Palace Points: Why Ian Holloway should stay

By - Wednesday 23rd October, 2013

Since the 4-1 defeat to Fulham on Monday, rumour has been rife as to the future of Crystal Palace manager Ian Holloway. Tom Lickley believes he should stay; Matt Woosnam counters that he should be sacked

The present and the past; Palace fans need to move on from Dougie Freedman. Photo by David Pinkney, used under Creative Commons.

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

“Promotion…belongs…to CRYSTAL PALACE”

Five words which all Palace fans dream of, and finally heard on that sunny day in May. And yet, deep down, most fans would echo the words of the greatest manager in Palace history, Steve Coppell, after a similar playoff triumph at Wembley in 1997. “Nine months of hell” is what the dour Liverpudlian had to say in response to what promotion meant to him as manager. Coppell did not last the subsequent season, as the 1997/1998 Premier League campaign descended into farce and relegation for the Eagles.

Now, I’m not suggesting that is what would happen if Palace chose to replace Ian Holloway in the next few weeks. Nevertheless, Palace fans would do well to heed Coppell’s advice before jumping on to Holloway’s back. For the manager of a newly promoted club, the Premier League is nine months of hell. In fact, I would go further than that; with Holloway’s preparations beginning only days after promotion was secured, it is closer to eleven months of hell.

So, what he doesn’t need is a group of supporters actively calling for the manager’s head. There were a number of ugly scenes during the defeat to Fulham, but none was uglier than a minority of supporters visibly and viciously screaming abuse at Mr Holloway – a video which has generated a long thread on Palace forum Regardless of the manager’s performance, no individual deserves that level of vitriol. How does it help? Holloway has enough pressure on him without fans singling him out as the only reason for the team’s current predicament.

Holloway inherited a squad which was exciting, vivacious, but incredibly shallow

But why you may ask should he not be sacked? With only one away victory in the normal league season this year, including the Championship, and form which has faltered since the back end of 2012, surely questions should be raised as to his performance? Indeed they should. But let’s place things into context.

Following the departure of Dougie Freedman almost exactly a year ago, Palace were riding high, third in the Championship, and soon after Holloway’s arrival reached the summit. Holloway inherited a squad which was exciting, vivacious, but incredibly shallow. Beyond the first eleven players, much of the squad could hardly be deemed Championship standard, even less promotion standard. Inevitably then, as winter took a grip, maintaining such a high level of performance and form dipped.

Without a strong squad to replace absentees such as Owen Garvan and Joel Ward, Palace ended up finishing in fifth position in arguably the most competitive league season ever seen in English football. Still a good result for a team expected to drop into League One before the start of the season. Cardiff City and Brighton and Hove Albion aside, the remaining members of the top six all suffered from poor form towards the end of the season; Hull City in particular stumbled across the line.

The manager brought in a number of new signings in the summer transfer window, hampered by the fact that Palace had gained promotion so much later than their fellow promoted clubs. Admittedly, not all of his signings have been a success so far. Yet the clocks have yet to even turn back.

It will take time for Holloway to find his best team. At the moment, what Palace have is a talented group of individuals who are yet to be gelled into a good squad/team. With the season so far being constantly disrupted by international breaks, with many of Palace’s new faces jetting off around the world, this is hardly a surprise.

Sacking a manager this early in the season is a short-term tactic, which so many fans and owners jump to in these days of constant media and monetary pressure

This is the crux of why Holloway should stay. He needs time to get to know the players he has signed. With a number of games coming up before another frustrating (and in fact, needless now that England have qualified for the World Cup) international break in mid-November, Holloway has the perfect chance to pick a settled team, choose reliable and consistent tactics  and work on the weaknesses of the current set-up.

Palace were poor last Monday, and some of Holloway’s decisions – particularly the substitution of Jose Campana at half time – were questionable. A call for patience is needed. There is nobody with successful Premier League experience who the Eagles could realistically replace Holloway with at present. Reading and QPR both changed their managers midway through the season last year and now find themselves in the Championship regardless. Even if there were, they would need even more time to get to know the players, the club, the league.

Sacking a manager this early in the season is a short-term tactic, which so many fans and owners jump to in these days of constant media and monetary pressure. It may help keep Palace up, but chances are little difference would be made. Look at the recent history of teams which have done the same:

QPR (2012/13) – Sacked Mark Hughes on 23rd November 2012 with the team bottom of the league and replaced him with Harry Redknapp. QPR finish bottom of the league.

Reading (2012/13) - Sacked Brian McDermott on 11th March 2013 with the team 19th in the table and replaced him with Nigel Adkins. Reading finish 19th in the league.

Wolverhampton Wanderers (2011/12) - Sacked Mick McCarthy on 13th February 2012 with the team 18th in the table and replaced him with Terry Connor. Wolves finish bottom of the league. They were subsequently relegated from the Championship in 2012/13.

Portsmouth (2009/10) – Sacked Paul Hart on 24th November 2009 with the team bottom of the league and replaced him with Avram Grant. Portsmouth finish bottom of the league. In subsequent years they have been relegated twice more and now find themselves in League Two (although this was primarily due to gross financial mismanagement by a variety of owners).

Hull City (2009/10) – Sacked Phil Brown on 15th March 2010 with the team 19th in the table and replaced him with Iain Dowie. Hull finish 19th in the league.

The list goes on, and is longer than those clubs which have sacked their manager and stayed up.

Holloway himself came narrowly close to keeping up a Blackpool team in 2010/11 which were poorer than Palace. Time is needed, and his position should only be examined at the halfway stage of the season at the very earliest. Furthermore, perhaps the players themselves should look at what has changed – they were playing well last Monday before two world-class finished put Palace behind. From there, they crumbled. The players need far greater resilience if they are to stay up, and if they can’t motivate themselves, then nobody can.

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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