At the end of day, when you’re all done in, you can always rely on a Premier Inn. Isn’t that how the ad goes? Not for Crystal Palace. Manager Ian Holloway, at his exit interview of a press conference, was “all done in”, undoubtedly fearing “Premier Out” rather than in.
But instead of retreating to somewhere local like the Holiday Inn Croydon, Palace decided to stage their version of “Hari Kari” in the swish Soho Hotel. A possible sign that Chairman Steve Parish – as coiffeured as Holloway is glabrous – wants to create the impression Palace are trendily metropolitan rather than a local South London outfit.
It really was, “cliché city Arizona” at the Soho Hotel, but you can’t help but admire Holloway for his candour. On a day when one manager “kissed and told” everything from his time in charge of the country’s top club, and in doing so, probably severed all ties with some of the most talented players to have graced the Premier League, another fell on his sword, admitted failure and decided to move on.
Holloway has acted hastily, and according to the media, Parish tried to talk him out of it. Rightly so, because whoever is in charge at Selhurst Park is always going to struggle to keep a Championship club in the Premier.
When Holloway took over at Palace, it was with a clear mandate – to get the club into the Premier. He’s the archetype top quartile Championship manager with a track record of extracting a lot out of a little. Anyone who can get Blackpool into the top flight deserves some respect. And he’s taken three teams into the Premier – QPR and Palace are the others. And he’s also great copy for journalists.
Can Palace survive? They certainly don’t look equipped to last long in the Premier, as their first eight results show. Staying up is no mean feat for newly-promoted clubs, although in recent seasons, the “automatic drop” has diminished a little. The average lifespan in the past nine years is closer to three seasons than it is two, but if you take out of the equation relatively long-standing Premier members Wigan (8 seasons until 2013), Sunderland (in their seventh) and Stoke (in their sixth), the average since 2004-05 goes well below two.
Palace have not made life easy for themselves. Selling Wilfried Zaha, who may not yet have a future at a place like Manchester United, severely handicapped them, and any team that goes up via the play-offs does need strengthening to have a fighting chance. That doesn’t appear to have happened, despite the influx of 16 players in the summer.
Eight games gone means there are still 30 to go, so it is a little early to talk of epitaphs. Palace will have to fight to retain their Premier status for 2014-15 and you would have thought that Holloway would relish the challenge. It would seem that Parish and his colleagues are opting for more of the same – Tony Pulis is another journeyman manager, but he is one that will adopt the sort of methods that threatened to send the Potteries to sleep. That said, he could be just the man, given his uncompromising style and penchant for players with height and weight. In other words, he will fancy a scrap and he will shop at “High and Mighty” to make sure he has a chance of winning.
As for Holloway, his press conference was somewhat surreal. “The club is in a fantastic position,” he said, then added, “there ain’t much that needs changing”. At the same time, he said, “we tried to change too quickly”, which implies the club may not have expected to gain promotion. The last time I looked, August follows May every year, so it should have come as no surprise in 2013.
Very strange comments for a man exiting stage left. Nevertheless, he’s a good egg, is Holloway, and that’s no play on his lack of hair. He will be back, trying to take another unfashionable club forward.