After two years of up-and-down management of Crystal Palace (the “up” referring to his swashbuckling midseason heroism of his first few months at the club which brought the Eagles out of danger and led them to 10th place in the table, and the “down” the current campaign that has them teetering on the edge of the relegation zone), Alan Pardew has been fired today.
Pardew remains an almost complete enigma. Almost two years ago exactly, he left what should’ve been a great job at Newcastle midseason for Crystal Palace, the then-newly promoted, small but ambitious club of his heart. (Pardew was a star for the Eagles during his playing days). His time at Newcastle had been almost comically erratic, with stretches of attractive and successful play followed by sudden, extended, ugly losing spells.
It was easy to chalk this highly variable tendency up to the disastrous decision-making of Newcastle’s leadership (a viewpoint aided by the fact that Newcastle—who should always be way too good and big to be relegated—just got relegated last season thanks in large part to terrible board decisions), and to believe that at Palace, with the owners’ ambition and money coupled with the fans’ love and devotion, the manager could show his true level. This turned out to be accurate. Unfortunately, Pardew’s true level appears to in fact be one of puzzlingly inconsistency.
It wasn’t all bad, certainly. Pardew did manage to coax some very good performances out of this bunch, and it probably helped convince the club to pony up for and players like Yohan Cabaye, Wilfried Zaha, Andros Townsend, and Christian Benteke to sign with Palace knowing that the team would be coached by a recognized name like Pardew, presumably for the long haul. And especially during the calendar year of 2015, Pardew had the team humming.
But, as is typical of a Pardew-led group, things eventually fell apart. After starting last season brightly, Palace collapsed during the second half, narrowly avoiding a real relegation fight only because they’d started the season with enough wins to rescue themselves from their dismal form during the home stretch. Even a surprise run to the F.A. Cup final, where they lost to Manchester United in a thriller, wasn’t enough to mask the rot.
This season has carried off where the last one finished. Despite spending big on reinforcements—and hell, having a healthy Benteke alone should be enough to keep Palace from the drop, let alone the rest of the pretty solid crew that surrounds him—in the transfer window, Palace have sucked this year. They’ve lost all but two of their last 10 Premier League matches and find themselves just a point out of the relegation places. This, plus the whining and blame-deflecting concomitant with Pardew’s management, was enough to get the club to finally say enough and give the manager the ax.
With a good replacement hire (and if they haven’t called him already, you know Sam Allardyce is blowing up the club’s phones begging for an interview), Crystal Palace should have enough talent on the roster already to climb high enough in the table to stave off relegation. Pardew, meanwhile, is at a real crossroad in his career.
He probably sees himself as too big, too proven a manager to slum at any club that’s not already in the Premier League and with money to spend. Premier League clubs, though, probably want no part of the Alan Pardew Experience. If he can’t even make it work at the club where he’s beloved, it’s hard to imagine everything working out perfectly at some other established EPL team.
Thus, if Pardew wants to keep on managing, he’ll most likely be forced down to the Championship. Maybe a team like Leeds or Blackburn, a club with some modicum of lingering prestige from their brighter history that hopes to make a splash and get back to the top, will be able to flatter Pardew’s ego enough to convince him to lead them forward. From the evidence on hand, there’s really no telling which way that would go.