Top of the Championship, a new manager on board and a prospective England international striker up front. It’s been a topsy turvy few weeks at Crystal Palace but are they in a stronger position now than before Dougie Freedman departed for the Reebok Stadium?
Freedman’s decision to leave the club was one which has left many Palace fans confused. He was a legend at the club, twice playing major roles in keeping them in England’s second tier – not only scoring a last minute winner as a player away at Stockport in 2001 but as part of Paul Hart’s management team in 2010.
He’d come back to a club he loves in a time of adversity and was a key part of the club’s switch to focussing of youth development as part of a battle to keep financial exports down but keeping quality within the club – poster boy Wilfried Zaha being one of many to come through the Palace system.
So to leave a club he’s put so much effort into to move to a club at the time 12 places lower in the division and also, as announced this week, £136.5m in debt when Palace were in by far their strongest position since he’d been back at the club seems a somewhat strange decision.
But what are The Eagles’ prospects now that the media’s favourite manager – Ian Holloway – calls the shots?
The former Blackpool boss will be recognised most for his on-field achievements as Tangerines boss, taking the club to the Premier League when they were one of the favourites to go down, but he’s also enjoyed success bringing QPR back to the Championship in 2004 and leading Bristol Rovers to the then Division Two (now League One) play-offs in 1998 – nevertheless you can’t fail to mention he took Leicester in the opposite direction – from Championship to League One – in 2008.
It will be his success at Blackpool – not only taking them to the Premiership but by rebuilding them to a competitive side after their relegation back to the Championship – that Palace fans and board alike will be hoping Holloway brings to the club.
Upon joining the Selhurst Park outfit Holloway spoke of his admiration for the clubs youth policy and of his good fortune that he takes over a football club in a strong position. He admitted that the foundations are in place for promotion and now it’s his job to keep that ball rolling.
It will be much more Holloway’s job to keep the players focus on moving in the right direction, rather than having to assemble a squad, because the team has proved so far this season that they have the capabilities to launch a serious title challenge.
And what of the current talk of the nation – Wilfried Zaha? As things stand rumours of interest from top clubs, and the clubs apparent refusal to sell him – even for a £20m bid – are flooding the sporting gossip pages. The lad seemingly has a bit of faith in his own ability as well.
At the tender age of 20 his best bet is surely just to keep his head down, keep playing regular football at a club who have been successful this season, and if – or should I say when? – an offer does materialise he can mix it up with the big boys.
It’s hard to tell whether Crystal Palace are in a stronger position now than they were two weeks ago. You can never quite tell how smoothly a managerial transition will prove but results so far suggest it’s not been too bad.
As far as the Palace long-term future is concerned, if the much talked about Zaha is an indication of how successful the club’s youth policy will be then suggestions are they’re on to a winner.
Now it’s up to Holloway to finish what Freedman started this season and take Crystal Palace back into the Premier League.