Alex Keble says that despite poor management at board level, Crystal Palace have appointed the right man for the job in Roy Hodgson.
"It’s a terrible start but we have to stick together."
Even by the Premier League’s remarkably low standards, Steve Parish’s tweet, sent less than 24 hours before sacking Frank de Boer, feels almost surreal in light of subsequent events. But then again it rather neatly epitomises Crystal Palace’s scattergun approach to management over the past few months as the club went on an extraordinary 77-day journey from bravery to cowardice, from recklessly indulgent revolution to panic-stricken retreat.
Handing a notoriously idealistic manager a Sam Allardyce squad and failing to invest any money over the summer was always inviting disaster, and firing De Boer so swiftly only further highlights that blame does not, and cannot, lie with the Dutchman.
Football is a fickle industry and at times, amid the bumbling chaos of hiring and firing, success seems almost randomly allocated to its recipients. Astuteness, or lack of it, at boardroom level is certainly no barrier to good fortune, as Parish is about to find out with his hasty appointment of former England manager Roy Hodgson.
The 70-year-old hasn’t worked a day since England’s 2-1 defeat to Iceland at Euro 2016 but Parish - desperate for some stability as he retreats to the lukewarm comfort of a "safe pair of hands" - has given him another chance in the Premier League.
It is a superb appointment. Leaving aside a toxic sixth months at Anfield and that single shock defeat in France, Hodgson has invariably shown himself to be an intelligent and thoughtful tactician in English football, significantly improving the stature of Fulham and West Brom over the past decade. Stylish, attacking football, excellent performances both domestically and in Europe, and the cultured aesthetic he brought to both clubs is precisely the modernisation Parish had been looking for in De Boer.
Unlike his predecessor, Hodgson will adapt and compromise whenever necessary, quietly growing Palace’s stature while managing expectations and dealing more elegantly with those confused demands for evolution which come from above. He is the rational mind and astute tactician Crystal Palace need to undertake a transition that requires dampened expectations at boardroom level - something Hodgson has experience of doing.
Though understandably forgotten by most, as England manager Hodgson smoothed the sharp edges of the English press and cultivated a mentality that aligned national expectations with his squad’s mediocre talents. It is thanks to Hodgson that England could move from Fabio Capello - an absurd, self-aggrandising appointment - to Sam Allardyce and then Gareth Southgate in just one move.
Parish and his sporting director Dougie Freedman could do with some of this managerial expertise, not to impart on their players but on themselves. It is a damning indictment of their footballing knowledge that they reportedly became unconvinced by De Boer’s ability to turn things around after a meeting on August 28, just 63 days after hiring the 47-year-old following the "many conversations" that whittled down a 37-man shortlist to one. The sheer size of that list reveals their cluelessness, but the dramatic swing in their opinion of the Dutchman is what's truly alarming.
Hodgson should hit the ground running, too, not least because Palace have a talented squad, albeit one in which speed and brawn has taken precedence over brain. Signing more calculating footballers to harness control of central midfield will top Hodgson’s wish-list in January, but until then he will happily reinstate the Allardyce model until results improve.
Christian Benteke will become a crucial pivot again, as will Yohan Cabaye, so skilled at picking up the second balls that drop around the Belgian. Luka Milivojevic is an intelligent, battling midfielder whose good form should continue under Hodgson’s tutelage, but the most interesting beneficiary of Hodgson’s arrival could be Ruben Loftus-Cheek, a highly gifted young midfielder who needs to be nurtured delicately.
Since Christmas 2015, Crystal Palace have won fewer points (54 from 63 games) than all but one of the Football League’s 92 clubs, reflecting the confusion that continues to engulf the club as Parish yo-yos frivolously between styles; there is no long-term vision at Selhurst Park, just expansive corporate jargon and then recoil.
But it is precisely for this reason that Hodgson will thrive, carving out his own narrative and carefully raising the standards in south London. De Boer didn’t deserve the sack, but Hodgson is undoubtedly an upgrade; he’ll educate the players and, hopefully, the men who hired him.
Follow Alex on Twitter @alexkeble, and visit sportinglife.com for more of his analysis