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Aug 27, 2014

Eagles turn back the clock in hiring Neil Warnock

Crystal Palace have named Neil Warnock as their new manager following the departure of Tony Pulis shortly before the start of the season.

Football is a bit like relationships: They say never go back. But in Palace's case, that rule doesn't seem to apply.

David Hopkin, Sean Derry, Clinton Morrison and Dougie Freedman are just a handful of players who have returned with mixed results. Steve Coppell came back as manager FOUR times. There's something about the club that some people just can't resist.

And now you can add Neil Warnock to that list. The manager has come back to Selhurst for his second stint in the dugout, four years after leaving the club. And while his appointment was a bit like going to a Ferrari showroom and driving away in a Nissan Micra, that's not the most disappointing thing.

The club didn't announce the news that Warnock had returned to SE25, penning a two-year deal -- it was the team's shirt sponsor, Neteller, who did. I can't recall another time when big news had been broken by a shirt sponsor's Twitter before the official club account, and it's a bit of a worrying precedent. What next?

The lineup being announced by the the cheerleaders or the manager finding out he's sacked by the half-time stadium announcer?

"... and now for today's birthday announcements, but before that, pack up your things Warnock, you've been fired."

The corporate side of football is slowly starting to seep into every part of the game like a slow water leak, and soon everything will be wet with "Official Partner" this and "Club Sponsor" that. It makes me feel uncomfortable, but maybe it's just the way things are. Manchester United have 30 official partners. That's almost as many players as in their first team squad.

Palace have said before they want to be taken more seriously as a Premier League club, so maybe the move to have more of a corporate identity is one of the ways they'll do it. I wouldn't mind having my own official sponsors. An Official Cup of Tea Partner would be lovely, joint with A Jim Daly Biscuit Sponsor. That would be amazing.

Warnock hasn't announced his partners in the dugout yet, but it's expected he will bring popular former Eagles midfielder Shaun Derry with him. Derry also came back to Palace for a second stint as a player and was well-liked at Selhurst. There's even a hint that he will be groomed for the manager's position under Warnock, which would actually be a big silver lining to this big, red and blue cloud.

Crystal Palace will hope fiery manager Neil Warnock can keep the Eagles in the top flight of England.

Where this leaves caretaker manager Keith Millen, I'm not sure.

He has valiantly stepped in to save the club twice in the last year but could well be out if Warnock isn't a fan. It would be sad to see him leave, and he did want the job full-time, but he clearly wasn't ready for it. Maybe he gets a job lower down the leagues and returns to Palace as manager in the future? That would be almost romantic.

Wilfried Zaha is also supposed to be re-signing for Palace this week, a move that would see yet another familiar face come back, but at least the signing of a very talented winger would soften the blow of being passed up by almost every managerial choice.

Former West Brom boss Steve Clarke was supposed to be getting the job before Warnock was appointed on Wednesday, and Tim Sherwood ruled himself out last week.

While Warnock's arrival is about as exciting as a four-hour Michael Owen commentary seminar, he will certainly galvanise the squad ... much like a certain Mr. Pulis did last season.

Palace have pretty much been written off by everyone already for this campaign, again like last season, but Pulis proved you can never predict anything. The Eagles always seem to do best as underdogs. Indeed, plenty of fans were underwhelmed by Pulis' arrival as manager in November 2013, but those fans were no doubt singing his praises come the end of the season when Palace finished 11th.

There really is nothing for Palace to lose now, and yet they have almost the whole season to sort things out and try to avoid relegation. It's not against rational thinking to assume they can do this.

But rationality isn't something Palace do well. Indeed, I wrote last week that this summer I foolishly let myself think things would resemble normality at the club this season -- and then everything fell apart.

The Eagles have 36 games left to build it all back up again. Warnock may not be the sexiest appointment, but he might just be the builder the club need. With a few more bricks in the transfer market and some team moral mortar, anything is possible. And that is brought to you by Jim's Official Building Partner.

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