Allardyce needs to motivate his Crystal Palace players

By - Friday 20th January, 2017

The ability to stay in the Premier League is there, but the manager and fans will need to unearth it

Don’t look down: Sam Allardyce needs to raise the spirit of his beleaguered side.
Photo by Egghead06, used under Creative Commons licence.

Hardly the most popular choice of a new manager for Crystal Palace, ex-England manager Sam Allardyce has done little to endear himself to supporters in his first few weeks in charge and even less to suggest that the Eagles have the talent and drive capable of keeping them in the Premier League. With a measly one point return from his first four league games as manager, most fans will be disappointed that the much anticipated ‘new manager bounce’ has, one half of football against a crumbling Watford aside, yet to materialise. Now only one point off the bottom of the league after a dreadful defeat to an average West Ham side, and some way into a supposedly ‘easy’ set of fixtures, the worry lines of many a loyal Palace fan have continued to deepen following the departure of former manager Alan Pardew in the days leading up to Christmas.

Their concern is well justified. Form, confidence and subsequently results have continued to plummet following a vintage 2015, and regular visitors to Selhurst Park will have seen only four victories at the stadium since the beginning of last year. Understandably, a mutinous atmosphere has hung over the ground in recent weeks which the appointment of Allardyce did little to disperse. In previous crises at Palace, including but not limited to relegation battles and financial difficulties, the fans have tended to rally behind the team, regardless of manager, and more often than not this has contributed to the team turning form around; it is difficult to quantify but easy to believe that with the support of 25,000 people behind you, you would tend to feel more confident about your abilities and raise your expectations of yourself.

It is fair to say that ability is not what is hindering the Palace team at present. In today’s surreal football market, the value of transfer fees reflecting a players ability should be taken with a pinch of salt, but Christian Benteke, Yohan Cabaye and Andros Townsend – the three most recognisable players in the Eagles’ squad – have proved repeatedly on past occasions that they are capable of sublime, first class football. Yet the three players have taken the brunt of most fans (and indeed, pundits) displeasure with Palace’s current run of form with some justification.

The eye-watering levels of cash filtering into the pockets of the under-performing stars makes it hard to feel sorry for them

This suggests that it is not talent which is holding back the Palace team at present, but rather confidence and motivation. To cure the former, the players need to feel the support of the fans and the manager. The latter will earn Allardyce his supposed millions.

From a supporters perspective, ironically it is perhaps difficult to motivate themselves to support the team at present. A long, barren run of form combined with the eye-watering levels of cash floating about the game which is filtering into the pockets of the under-performing stars makes it hard to feel sorry for them and devote time and energy into giving them their support. Ethically, the mix of money and football has been in a poor place for a generation of footballers though, so it is little use to use the prevalence of money as an excuse to refrain from supporting the players now any more so than in the past twenty years. Crystal Palace fans can, and indeed are renowned for creating a raucous atmosphere and it is now more than ever this needs to return.

Question his morals, question his preferred style of football, certainly, but it is hard to question his record

Sam Allardyce is no fool when it comes to managing a football team in the Premier League. Success with unfashionable Bolton Wanderers and subsequent positive roles at an array of clubs raised Allardyce’s stock to an extent that he was hired as England manager. His subsequent downfall would have been hard to take, although he did at least leave with a 100% win rate, even if it was one win from one. Make no mistake, Allardyce’s own career is on life support. Like former Palace manager Tony Pulis, Allardyce has carved out a reputation as an unsinkable manager, having never drowned into the Championship with any of his teams. Arguably, his job this season is not even as tough as it was last year with perennial strugglers Sunderland. Question his morals, question his preferred style of football, certainly, but it is hard to question his record.

His abilities to motivate and man manage will be tested in the forthcoming weeks. Although the spectre of relegation hangs over Crystal Palace, the aforementioned players have little prospect of joining the club in the Championship; they will find well paid jobs elsewhere in the Premier League, or France, or China.They will pick up their pay packets at the end of the month regardless of how they perform.

Allardyce’s remit then, is to make the players care.

Crystal Palace host Everton on Saturday 21st January, with kick off at 3pm.

Tom Lickley

Tom Lickley

Contributing a variety of roles to the Citizen since early 2013, Tom now focuses upon regeneration, urbanism and real estate writing. He is a strategic communications consultant specialising in the real estate sector, and counts a number of the world's largest investment and fund management companies amongst his clients.

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