After the remarkable turnaround last season, when they were taken from what looked like certain relegation to comfortable mid-table, big things were expected for Crystal Palace under Tony Pulis this season.
However, Pulis' shock departure, just days before the start of the season, threw all their plans out of the window, the theory that they might even be better after their manager had a full pre-season to work with scotched.
The appointment of Pulis' successor is unlikely to revive any optimistic predictions, either. Neil Warnock might have been described by Palace chairman Steve Parish as a "safe pair of hands," as per Sky Sports, but Warnock's last job was with Leeds, which he left in April 2013, with them sitting five points above the relegation zone in the Championship.
Indeed, this is the first time Warnock has ever been given a top-flight job. He has previously managed in the Premier League, but only after winning promotion with Sheffield United then QPR. On both occasions their time in the top division was a failure, as Sheffield United were relegated and he was sacked by QPR, leaving Mark Hughes to (just about) save them from the drop.
The closest Warnock has ever come to actually taking a top-flight position before this was in 1991 when he turned down the Chelsea job in order to stay at Notts County, as per The Independent. Obviously, that can hardly be used in his favour because we have no idea how he might have fared at Stamford Bridge, and of course it was 23 years ago.
Warnock seems to believe that he has unfinished business in the Premier League. He said on Friday, as quoted by The Guardian:
Things happen for a reason at times and I’ve felt this time that it’s an opportunity to pay [Palace] back a bit. To give back to the fans, who have been brilliant. It’ll take a lot of hard work, I know there’s going to be ups and downs and criticisms along the way, but for the next eight months I’m going to work as hard as I’ve ever worked.
You don’t often get a chance to repay and I think I owe them a little bit, so it’s great to be given that chance.
One of Warnock's key challenges is to get the best out of Wilfried Zaha once again. The winger has returned to Selhurst Park on a season-long loan deal, as per the BBC, after failing to establish himself at Manchester United, and he made little impact at Cardiff during a spell there in the second half of last season.
Questions about his attitude have been raised, referenced by Warnock when quoted by Sky Sports, and perhaps a friendly manager and familiar surroundings will spur him on to repeating the form of his first spell at Palace, but it will be a challenge.
Warnock clearly has the determination to do the job and keep Palace in the division, but does he have the ability? His past record suggests that he was a decent Championship manager who found himself out of his depth when put among the big boys. There is a reason he hasn't been given a top-flight job in all of his years in management, and Palace might be about to find out why.
Given the farce that surrounded the aborted appointment of Malky Mackay, Palace's options were limited, but in appointing Warnock, Parish does not have a "safe pair of hands," but rather has taken a massive gamble that will probably fail.
Like the new article format? Send us feedback!