Eagles fans probably owe Sam Allardyce a beer.
Not just for keeping Crystal Palace in the Premier League, which was a deed worth £100million in TV revenues alone.
But Palace supporters owe a vote of thanks to their former boss for a sacrifice which has opened up a bright future for the club. And they might want to show their gratitude, too, to Steve Parish (yet again), and Louis van Gaal for the parts they played in the appointment of the club’s latest manager.
In Frank De Boer, Palace have made potentially their most exciting managerial appointment since Terry Venables stepped into the manager’s office in June 1976.
The appointment of De Boer, the 47-year-old former Ajax and Internazionale manager, had been an open secret since last week, but the formal business was held back to extract maximum publicity for a new shirt sponsor (another one).
None of this would have been possible had Allardyce not decided to retire at the end of the season. The decision appeared to catch Parish and the Palace board flat-footed, without a successor lined up immediately. It might yet turn out to be one of the best things to happen at Selhurst Park for a good while.
Parish, the man who saved the club from oblivion, has used the opportunity to snap up De Boer after he was unexpectedly “available” when Inter abruptly ended his term in the job last autumn (“I learned a lot from it,” De Boer said of his time in Italy. “I can bring that experience here to Crystal Palace. I have a lot of energy to start again.”). He had been linked with the manager’s job at Liverpool and, most strongly, at Everton last year, before Ronald Koeman moved to Goodison.
De Boer’s work over six years as manager at Ajax, including four Dutch titles and a reputation for having a conveyor belt of young football talent, is what has encouraged the Palace faithful and will see him earn £2.5million a year. De Boer won’t just be picking the starting 11 each weekend. “He’ll completely overhaul our youth system,” one excited Palace fan suggested.
At his press conference yesterday, De Boer revealed that his former boss, Van Gaal, had offered him advice about taking a job in England. Exactly what was said, De Boer refused to say, but it was clearly not: “Whatever you do, don’t go to south London.”
“I had a good feeling about the club and the prospect of managing a team in the Premier league was exciting,” De Boer said. “It is a club that still can grow further and further because every English club can spend a lot of money so there is a possibility to do something well with that money.”
De Boer says that a priority now is to establish Palace firmly in the Premier League, and to get away from the relegation battles of the past couple of years. “That is the most important thing now,” he said.
De Boer clearly believes he will have significant transfer funds to spend. “I have my ideas and one or two signings that might be necessary but first I want to see the players.”
He said that his ambitions for the coming season are that, “… we are going to be a solid Premier League team and not struggle for relegation. That is the main target and if you can do something more than that is nice, but first of all to be a very solid Premier League club.
“That is my only concern. I sign for three years and normally I want to stay for three years. That means it is going well.
“If we are going to sign players it is important they need to make a difference for the team. The key players have a bigger role. Players win games for you, but teams win prizes for you so every player is important.”
And the new man in charge asked for Palace fans eager to see their side playing the kind of Total Football for which Ajax, and De Boer, are famous, to be patient. “You have to be realistic and see what the quality of the team is and sometimes you have to play more reactive football than trying to be more dominant.
“Of course I want to be dominant if we can and if not we have to be compact and the quality up front is quite high so every team now has to play one, two or three systems and also different styles. We have enough time to teach them.”
And the new sponsors and new shirts? Pah! Same old, same old… Just don’t be surprised if in a year or so, Palace revert to an old-style white shirt with a broad red band (and a blue one) down the front of it…
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