A big shout goes out to Paul hart

by James Daly

Tuesday, May 4th, 2010

It was the job no-one wanted. Not even Steve Coppell wanted to come back to Crystal Palace to try and steer them away from relegation to League One. The club was in a mess; 10 points deducted plummeting the side from play-off contenders to relegation battlers, star man Victor Moses gone, no takeover bids, and a side shattered by the administration news and short on confidence. Anyone taking on the job would be mad, surely?

Well, maybe Paul Hart is mad, but he managed to complete the job all Palace fans were hoping he could. It was only a short-term deal until the end of the season, but like Alan Ladd’s Shane he has ridden into town, saved the day, and rides off into the sunset, cementing himself into Palace’s history as an instant legend.

Championed as a coach who excels working with youth team Hart has been at his most successful working on a shoestring budget at Nottingham Forest. His budget at Palace was more ‘no strings attached’ losing most of his squad to injuries and suspensions over his two months in charge.

And he often found himself coming under criticism from Palace fans for negative tactics as the team slid towards the relegation zone.

But when it counted, he got results. The draw at Wednesday secured the Championship status for another year, and possibly the club’s future. The 3-1 win at Watford was a massive as was the excellent home win over Preston. Each time Hart got the tactics spot on.

And yesterday he combatted everything Wednesday threw at Palace expertly. Going 4-4-2 was spot on, bringing on Alassande N’Diaye was a magic move, the big Frenchman was immense and helped break up Wednesday attacks as well as forging forward with Alan Lee.

And in Hart’s management team he has two aces – John Pemberton, who got great results as caretaker at Forest, and fans’ favourite Dougie Freedman, who – while still earning his coaching badges – gave the Palace fans a face on the touchline they wanted to see, and clearly a man who cared as much about Palace’s status as they did.

So, farewell Paul hart – it’s clear you probably won’t be here next season, and you were only ever going to be that guy who was here when everything was screwed, but you did it. You kept us up and for that you will always be revered here. Thank you.

Read James’ brilliant blog

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