By Blair Newman, Football Whispers
On 26 June this year, a post on the official Crystal Palace website confirmed Frank de Boer’s appointment as manager of the club. Chairman Steve Parish stated that: “We have undertaken a thorough interview process to ensure we are in a position to appoint a manager of the calibre and experience that Frank brings with him. I am pleased to welcome him to Crystal Palace.”
Less than three months later, another post on the site read: “Crystal Palace Football Club have this morning parted company with Frank de Boer. We would like to thank Frank for his dedication and hard work during his time at the club. A new manager will be appointed in due course and we wish Frank the very best of luck for the future.”
Between those two announcements, Palace spent £26million to bring in four new players. They changed formations, moving away from the traditional back four to a trendier back three.
But, most importantly, they lost four of four Premier League fixtures – including 3-0 and 2-0 home defeats to Huddersfield Town and Swansea City respectively – without scoring a single goal.
This left them sitting in a dangerous 19th-place league position as one of three sides, the others being Bournemouth and West Ham United, without a point to their name.
Consequently De Boer, who had been brought in to oversee what was assumed to be a long-term shift in playing style and performance, was dismissed with the third-shortest managerial reign in the division’s history to his name.
Now it is widely reported that former England national team boss Roy Hodgson is set to replace the Dutchman in the Selhurst Park hot-seat. Here our friends at Football Whispers examine whether he is the right man to lead the club forward.
Some managers are obsessed with finding an objectively sound way to line up their sides, others are more interested in developing their own ideas. De Boer has always seemed to fit the latter category more than the former, and this was confirmed during his short time at Crystal Palace.
Raised in the Ajax youth academy as a player and launched with the club as a manager, he was intent on bringing real tactical change to a team that simply were not ready for it. For all the talk of the future and the project, right now Palace are a bottom-half Premier League team looking to find mid-table. In each of the last two seasons they have only just broken the 40-point barrier traditionally seen as critical to survival.
So while de Boer had designs on a back three, quality possession, fluid movement off the ball and an attacking stance, his was a team more equipped for a back four, basic possession, a focus on the wings and a counter-attacking approach. This is the way the club has survived under a variety of different leaders recently, including Alan Pardew and Sam Allardyce.
The decision to sack de Boer is a bad one, showing a lack of clarity of vision at board level. However, perhaps the more naïve call was to appoint him in the first place. In going for Hodgson as the successor, there appears to be a willingness to accept the need for someone with a deep understanding of the Premier League and a more practical approach towards improvement.
Many Crystal Palace fans may only be thinking of Euro 2016 right about now. After all, Hodgson’s last game as England manager was a 2-1 defeat to Iceland in the second round of that competition. But to focus on that is to ignore some of the good work he did during his time in charge.
In reality, he inherited a mess. The previous coach, Fabio Capello, had overseen a dismal 2010 World Cup campaign punctuated by poor football and poorer results. He then struggled to achieve any real change in the transition period.
Hodgson came in at short notice and led England to the quarter-finals of Euro 2012 in what is perhaps the most underrated performance by the national team in its history. The Three Lions didn’t lose in normal time in the tournament, drawing with France and beating Sweden and Ukraine before exiting to Italy on penalties in the last eight.
The 2014 World Cup group stage exit was a disappointment soothed by a highly troublesome group that included Italy and Uruguay as well as a highly organised Costa Rican outfit. Thus, last year’s European Championship was perhaps the only competition in which Hodgson’s England can truly be deemed a failure.
Prior to all that, the 70-year-old enjoyed a multitude of successful spells with various different Premier League clubs. He led Blackburn Rovers to sixth in 1997/98 before a poor start to the following campaign led to his dismissal. He then returned to English football in 2007/08 with Fulham, keeping them up before guiding them to seventh and 12th-place finishes with a Europa League final thrown in for good measure.
To get to that final, Hodgson’s side knocked out the likes of Juventus, Wolfsburg, Hamburg and Shakhtar Donetsk. The eventual loss to Atletico Madrid was absolutely nothing to be ashamed of, and the manager has good experience of football on the continent outside of that spell thanks to time in charge of Italian giants Inter Milan, as well as stints in Sweden, Switzerland, Denmark and Finland.
His time at Anfield as Liverpool boss was genuinely underwhelming, both for the calibre of his signings and the results obtained. He left with a losing record in January 2011, but months later he re-appeared to stabilise West Bromwich Albion. And, in 2011/12, his last full season of Premier League management, he secured an excellent 10th-place finish for the Baggies.
He has succeeded, unquestionably, with two of the four Premier League clubs he has led, enduring only one out-and-out failure (with Liverpool). And with a 38% win record from 276 games in charge in the division, he is very much qualified for the Crystal Palace job.
Hodgson may not have the de Boer name or the Ajax pedigree, but he does have the nous to drastically improve the situation at Selhurst Park.