Tag Archives: blackpool

Holloway Departure Leaves Bleak Future at Crystal Palace

Ian HollowayIf fans have learned anything from recent seasons in the English football league, very little about the game is predictable or straightforward. More than anything, how a season climaxes and how some of the clubs’ most important matters are decided are often unforeseen. Manchester City’s epic title snatch in the 2011/12 season will still be fresh in the minds of many supporters, while West Brom’s great escape from relegation in 2004/05 shows it is not just at the top of the table where miracles can occur.

However, it is becoming increasingly difficult to see any positive outcome at Selhurst Park this season. Before the Premier League season even began, many had tipped Crystal Palace for an immediate return to the Championship following their play-off success in May. With eleven games already gone this season and just four points under their belt, those predictions are looking wholly justified.

The Eagles currently sit rock bottom of the Premier League table and are already six points from safety, and though it would be harsh to assume their fate is already sealed, their hopes were dealt a blow following Ian Holloway’s departure last month. Holloway left the club after less than a year in charge and with just eight games of the season gone. However, seven of those games ended in defeats, the last of which was a crushing 4-1 home loss to fellow strugglers Fulham. But Holloway’s exit still surprised many fans, especially with so much of the campaign still left to play.

After all, it was not long ago that Holloway found himself in a similar position in the top flight as manager of Blackpool. After their play-off victory in May 2010, the Seasiders, like Palace, were tipped by many for an immediate return to the Championship. Despite some impressive results, including wins over Tottenham and Liverpool, those predictions came true as Holloway’s men lasted just one season in the Premier League.

But although it was a difficult season at times - including a five-game losing streak and a run of nine league games without a victory - Holloway never threw in the towel and fought until the very last day of the season to preserve Blackpool’s Premier League status. They were even applauded by some for their attacking style of play, even though this proved to be their downfall at times during the season.

Even after Blackpool were relegated, Holloway did not abandon hope or lose his appetite for the job. The Lancashire side enjoyed another successful season under his guidance in 2011/12 and reached the Championship play-off final for the second time in three years. Unfortunately, there was no repeat of their accomplishment from two years before, as they were narrowly defeated 2-1 by Sam Allardyce’s impressive West Ham side.

Crystal PalaceHolloway’s departure does not point to an optimistic future for Palace, and as his record shows, he has never been one to shy away from a challenge or back down when the odds are stacked against him. Nor was Palace’s activity in the summer transfer window, where they bought in 16 new faces.

However, it does seem that the club’s transfer activity has been a major factor in Holloway’s departure and the club’s struggles. The departure of Wilfred Zaha to Manchester United was always going to be a huge loss, particularly after guiding Palace through last season’s play-offs almost single-handedly. The manner in which players were bought into the club has also been questioned. Holloway has himself admitted they probably did not think through some of their purchases as much as they should have done.

The £6 million deal to bring striker Dwight Gayle to Selhurst Park in particular was a huge risk. As promising a player as Gayle is and though he has not necessarily looked out of his depth in the top flight, it was investing an enormous amount of money and responsibility in a player who was playing for non-league Bishop’s Stortford just over a year ago.

Holloway and Palace have not been without their share of bad luck either. The loss of striker Glenn Murray, who looks set to miss a majority of the campaign after sustaining a serious injury during the play-off victory at Brighton in May, also severely dented their Premier League prospects. Murray was the Football League’s second top scorer last season, and his contribution to the team had at times not been fully appreciated.

So what was always going to be a tough season for the South London side just seems to get tougher by the minute. Though a repeat of Derby’s miserable points tally in 2007/08 seems unthinkable, it looks as though it will take a miracle perhaps greater than West Brom’s in 2005 to keep Palace afloat this season. As a cult figure with supporters, fans will undoubtedly miss Holloway’s memorable presence in the Premier League though he has graciously admitted he feels his departure was in the best interests of the club. Palace fans, more than anyone, will be hoping he is proved right.

Written by Andrew Crawley

Outspoken Ian Holloway Needs to Keep His Eyes on the Prize

Ian HollowayIt’s just under a month into the Premier League season and we have already witnessed developments that could shape the rest of the season. In particular, the performances of last season’s promoted teams - Cardiff City, Hull City, and Crystal Palace - have evoked the feeling that this year’s relegation battle may not be as straightforward as many originally predicted.

Hull pushed high spending Manchester City all the way on Saturday despite many forecasting a comfortable home win. Malky Mackay’s Cardiff went one better than the Tigers and ended up defeating Manuel Pellegrini’s side in their first home game in the Premier League. Even Crystal Palace, who seemed to be the weakest of the promoted trio, have given supporters hope with a win over Sunderland following narrow defeats to Tottenham and Stoke.

But while the Eagles’ activity in the transfer market will be vital in adding to their thin looking squad, the approach of their unconventional coach Ian Holloway will be vital to their survival hopes this season. As memorable and adored as his eccentric and outspoken attitude to the game is, Palace need his attention to be fully devoted to matters on the pitch this season.

During his last stint as a Premiership manager with Blackpool in the 2010/11 season, Holloway’s year was dominated by off-field matters concerning his behavior such as comments on the touchline and in post-match interviews, a common occurrence in Holloway’s recent career. The most intense development came when Blackpool were fined after being judged to have purposely fielded a weakened team during a Premier League fixture against Aston Villa. This led to a lengthy dispute between Holloway and the FA over the decision, which almost resulted in Holloway resigning his post as manager in frustration.

He has already been charged by the FA this season and handed a two match touchline ban following his comments after Palace’s opening day defeat to Tottenham. Holloway criticised referee Mark Clattenburg, who awarded Spurs their penalty winner, and questioned the way he is treated by officials. It is off the field dramas such as these that Holloway and his side need to avoid during their Premier League campaign.

Ian HollowayIt looks set to be a long and difficult season for Crystal Palace in their first Premier League season for nine years. Last season’s play-off success was a brilliant triumph for the South London outfit, as they overcame a solid Brighton side and Gianfranco Zola’s free scoring Watford in the final, who seemed to be favorites for promotion. However, Palace’s achievement relied heavily on Wilfred Zaha, who has now left the club for Manchester United. Zaha scored a crucial brace in the semi-final against Brighton and was named man of the match at Wembley in their extra time win against Watford.

Their leading talisman, Glenn Murray, who scored 30 league goals and was the second top scorer in England last season, also looks set to miss a majority of this season after suffering knee ligament damage during the first leg of the semifinal clash. So before they had even kicked off this year’s campaign, they had lost two of their most influential players from last season. They will prove hard to replace, even though Holloway has kept busy in the transfer window, recruiting the likes of Dwight Gayle, Cameron Jerome, and Marouane Chamakh.

And this is exactly why Holloway’s concentration needs to be fully devoted to team affairs this season. Matters have already been made more demanding with injuries, a flurry of new transfers coming into the club and by many predicting Crystal Palace to be strong candidates for relegation. More clashes with the FA and other external figures will only add to the difficult task Holloway faces this season and create uncertainty within the club, as it did two years ago at Bloomfield Road. While Holloway will always be an entertainer to a vast majority of football fans, it will be as an accomplished Premiership manager the Crystal Palace faithful will be hoping he is commended come the end of the season.

Written by Andrew Crawley

Review of the Football League Championship So Far: Part 1

Barnsley

jason-scotland_1670440aThe Tykes have probably become one of the more overlooked teams of the Championship since their promotion in 2006. But the South Yorkshire side deserve enormous credit for managing to preserve their status in England’s second tier, despite having to deal with the pressure of a relegation battle almost every season since promotion. They have faced similar difficulties this season but have gone a superb run since current boss David Flitcroft took over from the sacked Keith Hill in December, winning four of their last six games. They have also gone on an impressive FA Cup run, reaching the quarter-finals. Flitcroft faces a tough task to prove this is more than just a honeymoon period though, and must continue this dominant form if Barnsley’s inspiring stay in the Championship is to continue.

Birmingham City

It’s been a bitterly disappointing season so far for Lee Clark’s side. There were high hopes for the Blues following last season’s fourth place finish and the appointment of Clark, who had gained a notable reputation while at Huddersfield Town. But they have languished towards the bottom of the table throughout the season and have struggled for any form of consistency, with September’s 5-0 home defeat at the hands of Barnsley a particular low point. The presence of the likes of England hopeful Jack Butland and top goalscorer Marlon King in their ranks should be enough to steer them clear of relegation, but in an increasingly tight league, it is up to the players to start delivering the performances that this under-performing team is capable of.

Blackburn Rovers

Blackburn RoversA lack of stability has cost Rovers what looked like was going to be an imposing season. There was an air of inevitability surrounding Steve Kean’s resignation as manager in September after failing to win over the Blackburn faithful, despite leading them to the top of the table prior to his departure. The unrest among fans that dominated Kean’s time at the club seems to have made the club’s owners more impatient when it comes to bringing success to the club, as Kean’s replacement, Hanning Berg, was sacked after just 10 games in charge following a disappointing start to his tenure. The board mist give current time to boss Michael Appleton, who has had a promising start which included a superb 1-0 FA Cup win at Arsenal, to deliver some much needed consistency to get their promotion charge back on track.

Blackpool

Last season’s play-off finalists have been rocked by two shocking managerial departures which has overshadowed some very promising early season form. Ian Holloway left for league rivals Crystal Palace in November after three years at Bloomfield Road, and his replacement Michael Appleton lasted just two months in the job before leaving to join Blackburn. The Seasiders have took a gamble on new manager Paul Ince, whose last job in management saw him last just five months in charge at League One side Notts County. The former England midfielder is reunited with son Thomas, who the Lancashire side have come to heavily rely on throughout the season. Promotion looks just out of touch this time around but a strong end to the season is vital to show they are still a force to be dealt with.

Bolton Wanderers

Bolton WanderersThe Trotters have struggled to adapt to life outside the Premier League in their first season not in the top flight for 11 years. A poor start to the season saw Owen Coyle sacked in October, leaving them struggling in 18th place. Dougie Freedman was recruited as his replacement after an impressive spell as manager at fellow Championship side Crystal Palace. The Scot had a sluggish start to his time at the Reebok as they struggled to string a decent run of results together. However, there are signs that Freedman is starting to work his magic, with Bolton winning their last three games and having lost just one of their last eight. With the likes of Cardiff, Middlesbrough, and Brighton still to come this season, promotion may be too much to ask, but if their current form can be maintained it could still leave the likes of Brighton looking over their shoulders.

Brighton & Hove Albion

The Seagulls have continued to flourish under the management of Gus Poyet. The former Chelsea midfielder has worked wonders at the south coast club since taking over in November 2009, and they have continued to impress this season. The club have been spurred on by huge attendances at the new Amex Stadium, which they moved into last season following their promotion from League One, and the team has responded magnificently. They have been beaten just once this calendar year, and have shown they are more than capable of beating the bigger teams by recording wins over fellow promotion hopefuls Cardiff and Hull last month. Although Poyet’s men do need to aim to convert more draws into wins at home to solidify their place in the play-offs, on current form, it looks as though they might take some stopping. They are certainly one of the dark horses going into the last few, vital games of the season.

Written by Andrew Crawley