Happy new year, Palace fans?
The club’s new owners, having dug themselves out of administration in the summer, have now moved to help the team dig themselves out of relegation from the Championship by sacking manager George Burley.
Palace fans are excited by the prospect/rumour that Chris Hughton, until recently in charge at Newcastle United, was spotted at today’s game and is being lined up to take over at Selhurst Park.
There are many Palace fans who suggest that Burley’s dismissal comes not a moment too soon, and others who would question the appointment in the first instance. But more of that later…
Certainly, the overall tone of the fans’ message boards greeted the news of Palace’s 19th managerial change in 15 years with a mixture of relief and delight.
The news of the dismissal of the frequently thirsty 54-year-old former Scotland, Ipswich and Derby boss broke just before 5pm today, within hours of Palace’s sorry 3-0 defeat against Millwall. The announcement nailed denials, made by the club’s owners just before Christmas, that they had not even discussed the manager’s position.
Today’s result leaves Palace with only six wins from 24 league games under Burley, one off the bottom of the Championship, though they have played a game more than Preston. They have also played three matches more than Scunthorpe, the side one point and one place ahead of them.
All-in-all, it is hardly a promising position to inherit for Dougie Freedman, the assistant manager who has been put in temporary charge ahead of the crucial relegation six-pointer against Preston.
The typically terse statement issued in such circumstances came from the club: “George Burley has today been relieved of his duties as first team manager of Crystal Palace FC. We would like to thank George for his dedication and hard work and share his regret that things didn’t work out for him here.”
Just last week, the Croydon Sadvertiser, the local rag that slavishly relates the “party line” from Selhurst Park, sought to rubbish a report in the Daily Mail that Burley was about to be fired. Looks like the big boys on the nationals have made the Sadvertiser lads look like chumps (yet again).
“I honestly don’t know where they get these stories from. We have never discussed replacing George,” the Advertiser reported Eagles co-chairman Steve Parish as saying.
“… George will definitely be in charge for the game on Boxing Day and we certainly haven’t even discussed changing the manager. I speak to George every day and we are working hard on strengthening the squad.”
Burley took over at Selhurst Park in June, after having been out of work for more than six months following his dismissal from the Scotland job.
Even then, it was not unreasonable to suggest that Burley’s track record when in charge has been less than impressive, amid behind-the-scenes rumours of player dissent.
A decade ago Burley marked himself out as one of Britain’s most promising young managers when the former Ipswich and Scotland defender guided the Suffolk club in to the Premier League and to the brink of Europe. But after one stellar season in the top flight, Ipswich soon dropped like a stone back to the second tier.
In subsequent spells at Southampton and Derby, Burley’s time ended in some acrimony and, just as when he inherited a tight-knot, improving Scotland set-up, Burley “lost the dressing room”.
When he arrived at Palace, despite the obvious challenges in taking over a club that had been on the brink of oblivion and could offer little cash for transfers, he was bullish (unrealistic?) about the immediate prospects. “I’m glad to be back in club football and hopefully I can take the club back to the Premier League,” Burley said in June.
As one poster on the club’s message boards said: “If you look at the signings he has made apart from maybe the loans, I don’t think 2010 trusted him to make any more.
“Dorman-not very good
“Barrett-not very good
“And he obviously can’t motivate the team. Had to go.”
And none of that mentions the eccentric signing of Edgar Davids, the ageing former Dutch international who had not played for two years.
Unlike the unquestioning cheerleaders at the Sadvertiser, when Davids’ signing was announced, this blog said: “Given that the club has just dug itself out of one financial mire, Inside Croydon remains a little sceptical about this move, which smacks of a publicity stunt rather than being done for genuine footballing reasons.”
Davids undistinguished performances, and brief but expensive stay in south London, may be seen as symptomatic of Burley’s unsuccessful reign.