So, Frank de Boer and his meandering eyebrows wandered off into the sunset and the exciting Crystal Palace experiment with 'total possession football' came to an abrupt end – after four games. With no wins and no goals, it was the worst start by a club to a top-flight season in 93 years, which probably takes one of our unwanted records away, so that’s a positive.
Frank lasted ten weeks and no doubt fully deserved this heartfelt and emotional message from the Palace board:
We would like to thank Frank for his dedication and hard work during his time at the club.
‘Hard work and dedication’? He was probably still trying to find his parking space when he was pushed out the door.
After Big Sam quit at the end of last season, the talk from Palace was one of change, a new era, a new style of play, a clearly defined way forward based on the principles that Frank had nurtured over years of success in Holland. But then, the reality is, as Barney Ronay pointed out in The Guardian:
For all the fine talk the only revolution any Premier League club is really interested in is one that banks enough points, sharpish, to keep the gravy train rolling.
And just to make sure that everyone understood that the big experiment was well and truly on a flight back to the Netherlands, the first person they approached to take the job – was Big Sam. If ever a move signaled a desperate attempt to get back to safe ground this was it, and they must have been wetting themselves when he turned them down.
But they needn’t have feared, because his dad was waiting in the wings and happy to step into the breach. Roy Hodgson’s whole footballing demeanour just says ‘safe’, he’s the managing equivalent of a prophylactic - a man who can draw so many games he should open an art gallery. And he’s probably exactly what Palace wanted all along.
Roy is 70 and has been out of work since Euro 2016 due to ‘the clap’. I would bet money that he applied for the Palace vacancy over the summer only to be turned down in favour of the chosen two - Frank, and Mauricio Pellegrino - who ended up at Southampton. Roy wasn’t good enough then, but it only takes four games to shatter the nerves of the Palace board and get them running to the phone.
And what a sad state of affairs for the game – where the perceived results of failure are so great that any risk - at any level - is considered too much to take. The result - a smaller and smaller gene pool of management from which to pick. Where are the young and upcoming managers knocking on the door of the top teams? The answer is probably trying to make a name for themselves in Europe.
Credit must go to the likes of Southampton and Watford who continually bring in fresh blood to the Premier League, otherwise the only way an up-and-coming manager can work at the top level is to gain promotion. I cannot off the top of my head remember when a top flight club replaced it’s manager with one from the lower leagues.
So we end up with two tiers, a rotating system of Premier League managers, who have a 'proven track record' in keeping their teams at the top table (Tony Pulis, Sam Allardyce, Mark Hughes etc) and then everyone else, who unless they can win the promotion battle seem destined to stay in the ‘lower leagues’. Take Chris Hughton for instance, now in the Premier League with Brighton, but if relegated next summer, how many Premier League teams would reach out to him?
So we know, why at 70, Roy Hodgson is still in demand, the other question is - why does he still want to work so hard at that age?
Another recent appointment – Assistant head coach to Tony Pulis is Gary Megson.
Megson, a journeyman manager mostly from the Championship, hasn’t worked since being sacked by Sheffield Wednesday five years ago. However, he’d earned enough from the game to never to have to work again and have ‘five luxury holidays a year’.
Which he gave up to go and work with Tony Pulis. And on the first day back in football after five years, Megson pulled his thigh trying to cross balls into the box for Albion’s back four to head clear. That’ll teach him.
But why do they do it when the alternative is a life of ease and privilege? I guess we can look to that other group of septuagenarians who are still going strong – the rock and rollers. They've got all the money they need, but still like to get in on. Why - it’s all down to the sex and drugs. Go Roy.