Palace Out-Palace Themselves As Allardyce Throws A Big Sam Shaped Spanner In The Summer Works
By Palace’s standards, it was a fairly mundane end to the season.
A 4-0 victory over Hull finally extinguished any lasting embers of relegation fear, despite the fact that the Eagles hadn’t occupied one of the bottom three places since mid-February.
The submissive final day defeat to Manchester United’s teenagers paled into insignificance given that the notion of a mid-table finish would have been scoffed at back at the turn of the year.
Instead, we were left to innocently amble into the summer, safe in the mind that Premier League football would return to Selhurst Park next season, and excited to see what additions Sam Allardyce could add to the squad before August.
Despite lowering its curtain, even the most emotionally exhausting of seasons couldn’t resist one last encore, rearing its ugly head once more to spit out the most irreversible of plot twists.
“BREAKING: Sam Allardyce tells Crystal Palace he’s quitting after helping the Eagles avoid relegation,” read the headline on the Daily Mail’s Twitter feed.
On a day that football had truly been put into perspective by the horrific events in Manchester, this was an unexpected newsflash that Palace fans didn’t need to be reading. Allardyce’s appointment always felt like its expiry date was set for sooner rather than later, but certainly not this soon.
The initial reaction was one of disbelief. Surely the man who had been talking about the therapeutic process of his time at Palace wasn’t packing it in after only five months. Surely he wasn’t jumping ship just days after talking about new contracts, summer signings, and the opportunity to build the club. And surely he wasn’t pulling a Tony Pulis and fraudulently making off with his newly acquired Premier League survival bonus.
Disbelief quickly morphed into speculation and blame. Perhaps Steve Parish hadn’t gone all out to offer Big Sam the assurances he desired. Perhaps, like Pulis before him, Allardyce wasn’t satisfied with the club’s transfer policy, and was launching his toys after missing out on Jermaine Defoe. Or perhaps Allardyce had tricked us all into thinking he cared, and was heading north to be the hero that Sunderland deserve.
But ultimately, the reason for Allardyce’s departure appears equally as anti-climatic as Palace’s end to the season. In a statement released on Tuesday evening, Big Sam announced that he was taking a break from the chaotic realm of a Premier League football manager to savour life and spend more time with his family.
“Oh,” we all thought, somewhat underwhelmed that the scandalous story we’d anticipated (and quietly craved) hadn’t come to fruition. No fallout, no disagreements, and not all Parish’s fault like it hadn’t been with Pulis? Surely not.
It’s only natural in a situation like this to seek someone to blame, but after his turbulent year, it was difficult to get angry with the 62-year-old for wanting to step out of the public eye and, for now, the lasting sentiment is one of goodwill towards Big Sam.
Clouds of doubt will naturally continue to gather over Allardyce’s motives in accordance with his well-documented history, and whether the former England manager’s statement turns out to be true may become clearer over the next few weeks. But what is immediately apparent is the rather substantial Big Sam shaped hole that now needs filling.
Today’s events were anything but envisaged, and the club will likely be starting its manager hunt from scratch. However, it is now more crucial than ever that Parish and co don’t rush to appoint the closest member of the managerial merry-go-round.
Having gone through four managers in four seasons, longevity must now be the priority. For the first time in this Premier League era, the owners have time on their side. With one of the best ever Palace squads and over a month until the transfer window opens, Parish must take that time to find the right man to sail the ship that Allardyce has steadied.
Much has been made of the reluctance to sing Sam Allardyce’s name at the back end of the season, and the abruptness of his departure might explain why fans didn’t allow themselves to get too attached.
But the one constant of that habitual chant is the ‘Red and Blue Army’, and while managers come and go, that band will forever belong to South London, at least until the next custodian walks through the door and tries to demonstrate otherwise.
Regardless, summer just got a lot more interesting.