Crystal Palace are still searching for their Prince Charming and this next managerial appointment is crucial


Marco Silva. Garry Monk. Sean Dyche. Roy Hodgson. Frank de Boer. Slavisa Jokanovic. Claudio Ranieri. Chris Coleman. It’s becoming easier to list the coaches who haven’t been linked with a move to Crystal Palace. The above list merely contains those who have been made the favourite.

Last week, Sky Sports erroneously reported that former Manchester City manager Manuel Pellegrini was in talks over the job, when the actual identity of the interviewee was former Liverpool defender Mauricio Pellegrino.  It was a schoolboy mistake, but the understated reaction to the false claim was instructive. Supporters have heard so many different names, so what is another one thrown in? Palace were simply working through their European Football Directory: Pellegrini… Pellegrino… Petkovic… Petrosyan. 

Football clubs are rightly criticised for a lack of effective succession planning, but Crystal Palace could not have reasonably predicted the departure of Sam Allardyce. One day we were informed that Allardyce was attending a meeting with chairman Steve Parish over the club’s potential summer transfer targets, and the next he had packed up his desk and trusty white printer and walked off into the sunset. Allardyce spoke emotively and at length about his desire to give his body and mind a rest and enjoy retirement to the full; you can hardly criticise his move.

Allardyce’s exit therefore presented Palace with an unexpected problem, which so often prove to be the trickiest to solve. This early summer has been unusual in that a number of broadly similarly sized or placed clubs were all looking for a new manager: Palace, Watford, Sunderland, Middlesbrough, Leeds United, Hull City.

As anyone who has left the purchase of presents until Christmas Eve can testify, a crowded marketplace rarely makes for happy shoppers. Marco Silva chose Watford (a significant blow to Palace), Garry Monk went to Middlesbrough, Leeds and Hull went leftfield to Denmark and Russia respectively, while Sunderland have been unable to hang significant paper over the cracks in the interview room to persuade any coach to join.

Palace’s hunt is complicated by the fact that Parish is being understandably choosy over his next appointment. Having had his fingers burnt by Allardyce’s advancing years and drastic decision, the chairman has made public his desire to appoint a long-term manager of the Palace project rather than a firefighter in the Allardyce mould. At 65, age was a reportedly significant factor in Claudio Ranieri being overlooked.

"We really want somebody who feels they can come in and help us improve the footballing side of the club over a long period of time," Parish said in an interview with American radio station SiriusXM. "That is what we are looking for. In the past we have had managers like Steve Coppell who have been at the club a long time and helped build the club. If we could get one of those relationships again that would be preferable."

You can understand Parish’s intention to bring stability into the Selhurst Park dugout, for it has long been a rare commodity. The chairman mentioned Coppell, but his longest tenure ended close to 25 years ago. The last manager to spend an entire calendar year in charge of Palace was Neil Warnock between 2007 and 2010. Since then, Paul Hart, George Burley, Dougie Freedman, Ian Holloway, Tony Pulis, Warnock (again), Alan Pardew and Allardyce have failed in that task.

The most striking statistic is this: Two of Crystal Palace’s last 21 permanent managers have reached 100 matches in charge before either being sacked or resigning. Even in the context of modern football, with all of its associated impatience, Selhurst Park is the apotheosis of managerial short-termism.

This stark lack of stability is less surprising when you consider Palace’s recent history. Before promotion in 2013, they had spent eight consecutive seasons in the Championship, and in the four years prior had finished 17th, 20th, 21st and 15th. Their promotion, achieved through Glenn Murray’s goals and Ian Holloway’s ability to manufacture a strong squad morale, was not expected.

Since then, Palace’s effort in surpassing the 40-point mark in each Premier League season is an underrated achievement, given that before 2013/14 they had never avoided relegation from the top flight in the Premier League era. Their seat at the top table is not quite permanently reserved, but they are certainly recognised by the waiters and maitre d’.

Given the rise in broadcasting revenues over the last three years, Palace are a club who achieved promotion at the perfect moment financially, and are thus understandably scared of relegation back from whence they came. Everything is geared towards staying up, entire seasons spent looking over their shoulders and panicking at signs of trouble. Increased broadcasting revenues mean increased disposable income, facilitating the sacking (and paying off) of managers, hiring of their replacements and allowing each new coach to recruit his own players.

Yet while this perma-cycle of short-termism is understandable, it threatens to erode an identity that is incredibly important to a community, family club like Crystal Palace. Christian Benteke, James Tomkins and Andros Townsend signed last summer and are waiting on their third permanent manager. Patrick van Aanholt, Jeffrey Schlupp and Luka Milivojevic signed in January for Allardyce and now face the uncertainty of wondering whether they fit into a new manager's plans. Joel Ward, signed in May 2012, is the club’s third longest-serving player and has played under six different permanent and three different caretaker managers.

You only have to look at the affection for the returning Wilfried Zaha - and his subsequent form - to understand how important a successful long-term manager could be for Palace. After almost ten years spent looking nervously behind them, it is time to look forward with optimism. Now begins Crystal Palace’s new era.

Or at least that is the theory. As the summer days tick by, Palace are no closer to appointing Allardyce’s successor and Parish no closer to finding his one true thing, now competing with Southampton for an appointment. The chairman will be keen to avoid the PR own goal of settling for everyone else’s second bests and hand-me-downs.

A new manager needs time to target new signings, assess the squad, make tactical plans and potentially learn a new language, and the turnover of managers and players makes the Crystal Palace job a difficult assignment to pick up - Sam Allardyce said as much two months after taking over. Chairman Parish has stated the importance of getting the right man for the job, but he could also do with getting the right man quickly.