The sacking of Frank De Boer is indicative of the current money obsession that fuels the Premier league these days. How, when only 4 games into a season, Crystal Palace deemed his appointment to be a mistake and got rid of him is a sorry example of the fear of relegation that is behind nearly every managerial appointment for the Premier League clubs outside the top 7.
The Premier League at the moment looks to me to be split into 3 branches. You have the top 6 clubs who demand Champions League qualification as a minimum. Then there’s Everton, who seem stuck on their own as the seventh best team in the league. Then there are the rest, the 13 clubs that that’s first aim is to not be relegated.
Relegation these days can be catastrophic for clubs. The disparity in income between the Premier League and the Championship can put some clubs on the brink of bankruptcy and, in my opinion, it is that fear that now has led to clubs being no longer willing to give new appointments the time to put their plans into action.
De Boer’s first appointment in management was at his old club Ajax, an easy fit for him as he came through their famous youth academy. He was schooled in the “total football” ethos that runs through the club from every level. He managed the youth academy for 3 years before being appointed first team manager in 2010, a natural progression for the club.
Ajax, for me, is actually the model most English Premier League clubs should follow. They have their system that is that taught to all youngsters through the ages, allowing the best to progress into the first team playing a style they know so well. No matter who the manager is the production line of the youth teams keeps coaching the kids the same way.
De Boer won 4 Eredivisie titles in 6 seasons before leaving Ajax to take the Inter job. This though was to strangely echo what would happen a year later with Palace. After a run of 4 defeats in 5 games he was sacked, just 85 days since being appointed.
At Palace we now know he lasted just 77 days. The problem I see is that he as a manager believes the game should be played a certain way. De Boer believes in the way he was schooled as a kid in the Ajax youth team through to the first team and one he played following his transfer to Barcelona, whose stylish football was brought to them in the 70s, by the ex-Ajax and Dutch manager, Rinus Michaels.
Palace would have known that when they hired him and bearing in mind that he was replacing Sam Allardyce, the Darth Vader of the football dark arts, the king of the long ball school of playing. De Boer could in no way have managed to change the mind set of the players at Palace from getting the ball forward quickly and directly as Allardyce would have had them playing in the time he was allowed.
I don’t know the reasoning behind De Boer’s appointment but as an outsider (I’m a West Ham fan) it looked to me that Palace’s owner wanted to change the perceived style Palace had been playing, direct. Parish wanted the more pleasing, and I would claim, entertaining brand of football – the Dutch style of “total football”. In no way could that have been achieved in the 77 days De Boer was afforded.
I watched Palace’s away game just gone against Burnley at Turf Moor, De Boer’s last as it turned out. Palace were by far the better team. You could see that they were trying to work the ball into openings, not just slinging it early up to Benteke and seeing if they could pick up the second ball.
The problem is, when your own player decides to gift the opposition attacker a free shot on goal, as a manager you just can’t control those mistakes. 1-0 down after 3 minutes in a must win game is the worst possible start but, from then on, Palace dominated the game failing to equalise due to fine goalkeeping and some shocking finishing. This was highlighted by Dann’s miss from 4 yards out in front of goal.
The game was lost by players (that were not signed by De Boer) failing to carry out what basically they are there to do, and with that defeat came the loss of his job.
Crystal Palace have pushed the panic button, scared of relegation and the loss of income. They have turned their back on playing football. To the owners it’s all about the money. And who do they turn to? Roy Hodgson, another long ball merchant of a manager whose footballing style matches his personality – dull as dishwater.
For me, Palace have basically been a cart horse team that decided to hire a race horse trainer to make them better – to aspire to get them to win the Grand National only to find after the first couple of outings they preferred being a cart house after all and are happy to go back to their easy way of boring life.
Modern football has been encapsulated in 77 days. It’s not about the way you get the result, it’s all about the result itself and, with it, football as an entertainment business is wiped away. It’s all about the result and the money that is at stake if the results are wrong.