Palace Points: Why Ian Holloway should leave

By - Wednesday 23rd October, 2013

After Crystal Palace fell to a heavy 1-4 defeat at home to Fulham on Monday night, manager Ian Holloway was locked in talks with chairman Steve Parish, with rumours abound that he had offered his resignation. Matt Woosnam believes he should leave; Tom Lickley believes he should stay

Ollie out? Photo by Paul Townsend, used under Creative Commons.

NOTE: This article was written before Ian Holloway’s resignation.

A group of supporters gathered around the exit of the pitch towards the tunnel as the players walked off with Holloway and aimed abuse at the Bristolian, although it is unclear as to whether this had any bearing on the offer (if indeed there was a resignation offered). Any abuse of someone doing their best for the football club is unwarranted and those involved should feel ashamed. Nonetheless, their gripes were perhaps justified; it is simply the manner in which they expressed them which was the problem. Should Ian Holloway leave Crystal Palace?

After taking over from Dougie Freedman in November, Holloway has won 14 matches, drawn 14 matches and lost 18 matches in charge of Palace. It should however be noted that four of those matches were very important. Under Holloway’s leadership the Eagles earned a 3-0 victory over arch rivals Brighton at Selhurst Park in December, being comfortable throughout the match. Furthermore, over two legs of the play-off semi-final Holloway helped to mastermind a victory over the Seagulls once more, avenging the 3-0 defeat at the Amex a few months previously. Then there was the small matter of a play-off final against much fancied Watford. It took until extra time for Palace to find a winner, but they did, and the South London side were promoted to the Premier League for the first time in 10 years.

So Palace are £120m better off thanks to the players, Ian Holloway and CPFC2010. However, it has not been a happy return to the Premier League for the Eagles, and it is arguable that the problems faced by the club right now were evident from the tail end of the previous season.

 The idea of Yannick Bolasie and Wilfried Zaha tucking inside…it was soon after this tactic was utilised that the results began to decline

Ian Holloway took a job in very unusual circumstances. The playing squad he inherited was not low on morale, but in fact it was at the very peak of confidence. On an unbeaten run of eight matches, following a dreadful first few results, the team was tight-knit and the players knew how to get the best out of each others’ game. Holloway’s first match resulted in a 5-0 victory at Selhurst Park against Ipswich Town, where the Tractor Boys were blown away. Further victories ensued and Palace were playing exciting football under largely the same tactics utilised by Freedman, and a squad built almost entirely by Freedman.

Nonetheless, all good things come to an end, and Palace’s unbeaten run was halted at a rather unhappy hunting ground of late, Elland Road. The Eagles went on to win only 7 of their following 28 matches, including a 9 match winless run at the very end of the season.

Following Freedman’s departure, Holloway spoke of changing the tactics and introducing some of his own into the side. This included the idea of Yannick Bolasie and Wilfried Zaha tucking inside as wingers and allowing the full-backs to push forwards. It was soon after this tactic was utilised that the results began to decline, as well as the form of Zaha tailing off, arguably due to his call up to the England national team and the articles written about him.

I cannot see a long term plan being employed by the manager

Holloway brought entertaining football to Selhurst Park at times, there is no questioning that, but he also employed tedious, defensive minded tactics which were less effective than when his predecessor used them (albeit over a more prolonged period). I witnessed one of the most abject performances from a Palace side in my memory on a Tuesday night in Huddersfield, when the Terriers, who were rooted to the bottom of the table, found victory over a Palace side which had been top of the league not long before. Holloway’s tactics were not working, but it was also the poor performances of individuals that night which contributed to the defeat.

When it mattered most, Ian Holloway produced what Palace fans wanted and what the club desperately needed – promotion. No-one was expecting to gain promotion last season, but Holloway took over a team with a large proportion of the season remaining and despite some concerning runs and disappointing results, the former Plymouth, Leicester and QPR manager managed to succeed in ensuring the club was promoted. Victories over Brighton in the league at Selhurst and the play-offs at the AMEX stadium, as well as a delightful 4-1 trouncing of Middlesbrough provided some highlights for Palace fans.

The three play-off matches were one off games where Holloway galvanised a team with just a solitary victory in 10 matches and produced a tactical masterclass. Having held Brighton to a goalless draw at home, the Eagles travelled to the AMEX with a real belief in them, and they came home rewarded with a trip to Wembley. Written off once more, they defied the odds and emerged victorious at Wembley and the Premier League beckoned. Holloway had clawed him and the team out of a rut and utilised the team spirit amongst the players to win promotion.

His tactics have become increasingly bizarre and ineffective

That was it though; the team spirit in the camp was excellent. Players knew what was required of them, where they needed to be and what they needed to do. It surely didn’t take much cajoling or motivating for the squad to realise what was at stake for them personally and the club in general.

In the Premier League, Palace have looked woefully out of their depth at times. Holloway has taken the criticism of his ultra attacking ideas used at Blackpool and employed more defensive tactics this season at Palace.

Can Crystal Palace Football Club move forwards with Ian Holloway at the helm? Some will argue that the answer is yes, but I cannot see a long term plan being employed by the manager. Youngsters have only been near the squads in the cup, although it is hard to see where any could have been used, apart from Hiram Boateng in central midfield. With an influx of new signings being made over the summer there was more than a hint of panic buying from the club, and the team spirit shown so solidly last season seems to have been eroded.

It appeared to be a policy of buying quantity over quality and with Holloway playing an out an out striker purchased for a club record fee, out on the wing, one must question his decisions. The signing of Cameron Jerome as a striker seemed pointless as well, when the target man was utilised on the left-wing against Swansea.

If Holloway was to leave, then who would replace him? It’s hard to see any stand out candidates but Eddie Howe and Sean Dyche are two names which may be considered.

Perhaps Holloway should be given more time, but after 46 matches in charge of the team, his tactics have become increasingly bizarre and ineffective. A big game manager? Certainly he helped the team in gaining promotion, but it very nearly didn’t happen. I acknowledge that with a different manager to Holloway in the play-offs perhaps Palace would not have been promoted, but that doesn’t excuse the mistakes he has made previously and is making currently.

Matt Woosnam

Matt Woosnam

Matt Woosnam is a Kingston University student in his final year as a Politics & International Relations undergraduate. A campaigner on mental health he is the founder of @Talk_Out, as well as part of the TalkEasyTrust, and seeks to break down stigma by encouraging talking out. Matt is also an avid Crystal Palace fan and the online editor of Five Year Plan Fanzine, as well as a regular contributor to the Croydon Guardian.

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