The future’s not too bright for Crystal Palace fans, and it is certainly not orange, as the club this morning dismissed manager Frank de Boer after just four league games in charge. It is only 77 days since June 26, when he was appointed.
De Boer’s brief reign at Crystal Palace had created English football records, but of the wrong sort.
Roy Hodgson, the Croydon lad who went on to become England manager, is lined up to replace the Dutchman, according to press reports.
De Boer’s sacking comes less than 24 hours after he’d seen his side squander a multitude of chances to score at Turf Moor, yet give away the ball to concede the only goal of the game to Burnley.
That saw Palace create its first unwelcome record: no top-tier team hast lost their first four games of a season and fail to score in those games since 1924.
De Boer was hired in the summer, when Sam Allardyce “retired” from top-flight football management after keeping the club in the Premier League last season. That the Palace boardroom is even considering sending for Allardyce again is signal of quite how concerned senior figures at the club had become with the manner of the side’s performances under de Boer and his insistence on playing a passing and possession style of football, one which had helped him win four Dutch league titles at Ajax. That Allardyce has been reluctant to return to Selhurst Park may also tell you something.
De Boer’s problem was that he did not have good enough players in his squad to carry out his tactical approach – the profligacy in front of goal in yesterday’s game showed that. Nor did he get enough time to coach his squad to become more comfortable with his playing style. The manager was complaining over the weekend that he had wanted to play more pre-season friendlies.
Even Sean Dyche, the Burnley manager who had seen his side clear the ball off the line on three occasions during yesterday’s game, admitted that Palace had deserved at least a point.
The warmth of Burnley manager Sean Dyche’s exchange with de Boer at the end suggested he felt for him. “I don’t think any manager wants sympathy. Empathy, because I thought they were the better side. I thought they deserved something from the game. I told him so,” Dyche said. “I don’t feel sorry for anyone in the position, though. We know the pitfalls.”
De Boer was undoubtedly also handicapped by the absence of key players, with Wilf Zaha injured and Mamadou Sakho, the loan signing last season who had been widely credited with shoring up the leaky Palace defence, not transferred permanently until the very last day of the transfer window a fortnight ago.
De Boer had been summonsed to a meeting following Palace’s previous defeat, against Swansea, due to disquiet at the way the side was playing and the manner in which the squad were clearly uncomfortable playing in the manager’s preferred 3-4-3 formation. Against Swansea, it was only when Palace reverted to playing four at the back in the second half that the performance became slightly less abject.
Yesterday’s game was watched from the directors’ box by co-chairman Steve Parish and former Palace forward, now pundit and adviser, Mark Bright.
Sacking de Boer after just 10 weeks in the job – unwanted record No2: his is the shortest reign as a manager in the Premier League era – only creates other problems, such as finding a suitable and longer term successor. De Boer was the club’s ninth manager in just five years.
That Palace are turning to a 70-year-old semi-retiree demonstrates the paucity of likely replacements. And Hodgson’s record in Premier League management is hardly a guarantee of even mid-table mediocrity: for all his good work while at Fulham, Hodgson’s stays at Blackburn and Liverpool were just short of shambolic.
Parish, judged by his comments on Twitter overnight, may have been against a hasty dismissal of de Boer. He also defended the club’s transfer policy.
“We are four games in,” Parish said via social media to the mounting complaints from fans. “It’s a terrible start but we have to stick together. People are frustrated. I’m frustrated, so are the management and players.
“I think I’m defending everyone at the club who’s working their arse off to turn this round. Football teams lose games, it happens. We know we are better than this. I’m happy for people to vent at me.
“I’ll stand my record up against any chairman we’ve had in 118 years. We’ve spent £70million since January and sold one player for £2m plus spent another £10m on loan players. Let me ask you a question, who has the better squad, us or Burnley?
“We just can’t keep on spending and spending. Ninety per cent of fans wanted Sakho, which was always going to limit what we could do.”
The France defender was signed for £26million.
Despite such comments, by last night, de Boer was 1/5 to be the first Premier League managerial casualty of the season. A 20 per cent return on capital in 12 hours now looks like very good business.
De Boer’s departure leaves the way for Hodgson’s return to Selhurst Park, where he was a trainee and signed his first senior playing contract 52 years ago. Hodgson never made a first-team appearance. Hodgson’s No2 at Fulham and with England, Ray Lewington, the former Chelsea defender, was on Palace’s coaching staff for three years in the mid-1990s and seems likely to return to the club.
- Inside Croydon is a member of the Independent Community News Network
- Inside Croydon is the borough’s only independent news source, and still based in the heart of Croydon
- In the five months from April to August 2017, Inside Croydon generated more than 500,000 page views
- If you have a news story about life in or around Croydon, a residents’ or business association or a local event to publicise, please email us with full details at firstname.lastname@example.org