Football: Lombardo takes throne at Palace

An invisible Italian is the new man in charge at Selhurst Park.

ITALY have not had much to laugh about at the expense of the English this season ever since our national team jeopardised their World Cup qualification in Rome last October, but there must have been loud guffaws around the board rooms of Serie A clubs yesterday when Crystal Palace announced that they were placing their fate in the hands of the invisible man, Attilio Lombardo, who will act as player-coach until the end of this season, when the club hope that Terry Venables will take over.

A fleeting appearance as substitute in the 6-2 defeat at Stamford Bridge on Wednesday apart, one could be excused for thinking that the Italian had long since left the club, so little has been seen of him, due to a catalogue of injuries since his arrival last summer.

But there he was large as life at the club's ramshackle Mitcham training ground yesterday to hear Steve Coppell, who he replaces, announce to a gobsmacked gathering of English and Italian media that Palace were pinning their hopes of survival on a complete novice. And before the assembly could close their mouths, he added that Lombardo would be assisted by fellow striker Tomas Brolin, who is on a week-to-week contract at the club and has an English appearance record even more limited than Lombardo's.

"I realise it is a bold, massive step," said Coppell, who returns to his role as director of football, "and a step that a lot of people will look upon as being foolish, but something had to be done. It might not work, but at the moment everyone expects us to go down anyway - it's only the people within these walls who think we've got a fighting chance of staying up."

It is an appointment that is probably par for the course at the moment at a club which seems intent on upstaging itself when it comes to bizarre decisions. Ron Noades, the chairman, and Mark Goldberg, the club's prospective owner, were both conspicuous by their absence (though Goldberg had been at the training ground before the press arrived, possibly practising his ball-juggling skills a la Michael Knighton) and it was left to poor Coppell to field the questions that rained in on him.

He accepted responsibility for the club's plight and the appointment of Lombardo, following consultation with Noades and Goldberg. Recent months at the club had been like "slow strangulation", he said. "In an ideal world I wouldn't be speaking to you - Palace would be in mid-table and I would be manager. But we are drifting down the league and I felt very strongly something had to be done.

"I'm very sad at the club's position and I am responsible, the buck always stops with the manager. I want as much as possible to release Attilio from that kind of pressure. I want him to concentrate on what matters - the preparation of the team - and not get involved in any of the off- the-field politics."

Lombardo was given half an hour to think about the offer, after being summoned to a hotel on Thursday evening by Goldberg. Having agreed, he said through an interpreter, that he felt as if, "the hotel roof was falling in on me." He was still reeling from the magnitude of his decision and hoped that he would not get home and find his wife packing to leave.

He did not envisage too many changes just yet with today's game at Villa Park followed smartly by another, on Wednesday at Newcastle, after which they have 10 days' respite.

He lamented the shortage of midfielders at the club (not helped by the recent sale of Andy Roberts) and will no doubt be relieved to hear that the club is in the process of negotiating the transfer of Sasa Curcic from Aston Villa for pounds 1m on Monday.

The player-coach stressed that it was only a temporary appointment and that he intended to return to being "simply a player" at the end of the season.

It was on Wednesday that Lombardo's fellow countryman and friend, Gianluca Vialli, did his own player-manager career some good with that annihilation of Palace. Lombardo said that he would be ringing Vialli. "Gianluca is in a similar position, although he is driving a Formula One car, as it were, while I'm in charge of a sinking ship," he said. "His advice will help but he will not solve my problems."

News
Alan Bennett criticised the lack of fairness in British society encapsulated by the private school system
peopleBut he does like Stewart Lee
Sport
David Moyes and Louis van Gaal
football
Arts and Entertainment
Sheridan Smith as Cilla Black and Ed Stoppard as her manager Brian Epstein
tvCilla Episode 2 review: Grit under the glamour in part two of biopic series starring Sheridan Smith
Life and Style
Alan Turing, who was convicted of gross indecency in 1952, was granted a royal pardon last year
life
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Life and Style
life
Arts and Entertainment
Tennis player Andy Murray's mum Judy has been paired with Anton du Beke for Strictly Come Dancing. 'I'm absolutely delighted,' she said.
tvJudy Murray 'struggling' to let Anton Du Beke take control on Strictly
Life and Style
Vote with your wallet: the app can help shoppers feel more informed about items on sale
lifeNew app reveals political leanings of food companies
Arts and Entertainment
The cover of Dark Side of the Moon
musicCan 'The Endless River' carry on the tradition? See for yourself
Sport
New Zealand fly-half Aaron Cruden pictured in The Zookeeper's Son on a late-night drinking session
rugby
Arts and Entertainment
Worldwide ticket sales for The Lion King musical surpassed $6.2bn ($3.8bn) this summer
tvMusical is biggest grossing show or film in history
Voices
A new app has been launched that enables people to have a cuddle from a stranger
voicesMaybe the new app will make it more normal to reach out to strangers
Arts and Entertainment
Salmond told a Scottish television chat show in 2001that he would also sit in front of a mirror and say things like,
tvCelebrity Trekkies from Alex Salmond to Barack Obama
News
i100
Life and Style
food + drink
News
Rob Merrick's Lobby Journalists were playing Ed Balls' Labour Party MPs. The match is an annual event which takes place ahead of the opening of the party conference
newsRob Merrick insistes 'Ed will be hurting much more than me'
News
A cabin crew member photographed the devastation after one flight
news
Life and Style
Carol O'Brien, whose son Rob suffered many years of depression
healthOne mother's story of how London charity Maytree helped her son with his depression
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Education

Humanities Teacher

£120 - £162 per day: Randstad Education Hull: Humanities teacher required for ...

English Teacher

£120 - £162 per day: Randstad Education Hull: ENGLISH TEACHER REQUIRED - Humbe...

Chemistry Teacher

£120 - £162 per day: Randstad Education Hull: We are looking for a Qualified C...

Year 6 Teacher

£100 - £120 per day: Randstad Education Hull: Randstad Education are currently...

Day In a Page

Secret politics of the weekly shop

The politics of the weekly shop

New app reveals political leanings of food companies
Beam me up, Scottie!

Beam me up, Scottie!

Celebrity Trekkies from Alex Salmond to Barack Obama
Beware Wet Paint: The ICA's latest ambitious exhibition

Beware Wet Paint

The ICA's latest ambitious exhibition
Pink Floyd have produced some of rock's greatest ever album covers

Pink Floyd have produced some of rock's greatest ever album covers

Can 'The Endless River' carry on the tradition?
Sanctuary for the suicidal

Sanctuary for the suicidal

One mother's story of how London charity Maytree helped her son with his depression
A roller-coaster tale from the 'voice of a generation'

Not That Kind of Girl:

A roller-coaster tale from 'voice of a generation' Lena Dunham
London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice. In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence

London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice

In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence
Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with Malcolm McLaren

Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with McLaren

Designer 'felt pressured' into going out with Sex Pistols manager
Jourdan Dunn: Model mother

Model mother

Jordan Dunn became one of the best-paid models in the world
Apple still coolest brand – despite U2 PR disaster

Apple still the coolest brand

Despite PR disaster of free U2 album
Scottish referendum: The Yes vote was the love that dared speak its name, but it was not to be

Despite the result, this is the end of the status quo

Boyd Tonkin on the fall-out from the Scottish referendum
Manolo Blahnik: The high priest of heels talks flats, Englishness, and why he loves Mary Beard

Manolo Blahnik: Flats, Englishness, and Mary Beard

The shoe designer who has been dubbed 'the patron saint of the stiletto'
The Beatles biographer reveals exclusive original manuscripts of some of the best pop songs ever written

Scrambled eggs and LSD

Behind The Beatles' lyrics - thanks to Hunter Davis's original manuscript copies
'Normcore' fashion: Blending in is the new standing out in latest catwalk non-trend

'Normcore': Blending in is the new standing out

Just when fashion was in grave danger of running out of trends, it only went and invented the non-trend. Rebecca Gonsalves investigates
Dance’s new leading ladies fight back: How female vocalists are now writing their own hits

New leading ladies of dance fight back

How female vocalists are now writing their own hits