Instability reigns as Pulis leaves Palace
I made a mistake this summer. No, not the new haircut. No, not those small red shorts I bought for a fiver. No, this summer I let myself be carried away by the uber-positive mood at Crystal Palace and let myself believe -- believe that things were about to change.
How wrong I was.
Ever since I went to my first Palace game as a 7-year-old who knew literally nothing about what was happening, as Marco Gabbiadini scored one of the rare goals in his short Eagles stint against Notts County on New Year's Day 1992, Palace have always been a crisis club.
They almost enjoy the drama like script writers on "Coronation Street" and aren't happy unless they are stumbling from one crisis to another.
In the relatively short time I've been a Palace fan, the club has been relegated from the top flight four times and gone into administration twice. I don't really know life if something bad isn't happening.
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But this summer it all looked like things were different. Things might finally be as close to a normal football club as possible.
Under Tony Pulis the club had finished 11th in the league, were not losing money and looked to be adding strength to the squad in the transfer market. But things aren't always as rosy as they seem, I guess, and behind the scenes there were massive clashes between Pulis and co-chairman Steve Parish. Ultimately, the club and boss split by mutual consent, according to ESPN FC sources.
Essentially this becomes a bit like "Westside Story": You're either Team Parish or Team Pulis, and right now nearly all Palace fans appear to be the latter. There is little sympathy for Parish, who, from the outside looking in, looks like the baddie in this.
What the real issue is we might never know. Pulis spent big at Stoke and clearly wanted to do the same in South London, going after Gylfi Sigurdsson and Steven Caulker, both of whom would have broken the club's transfer record had they signed. Parish has always been keen to run the club on a tight budget. The two clashed over this and it seems neither was prepared to back down.
Can you really blame either of them, either? Pulis had big ambitions to build on last season's success and had transfer targets. Parish is the man who pays the bills -- along with the three other club owners -- and perhaps isn't so keen to see the manager repeat his spending at Stoke, which saw only Manchester City and Chelsea outspend him during his tenure there.
The problem is the timing. Two days before the start of the season is awful and throws everything into doubt, just when all preparations were looking good. Preseason had been fairly routine, the new signings were blending in. Palace fans had even dared to dream that a result at the Emirates could be possible with German trio Per Mertesacker, Mesut Ozil and Lukas Podolski missing. Now, it seems anything other than a pasting will do.
Enter Keith Millen. The man who steadied the ship when Ian Holloway left Palace last November is now back in the hot set, for his second stint as caretaker manager. His first game last year? Arsenal.
That day Palace lost 2-0 at home but drew plaudits from fans and pundits for looking very organised, hard to beat and confident -- attributes that Pulis picked up and continued for the rest of the season when he came in three games later.
Could Millen again be the saviour? Preseason predictions from Eagles fans had been aiming for another mid-table finish, but with Pulis gone, now survival at any cost will do. Millen helped do that last season, and it would be almost romantic if he did the same this time around.
I'd be the first in line to shake his hand -- I'd give him a hug -- if that was the case.
Palace fans can only hope it is.