Just 3 days before Christmas and Alan Pardew would have been busy preparing for an eventful festive period in the footballing calendar, a trip to Wales on Boxing Day faced Pardew as his Crystal Palace side are set to take on Swansea.
It seems however the fountain of Christmas cheer at Selhurst Park had run dry, the club hierarchy making the decision to terminate Pardew’s contract given a poor start to the season.
In most cases I’m a firm believer of giving managers time, all too often managers are sacked so early into their reign with unrealistic expectations as to what could be achieved in such a short space of time. In the case of Alan Pardew however, the board have been very patient, given him chances, given him money, but eventually had to make the decision before things get even worse. This will allow the club to go into 2017 with the ‘fresh start’ mentality.
But given his experience and previous success at the club, let’s not forget he guided them to the FA cup final just 7 months back, should the board have had faith he could’ve turned it around?
At the end of December 2014, Neil Warnock was sacked by Crystal Palace, with Pardew taking up the post a few days later on 3rd of Jan 2015, leaving his role as Newcastle United manager.
It was a fairy-tale appointment for Pardew whose managerial stock was high, managing a club he once played for. And things started well for Pardew with a 4-0 win in the FA cup 3rd round against conference side Dover just 2 days after taking over as manager. Pardew won his first league game in charge beating Tottenham 2-1 at home.
Pardew steadied the ship at the backend of the 2014/15 season guiding Palace to a respectable 10th place finish. Pardew was the first manager to take over a Premier League club in the relegation zone to finish in the top half of the table. Things were bright for Palace with Pardew now afforded a full summer for building his squad, as well as a full pre-season.
The 2015/16 also started well for Palace. After 17 games last season, the same point as we are now, Palace had amassed 29 points, winning 9 of the first 17 matches. Over this period they had scored 23 goals and conceded 16.
However, this is where the happy times of Pardew’s reign ends. As 2016 was sworn in by auld lang syne, something happened to Palace. They started 2016 in shocking form, losing their first 5 league games in 2016. In fact they didn’t get their first league win in 2016 until 9th April, beating Norwich 1-0, and only had 2 league wins in the whole of the 2nd part of the league season. It means they only picked up 11 points from 18 games an absolutely abhorrent display. Palace finished the season in 15th place, saved by their early season good form.
But one good news story from last season was that Pardew guided Crystal Palace to the FA cup final where they faced LVG’s Man United. Aside from the pre-match Super Bowl style show, it was a very good cup final, with the game taken into extra time only to be won by a stunning strike from Jesse Lingaard.
In the summer, Pardew had time to reflect, given what was an awful start to 2016. And things got worse for Palace as Yannick Bolasie left the club for a move to Everton. But credit to the board, they gave Alan Pardew money to spend, and spend he did; £50.66m to be precise.
Half of this spending was on Christian Benteke who cost the Eagles just over £26m, but they also added Andros Townsend and James Tomkins to the squad, the two other reasonably priced deals.
Palace now had the top striker they needed to improve going into the 2016/17 season. But things just continued to stagnate. With only 4 wins from the first 17 league games this season, Crystal Palace find themselves in 17th place in the Premier League , just 3 points off rock bottom.
Palace have only taken 15 points from 17 games, 14 less than at this stage last season. Strangely enough they have scored more with 28 goals, not surprising perhaps when you spend in excess of £30m on a star striker in the summer. However it is defensively where Palace have faltered conceding an eye watering 32 goals, more than double the goals conceded at this point last season.
It means that Crystal Palace have won only 6 league games in the whole of 2016. For a 2016 view of the Premier league, Crystal Palace are bottom of the pile and by some margin. Watford are the next lowest team, yet they have still gained 11 points more than Palace so far in 2016.
In fact Crystal Palace are the worse team in all of the top 4 tiers of English football averaging 0.72 points per game in 2016. Compare that to the previous season where Palace took an average of 1.68 points per game it just goes to show much they’ve nosedived in the last year.
And it is for this reason that the Crystal Palace board had to act. Some would say they could have and perhaps should have acted sooner. Pardew seems to be good at making an initial impact, but then plateaus, struggling to drive the team forward. And it’s not the first time that this trait has been seen in Pardew’s teams. In Pardew’s first full season in charge at Newcastle, he steered the Magpies to a very respectable 5th place finish. However by the end of the following season they finished in 16th, just one place above the drop.
Alan Pardew is not a poor manager by any stretch of the imagination, in fact he was many people’s choice to become England next manager, a job I still think he will get at some point. But there seems to be a lack of drive to retain a winning mentality in his sides, as if he gets bored once the initial thrill has worn off.
Whilst I’m sure it will sour his Christmas and New-Year somewhat, when he reflects on 2016, he can have no complaints that this decision was taken.
Palace are now on the hunt for a new manager, ironically the man many thought Pardew would replace as England boss, Sam Allardyce is being touted as the favourite for the job. Whilst that appointment doesn’t quite seem right given the backdrop in which he left his England post, you can’t deny his success at steering teams away from relegation in the past. And to be honest, when was top flight football ever a beacon of morality?
By Michael Thatcher