Ian Holloway ends the waiting game at Crystal Palace
Kevin Phillips came off the bench to turn a South London derby on its head at Selhurst Park on Saturday and Ian Holloway chose the post-match press conference as the moment to finally stamp his authority as Crystal Palace manager. No longer is he prepared to be viewed as the newcomer looking after Dougie Freedman’s team.
When asked about the substitution that ultimately changed the course of a 2-1 win over Charlton, Holloway said: “That’s what having a bench is all about, and that’s what tactics are all about. They got theirs right and things weren’t working out for us, but I’ve got enough experience to be able to change games.
“I’m delighted with the work we did in the window,” he continued. “We shot at about six targets and got two (Phillips and Steven Dobbie). They’re two people I’ve worked with before, both experienced. We’ve got some great young players, but I thought we were a tad inexperienced in the first half. I didn’t come here to get us promoted. I came here to promote Premier League standards and Premier League football.”
Boastfulness isn’t a characteristic you ordinarily come to associate with Holloway, and you could tell he wasn’t particularly comfortable with his adopted stance judging by the numerous times he bigged himself up, only to backtrack and include others in his praise. But behind that awkward veil was a genuine purpose. Holloway was effectively drawing a line in the sand.
For the best part of three months, the former Blackpool boss has been a model of tact and diplomacy. On the outside, he has been little more than a cheerleader, shouting encouragement from the sidelines, doing his best to avoid upsetting the applecart and risk those accusations of trying to fix something that wasn’t broke. But, privately, he has been planning ahead, working out how things would be from this point onwards.
When Holloway picked up the reins, the Eagles were sitting pretty in third spot, a point adrift of leaders Cardiff. In his first game, they shot to the top of the table, thrashing Ipswich 5-0 with what remains the most breathtaking performance of the Championship season so far. Two further wins followed to open-up a two-point gap. Palace were looking unstoppable.
It might sound like the job from heaven but, for an incoming manager, it was Catch-22. In all probability, those standards would prove to be unsustainable, especially from a team so young, yet Holloway had to let his players lose their way without being overly critical. He had essentially assumed the role of a father taking responsibility for somebody else’s children. He couldn’t be totally assertive.
Palace, somewhat inevitably, drifted back into the pack with a sequence of one win in 11 matches prior to that morale-boosting success over the Addicks but the dynamic is shifting. By underlining the fallibility of those he inherited and highlighting his own ability to change the course of matches with players he recruited on deadline day, Holloway is letting the dressing room know that he’s now in charge.Crystal Palace, football
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