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John Brewin profile picture  By John Brewin

Frank de Boer the wrong man, at the wrong time, at the wrong club

Craig Burley explains why Crystal Palace made two mistakes with now-former manager Frank de Boer.

Two moments in the 1-0 defeat to Burnley at Turf Moor on Sunday seemingly condemned Crystal Palace manager Frank de Boer to the sack. But Lee Chung-yong's "no-look" back-pass, which set up Chris Wood's winner, and Scott Dann's inexplicable late miss were merely straws to break the camel's back. Four defeats in four games, with no goals scored -- the worst start to a top-flight season in 93 years -- spoke for itself.

Palace's executives acted decisively in removing De Boer on Monday, perhaps too quickly in the eyes of many, but the Dutchman's experiment in changing the club's culture needed to be discontinued. For its failure, appointing the wrong man at the wrong time at the wrong club, Palace owners Steve Parish, Joshua Harris and Daniel Blitzer deserve significant blame.

After Palace lost 3-0 to Huddersfield at Selhurst Park on the opening day, there were already questions about how long De Boer might last in South London. Preseason had not gone well, rumours had been rife of players being confused and ill-disposed to his approach. Against Huddersfield, they performed as if constricted by a 3-4-2-1 formation that appeared wholly alien to them.

In that game, and during subsequent scoreless defeats to Liverpool (1-0 away) and Swansea (2-0 at home), Palace veered from over-deliberate passing to aimless route-one football. The game against Burnley saw a slight improvement, with De Boer reverting to English football's more orthodox 4-2-3-1, but with matches against Southampton, Manchester United and Manchester City to come, Palace's board saw little chance of a turnaround.

Sources have told ESPN FC that Roy Hodgson is expected to make a return to his Croydon birthplace to manage a club for the first time since quitting West Brom in 2012 to manage England, but the career of his fellow former Inter Milan manager is in ruins.

De Boer, who Liverpool wanted to be their new boss in 2012 before he turned them down to stay on at Ajax, held ambitions to coach Barcelona, where he played from 1999 to 2003. But four titles at Ajax, the boyhood club where he returned in 2010, must now be balanced against two disastrously short reigns.

One of the reasons given for De Boer's short stay at Inter was a lack of preparation time for last season, but the results were worse given the fact he had a full preseason after being appointed in June. De Boer lasted just 77 days at Selhurst compared to 85 at San Siro, five matches against 14. He now holds the unenviable record for the shortest "permanent" tenure in 26 seasons of the Premier League.

Even at Ajax, De Boer was criticised for his team's football being too slow. There was a telling transformation when Peter Bosz succeeded him last year and energised Ajax's youngsters to play a fast, modern pressing game as they reached last season's Europa League final, which was ultimately lost 2-0 to Manchester United in Stockholm.

Frank de Boer
De Boer will have to go back to the drawing board after two poor spells.

Bosz is now at Borussia Dortmund, a club that appreciates progressive coaches, while De Boer is a manager stuck teaching the lessons of his formative years. His outdated approach reminded of Louis van Gaal, his mentor at Ajax, and with whom he was a star defender of the team that won the 1995 Champions League. Van Gaal's Manchester United and De Boer's Palace and Inter teams both appeared to play as if scoring goals was merely an incidental aim.

And yet De Boer is not alone in requiring a rethink after the conclusion of this misadventure. Parish & Co. failed in their recruitment to replace the retired Sam Allardyce. Beyond the Ajax cocoon, without a club's overreaching philosophy to back him up, De Boer's approach was in no way suited to a club whose squad had been compiled by British football men like Ian Holloway, Tony Pulis, Neil Warnock, Alan Pardew and Allardyce.

De Boer was allowed just two permanent signings: Jairo Riedewald, £7.9m from Ajax, whose debut was so disastrous against Huddersfield that he was dropped until Burnley, with his Dutch compatriot citing "growing pains" as reason for the defender's absence.

Mamadou Sakho, a loan success under Allardyce, was not signed from Liverpool until transfer deadline day. Loanees Ruben Loftus-Cheek, from Chelsea, and Timothy Fosu-Mensah, from Manchester United, were too callow to be much use in what is already a battle for survival. A lack of other business always pointed to De Boer losing the confidence of the hierarchy.

"Every time a manager fails at this club I fail," said Parish in June. "If Frank fails it is my failure too."

The hope at Palace appears to be that De Boer's reign was so short it can be forgotten just as quickly. On Sunday afternoon, Parish involved himself in a heated discussion with angry Eagles fans on Twitter.

"We are 4 games in, it's a terrible start but we have to stick together," he wrote, but Palace soon showed little desire to stick by De Boer as he was sacked inside 24 hours.

With Hodgson coming in, a summer's experiment to be seen as a continental-style club has come to an ignominious end and a new plan will be required to lead them back to safety.

John Brewin is a staff writer for ESPN FC. Follow him on Twitter @JohnBrewinESPN.


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