Be careful what you wish for in the football sack race

Heard this joke in a Palace pub at lunchtime on Saturday:

Dougie Freedman: facing the difficult second season syndrome

First football fan: “What’s the difference between Dougie Freedman and Alex Ferguson?”

Second football fan: “No one was calling for Alex Ferguson to be sacked after United lost their first game of the season.”

A sense of perspective on all matters football is always useful. But that perspective might also need to take on board the 12 English league titles won by Manchester United under Fergie, while Saturday’s latest defeat at Middlesbrough leaves Palace, under Freedman, having won just three times in 19 competitive matches.

In many ways, Freedman’s fortunes as Palace manager have been on the wane since he saw his side beat Ferguson’s United in that famous League Cup quarter-final upset.

Palace’s form has been on the slide since that night of nights last November. In the nine months since, Palace have won just seven matches.

And during the summer, needs must and everything for a club still hauling itself back from the brink of oblivion, but 10 players left Selhurst Park for the last time. As manager, Freedman is being asked to juggle with water.

The three signings made in the past week have the look of a touch of desperation: get someone, anyone, in to the club to calm down the fans, and get the Twitter trolls to leave Dean Moxey’s missus alone.

And while the Sadvertiser and other sympathetically inclined outlets have spent the first 10 days of the new season trying to take the positives – any positives – out of the Palace results (the defeat at Boro on Saturday was, apparently, an “improved performance”; it was still a defeat and a bloody long journey home), there really ought to be no disguising the players’, and the manager’s tactical failings.

Watford, remember, was a side thumped 4-0 towards the end of last season (in one of those rare wins of the past months). So come the first day of the new term, and to let them back into a game and win 2-3 was dire disappointment indeed. It was clear that the game’s momentum turned when David Wright was brought on, setting the home side in to a defensive mindset.

As one regular Palace observer noted at the time: “Master stroke by Dougie – bring on ageing defensive mid, switch to 4-6-0, then watch the spectacular collapse.” The disquiet was summarised thus: “Utter bollocks”.

The midweek beating in Bristol was a real shock to the Palace fans’ systems, prompting the Twitter abuse over Moxey’s on-the-field performance. In fairness, there’s a sense that Freedman might have hooked him off sooner if he felt he had a truly suitable option on the bench.

And thus, for the first time since 1973, Palace have failed to win any of the opening three fixtures of a league campaign. The end of the 1973-1974 season saw Palace relegated to the old Third Division, where they languished for three more years. That hardly augurs well, does it?

None of last week’s signings could not have been made earlier in the summer transfer window. Which again suggests that, after seeing the calamitous first couple of games, the manager prevailed upon the owners to allow for a couple of emergency signings. But will they make much of a difference?

Yannick Bolasie: the Andy Cole lookalike plays out wide, so unlikely to score the 20 goals a season Palace need

After all, would Cardiff have allowed Darcy Blake to leave if they thought he was good enough to hold down a regular place at a promotion-chasing Championship side? All things considered, that’s got to be deemed unlikely, so £350,000 seems like good business for the Welsh club.

In the case of Andre Moritz, yes, he is from Brazil, but on the other hand, he was out of contract after playing for the past couple of years in Turkey. Palace might be doing him the favour here.

In Yannick Bolasie, Freedman might have found a bit of an unpolished gem, though.

Bolasie is a winger, like Wilf Zaha, so might not be the guaranteed scorer of 20+ goals in what’s left of this season, which will undoubtedly be required to dig Palace out of the hole they are already in.

For a club without significant funds, firing the manager is probably not the answer. After all, who would replace him? Ask Tottenham fans if they are happier with AVB than ‘Arry, or seek a view from Hammers fans about “Big Sam”, even after winning promotion.

Increasingly, though, last season is looking as if Freedman over-achieved. This season could be long and very miserable for Eagles fans.

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News, views and analysis about the people of Croydon, their lives and political times in the diverse and most-populated borough in London. Based in Croydon and edited by Steven Downes. To contact us, please email inside.croydon@btinternet.com
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