And back to square one.
Crystal Palace finally announced yesterday, before the kick-off of their match at Hull, that Tony Pulis is to be the club’s new manager, replacing Ian Holloway.
It had taken the club a month to agree a deal with Pulis, who had been top of Holloway’s recommended list when he told co-chairman Steve Parish that he did not feel he could do the job any longer.
The official, and somewhat terse four-paragraph announcement, came from the club at noon on Saturday. It concluded: “The experienced 55-year-old has agreed terms at Selhurst Park following a six-month break from management, since his highly successful spell at Stoke City came to an end in May 2013.”
And therein were the key factors in Pulis getting the job.
First, experience in the Premier League. Pulis’s “never relegated” record will be a tough one to keep in tact over the next six months, but what he achieved over seven seasons at Stoke can only be admired, even if the robustly physical football his sides produced is not to the taste of many Eagles fans.
But second, and above all else, Pulis was available.
Parish and the club’s management had been repeatedly frustrated and rejected by a beauty parade of management possibles: a trip to Moscow to recruit Dan Petrescu proved to be a wild goose chase; Rene Meulensteen preferred his chances as the No2 at Fulham, and worse for Palace’s pride, Aitor Karanka opted to go to Championship club Middlesbrough.
Soundings to Alan Pardew, Chris Coleman and Mick McCarthy floundered because of their existing contractual commitments with other teams. All the while the clock was ticking. Keith Millen, the stop-gap boss following Holloway’s departure, ended up taking charge of at least one game more than had ever been expected – and this with a fortnight’s international break in the programme.
Pulis had not accepted Palace’s terms with alacrity, either.
After all, Pulis initially rejected the “opportunity” of staking his reputation at a club which had managed to accrue just three points and was tailed off at the foot of the Premier League table. When Palace went back to the Welshman last week, they did so with an offer closer to what Pulis had originally wanted, together with the security of a two-and-a-half-year contract – albeit with reduced terms if he finds himself managing a Championship side next August – but also with the sort of bonus structure which even £1,000-a-day Croydon Council officials can only dream about.
Pulis will have much to thank Millen for when they meet tomorrow morning. Four points from the team’s last two games, and with relegation rivals Sunderland, Fulham, West Ham and Norwich all losing yesterday, the new Palace boss must have been checking the soles of his shoes when he left Hull yesterday evening to see whether he had trodden in something lucky.
“I am so proud of this group of players because of the effort and commitment they have shown over the last four games while I have been in caretaker charge,” Millen observed with justification after the Hull game, where he admitted that his side had “defended for our lives.”
Millen said, “Today it was one of those where you look back and think it was going to be our day, we had the sending off, get the goal, defend for your lives and then at the death clear one off the line before the shot then came in and hit the post.
“We’ve not had many matches where we can say we had a bit of luck so I want the lads to enjoy it. It is a nice feeling for us all to be off the bottom of the league but the bigger picture is that we can get nearer the teams in and around us.”
And the next three games, Pulis’s first in charge, at Norwich, at home to West Ham and then hosting Cardiff, all in the space of a week, will define the season. Five points from those games against fellow strugglers, and Pulis will have good cause to start whistling the theme to The Great Escape.
And then will come the transfer window, when Pulis will have licence to unload many of the players who have proved to be either surplus to requirements or simply not good enough, including some whom Holloway had signed himself only in the summer.
Up to five new players may be added to a squad. At least two will be big, strong defenders, because that is how Pulis has always built his teams.
Eagles fans have been quick to note that Pulis’s transfer activity has been less successful when seeking forwards and more creative players.
- £5.5 million for Dave Kitson
- £5 million for Tuncay
- £2.5 million for Diego Arismendi
- £1.2 million for Leon Cort
- £10 million for Peter Crouch at age 30
- £3.5 million for James Beattie at 31
That Pulis is unlikely to have even one-fifth of those total funds available to him at Palace may provide a helpful brake against such questionable signings. But as Palace’s management already well knows, in the lower reaches of the Premier League, you can only sign what you can attract, never mind what you can afford.
However good the defenders might be that Pulis ultimately brings into Selhurst Park, he will need to find some way of getting his side to score goals – 0-0 draws are not going to keep them up and seven goals scored in 12 games tells us something.
Any players in the squad able to take a long throw-in?
Coming to Croydon
- Much Ado About Nothing: Nov 25
- Sex in the Cronx, Nov 26-29
- Future Tech City: Nov 30
- Follow in the footsteps of Pirie: Dec 1
- Comedy in Music show: Dec 1
- Heathfield House Christmas Bazaar: Dec 1
- The Lives of Stanley Halls community entertainment: Dec 4
- Cinema Ruskin: Dec 21
- Steve Knightly at Stanley Halls: Feb 5
- Inside Croydon: Croydon’s only independent news source, based in the heart of the borough – 262,183 page views (Jan-Jun 2013)
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