When Sam Allardyce was appointed Crystal Palace manager on December 23 2016, The Eagles were a lowly 17th in the Premier League, amidst a relegation dog-fight. Fast forward 64 days and Palace have moved out of the bottom three for only the second time in 2017 with back to back victories over fellow strugglers Middlesborough and West Brom. As the season draws to a close, only three points stand between Crystal Palace and the drop zone, and with a tough run in of fixtures, The Eagles face a tricky battle to stay in England’s top flight.
However, the 2016/17 season hasn’t been plain sailing for the South London side. Under former boss Alan Pardew, Palace had the worst points-per-game ratio for any team in the entire football leagues! From the Premiership all the way down to the Sky Bet League 2, Palace averaged 0.71 points per game. With £93 million spent on players by Crystal Palace in 2016/17 season, it is understandable that fans are disgruntled with their league position. Big money signings such as Christian Benteke from Liverpool and Andros Townsend from Newcastle have failed to live up to their transfer price tags and the Crystal Palace hierarchy decided action was needed, and Alan Pardew was axed in December 2016. The appointment of Sam Allardyce was an intriguing one, especially after his controversial departure from the England head coach role following corruption claims.
With Allardyce’s side going 12 games without a win, the decision to remove fan favourite, Alan Pardew, seemed a bad call for the Crystal Palace board, a verdict that didn’t sit well with Palace fans. Season ticket holder and fan of 20 years, Mickey Grafton, spoke to ELL about the decision to remove Pardew and the current climate at the club:
“I want us to stay up but I wouldn’t have sacked Pardew as I don’t think big Sam was the right replacement given his sacking from England for corruption. It brings our club into disrepute, we shouldn’t be employing him as morals are more important than success.”
However, the financial benefits of the Premier League are paramount with League payments, TV coverage and sponsorships averages at £108.1 million profit for sides towards the bottom of the table. Fans will be able to draw positives from Palace’s most recent fixtures, which have seen them move three points clear of Middlesborough, but the Eagles have to travel to league leaders Chelsea, Manchester United, Manchester City and Liverpool before hosting Arsenal. With these tricky fixtures, Palace will need to ensure maximum points are taken from grudge matches against fellow strugglers Hull City and Leicester City. Sky Sports News pundit Tony Cottee spoke about Palace’s chances of beating the drop:
“Obviously they’ve had problems defensively but that’s what Sam Allardyce is good at. You can’t always just walk into a club, wave a magic wand and make everything better. Sometimes it takes time and that’s what he’s doing. But they’re not out of danger yet.”
Crystal Palace haven’t conceded a goal for 203 minutes of competitive football.
After the last 12 months, that’s a beautiful statistic.
— HLTCO (@HLTCO) March 6, 2017
Sky Bet have placed the odds of Crystal Palace being relegated at 2/1, whilst former Liverpool defender Phil Thompson fears for the Eagles’ chances of survival: “They’re so poor at both ends of the pitch and they’re not that good in the middle so I certainly worry for them.”
Palace boss Allardyce believes the victory against mid table side West Brom was more important than the previous victory over League strugglers Middlesborough:
“This is a much bigger win than last weekend against Middlesbrough because to put back-to-back wins together here against West Brom at the Hawthorns is a big statement.
It gives the players the confidence to push on and get out of the position we’re in. It was a quality performance and we deserved the three points.
In terms of catching up on games and points, back-to-back wins make such a big difference. We’re working in that bottom-seven league and trying to win that.”
Crystal Palace’s next fixture in the Premier League sees London rivals Watford travel to Palace’s Selhurst Park, on March 18.