Coppell replaced by Smith at Palace

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The Independent Online

Alan Smith replaced Steve Coppell as the manager of Crystal Palace for the second time in seven years yesterday and then admitted to some discomfort about taking his friend's job.

Alan Smith replaced Steve Coppell as the manager of Crystal Palace for the second time in seven years yesterday and then admitted to some discomfort about taking his friend's job.

"I would be a liar if I said it did not make me feel slightly uncomfortable, but I've spoken to Steve at length about this," said Smith, who took over at the First Division club yesterday afternoon, shortly after Coppell's fourth spell in charge had been ended by "mutual consent". Smith added: "Steve fully understands that this is a professional job and the chairman's gone about it in the right way." Smith first succeeded Coppell as the Palace manager in 1993 and led the club to the Premiership in 1994. Immediate relegation followed in 1995, but Smith - who went on to manage Wycombe Wanderers before becoming the academy director at Fulham in 1997 - said yesterday that he is moreexperienced these days.

"I'm a maturer person than when I first took over from Steve," he said. "As far as the staff go, I'll look at that over a period of a week. I'm not going to rush it." Two appointments announced yesterday were those of the coaches, Glenn Cockerill and Ray Houghton. Cockerill is moving fromFulham with Smith while Houghton was a member of the team that was relegated under Smith in 1995.

Simon Jordan, the Palace chairman who effectively saved the club last month after two years of financial troubles had threatened its future, said: "The first task now is to put Crystal Palace back in its proper position. We are the fourth biggest club in London. Steve did a fantastic job for a number of years but we now have a new manager and a new opportunity. Sometimes things change. A management style comes in and things evolve. If you don't evolve, you die." Yesterday's news is likely to be greeted with some sadness by Palace fans, for whom Coppell's status as local hero was further enshrined last season when he kept the club in the First Division despite a complete lack of finance. Recent results (including a 6-0 friendly defeat to Millwall last Saturday) and adesire for fresh blood on the part of Jordan, however, have been more influential.

Coppell was typically gracious and generous as he departed , saying in a statement: "Having come through the survival process for the past two seasons I believe it is in the best interests of all concerned if I move aside to let Simon Jordan bring his own man in so they can work in tandem for the task ahead. It goes without saying that I wish Palace, Simon and my successor the best of luck in the future." Yet, despite those public utterings, it is clearthat he was not seeking oranticipating an exit.

Only two days ago, he had spoken in an interview about his future at the club underJordan, who amassed his fortune through his Pocket Phone Shop chain.

"I have been in football for 26 years," Coppell had said. "With due respect to Simon, he has been selling phones for six years. He is a football fan but he is not from the professional game. Hopefully, I can guide him through this period so we can have a strong relationship for a few years to come."

That task now falls to Smith.

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