'Comfortable' Allardyce to bring order to Palace

LONDON • Sam Allardyce will consider the Crystal Palace job one that is close to his comfort.

"Fantastic, fantastic," he said through the open window of his car when he arrived at the club's Beckenham training ground on Friday.

His enthusiasm showed as he headed for a final round of talks and a signing on the dotted line.

In contrast, Palace have drowned in gloomy statistics of late, saddled by constant reminders of shoddy form through the calendar year or vulnerability at set-pieces.

Allardyce may not spy it on the training ground, where the mood among the troops has always been relatively upbeat, but he will quickly discover that in-game confidence is brittle.

Theirs is a collective frustration. The team know they are better than 17th in the Premier League. They are not a side who should be losing eight games out of 10 or 22 since the turn of the year.

That tally suggests deep-rooted problems but, more than anything, they are guilty of underachievement which is more infuriating than being truly out of their depth.

On the face of it, Allardyce would appear the perfect appointment for a club who have drifted terribly under Alan Pardew.

His immediate task would be to shore up the defence, which with alarming regularity and bafflingly casual nature have conceded goals from dead-ball situations.

Selhurst Park is quite a comedown from Wembley for the former England manager - but this will be Allardyce back in his comfort zone.

Even the greatest admirer of his work could never have been convinced by his suitability for certain aspects of the England job. Club football is what he does best.

The immediate job is to do exactly what he has done with Bolton Wanderers, Blackburn Rovers, West Ham and Sunderland, bringing organisation, structure and a hard-to-beat mentality and steering Palace away from the relegation zone.

He should certainly fancy his chances of doing that with a squad consisting of players such as Scott Dann, James Tomkins, Yohan Cabaye, Andros Townsend, Wilfried Zaha and Christian Benteke.

Palace's supporters will also hope that Allardyce will now attract a different kind of media spotlight than he has done before.

THE GUARDIAN, THE TIMES, LONDON

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on December 25, 2016, with the headline ''Comfortable' Allardyce to bring order to Palace'. Print Edition | Subscribe