The Expat Eagle

Why Big Sam Left Palace To ‘Retire’

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With Sam Allardyce odds-on favourite to land the Everton job and Palace earning £2 million in the process, just what were the real reasons Sam left Palace?

Let me begin this article by saying I am not going to be revealing anything that hasn’t been reported already, elsewhere. Most of the information contained in this article is public knowledge but like many fans out there you may have disregarded them as individual stories at the time. However, when pieced together they look a lot more credible.

Like many Palace fans, I trawl the online newspapers, read editorials by sports journalists, listen to football podcasts (I subscribe to 10 good podcasts which produced more than 20 episodes a week) and I watch a few football discussion shows, such as The Debate on Sky.

Of course, not everything is true but even so, sometimes something that seemed untrue at the time can look a lot more credible in hindsight.

Prelude

In the build-up to the end of the 2016/17 season, Big Sam was already becoming frustrated and concerned that his plans for the following season would be undermined. He and Steve Parish had informally discussed plans for the next season but formal discussions would not take place until the club’s Premier League status was confirmed.

Big Sam knew the squad needed a major rebuild and could see between 8-10 players were not good enough and needed to be replaced in the summer, quite an undertaking for any club but he was confident he could manage the overhaul. However, there was a problem.

The problem was Steve Parish had already been on TV and Radio a few times stating the club had over-spent in January, that some of the summer budget had been used and that “the level of spending that we did in January isn’t sustainable and can’t be repeated in the summer”.

Big Sam knew he’d have to spend wisely and he knew he’d have to free up some of the wage budget to make room for players to come in. Sam had been in this situation before and was hopeful that he’d have at least £30m to spend plus any money he could raise through sales.

The £30m figure is in keeping with what Parish was saying, in particular on TV when he was a guest in the BT Sports studio after Palace’s 0-2 home defeat at the hands of Burnley. There Parish discussed a lot of things which at the time seemed innocuous but would be very telling in the months ahead.

The First Problem

There are a couple of different competitors for what could be classed as Sam’s first problem. One of which could be the rumoured falling out with Steve Mandanda with whom it is alleged Sam called over-weight and not training hard enough. Another problem was that some players were unhappy that Keith Millen was been let go, placed by Sammy Lee.

But I think the first real problem was on 4th February when playing Sunderland at home, Palace were losing 0-4 at half-time. As the players left the field a fan appeared and confronted Damien Delaney.

Delaney didn’t appear for the second half and Sam said in post-match interviews that it wasn’t as a result of the confrontation. Clearly, it was about his performance.

Sam gave Delaney another run out a week later but his performance wasn’t up to scratch either and with Mamadou Sakho about to be match ready it was a simple choice of who to drop. Sam clearly didn’t feel Delaney was capable enough and dropped him.

Damien Delaney, my current favourite player, didn’t make another start for Palace until the game at home to Burnley after Mamadou Sakho was injured versus Tottenham the week before.

As we’ve since discovered, Delaney has the ear of Steve Parish and made no bones about being made to feel a scapegoat for the poor defensive performances. As we now know, Delaney was one of the players complaining about Frank de Boer to Steve Parish.

Problem Compounded

By the time we were approaching the game versus Hull, Sam had earmarked which players he thought needed to be moved on. Luckily a couple of the player’s contracts were about to expire so that made life easier with being able to sign free agents.

Palace beat Hull 4-0 at Selhurst Park to guarantee the club’s Premier League survival. Three days later the club announced that Delaney had signed a new one-year contract. which Sam wasn’t pleased about.

It was well known that Sam had set Delaney to be released, even the Guardian reported: “Initially set to be released this summer, Delaney has seemingly done enough to impress Allardyce and convince him to hand him an extension.”

Not true, Parish revealed in an interview with Holmesdale Radio in September that he gave Delaney a new contract because he’d shown the club loyalty. As I said, Delaney is my favourite current player but that is no way to run a football club. It undermined Sam’s authority as a manager, his judgement and the future of the football club.

Just one day later the situation was repeated when it was announced that Julian Speroni has also been given a new one-year contract. Speroni, a club legend, was another player Sam had set to release from the club in order to free up the wage bill and rebuild the team.

Sam was rightly pissed off at two players being given new contracts when he felt they were not good enough to play for the club in the Premier League.

Decision Made

Sam has said in a number of interviews and on TV that he made his decision to ‘retire’ before our victory over Hull on 14th May. But what made him decide that?

Apparently, according to Steve Parish, he and Sam had already informally discussed the transfer budget for the summer. On Wednesday 31st May Parish was a guest on an American sports radio show, just 2 weeks after Big Sam ‘retired’

In the interview, which you can find my reaction to here, Parish stated that the two had “agreed” that the club would sign “one, maybe two” players in the summer. This is not to be confused with the common saying of ‘one or two’ meaning anything up to four or five in common everyday English.

Some people later incorrectly interpreted that to mean Mamadou Sakho plus one other but this isn’t the case. Parish always bulked at the idea of spending £30m on the defender and Sakho didn’t fit into the transfer and wage budgets.

Later in the interview Parish admitted that with a new manager we might need to bring in “three or four” players.

Real Reasons For Leaving

When you look at the picture as a whole it is pretty clear to me that Sam left because he knew the job at Palace was going to be an impossible one.

He’d already been told there would be little money to spend, that he couldn’t sign many players and was undermined by the chairman giving two veteran players new contracts when he felt they should be released.

Given the choice between staying on at Palace and possibly butting heads with Parish resulting in another season of struggle and undergoing a lot of needless stress, Sam thought it was better to walk away. He felt he should have been backed more. Not necessarily through massive transfer funds but the freedom to shape the squad.

Publically the two sides were complimentary about each other because, in truth, they hadn’t fallen out. What they said, they meant. It didn’t get to the stage where the two argued because Sam knew there was no point. He’d saved Palace, restored his reputation and didn’t need the club. The club needed him but he wasn’t going to work in an environment he didn’t feel comfortable in.

Parish was happy with the job Sam had done and in return, Sam was happy that the club provided him with everything he asked for in January. At the end of the season, the two sides were on good terms.

Sam just didn’t feel he needed the aggravation of another season struggling, which as we can all see now is exactly what he would have had. Ultimately he did what was best for Sam Allardyce but he did it in a way that was best for Crystal Palace too. Compare it to when Tony Pulis walked out on the club 2 days before our first game of the season and just 5 hours after signing Martin Kelly from Liverpool.

I don’t begrudge Sam walking away. I’ve been in a working environment that changed to one I felt I couldn’t work in anymore. You become demoralised and lose your enthusiasm.

Imaging having to go to training every day to see one or more players who you have made clear are not good enough for your team only to have your chairman tell you that you have to use them. Who knows more about footballers? Sam Allardyce or Steve Parish?

Retirement

So Sam announced his retirement, in reality, resignation. He said he may consider a return to management in the future if the right offer came along. I think we all knew he would return at some point and a few of us knew he had a clause inserted into his severance package. It’s very common.

When Palace sacked Frank de Boer Parish called Sam to try and tempt him back and Sam politely declined his generous offer.

Let’s be honest, who in their right mind would have returned to the club at that stage? I don’t know if I should admire Parish for having the balls to ask Sam or criticise him for gross stupidity in considering it.

Either way, it was proof that Sam wasn’t missing Palace and he didn’t want to return to a club who were in a worse position than when he left 3 months earlier.

Sam threw out the line that he was enjoying being with his wife and grandchildren. Maybe this was true but we could all guess if Manchester City came calling he’d have bitten their hand off.

Friends In The Media

During the months that followed various reporters and pundits made veiled comments about Sam’s retirement.

As time went on this became more and more to the point until at the start of September there were people close to Sam saying outright that he left Palace because he felt it was an impossible job, would be too stressful unnecessarily and so on.

Managers and players have friends in the media. It would be foolish to believe everything you read in the papers but it would also be foolish to discount everything too.

The Right Job

Jobs became available, most recently the Leicester job, which Sam said he wasn’t interested in. Again he claimed he was happy in retirement. Then came the Everton job and suddenly he isn’t so comfortable in his retirement.

I don’t blame Sam. He probably didn’t think he’d be linked to a job with a club of that size again. Sam had complained that he is always seen as a firefighter and he didn’t want jobs like that anymore and while Everton are at the wrong end of the table they are not in a position like we were in last season.

In terms of attendances, the Newcastle job would have to be Sam’s biggest club gig to date but in terms of stature, I would say Everton trump it. I can understand why Sam would come out of ‘retirement’ to take the job but it’s the fact he has happily retired 2 weeks ago and now it appears he isn’t.

We all knew he would be wanting to return to football before the end of January but before the end of October? This supports the theory that he didn’t want to leave Palace, the job just became too unappealing which is also why we had such a hard time filling the vacancy during the summer.

£2m Windfall

As it is reported in the media today, if Sam is offered and takes the Everton job or any job before January then the club will receive £2m in compensation, it will be reduced after 1st January.

You have to ask yourself why Steve Parish would insert such a clause if he genuinely believed that Sam was going to retire? I know it is a standard clause, Pulis had the same, but it also indicates that Parish was aware it was more about Sam being unhappy with the conditions of his employment than being unhappy being a football manager.

Whatever the case, I understand why Sam left Palace and I have no ill will against him. It’s just a shame Parish didn’t see what he had at the time and decided to undermine the manager by giving contracts to players against the manager’s wishes.

Maybe a manager should know his place but so should a chairman. We are where we are today because of Parish.

You can read that as a positive statement or a negative one. The choice is yours.

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