a chance to rectify this. This serves then to highlight the phenomenonal job of Pulis, to fashion an effective team out of previously unsuccessuful components.

Based on this year’s appointments though and the turnaround by Allardyce, perhaps the sticking-with option is sometimes the best bet.

Article title: West Ham v Crystal Palace… Should teams stick or twist?

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