Paul Newman: Burley sacking is anominous sign for managers' new year
The Football League Column: Palace tried to play more of a passing game under Burley, but the priority now will simply be survival
Monday 03 January 2011
The Championship's reputation as the most perilous division for managers has been underlined by a remarkable spate of sackings over the holiday season. After Burnley and Preston North End ended 2010 by dismissing Brian Laws and Darren Ferguson respectively, Crystal Palace ensured that 2011 would begin on a similar note when they handed George Burley his cards after a 3-0 New Year's Day defeat away to Millwall.
Before the start of this season managers in the Championship had a life expectancy of only 16 months, but that figure may need revising at the end of the current campaign. Eight clubs have made at least one change since August, including all five at the bottom of the table.
Since the beginning of last season 16 of the 24 Championship clubs have changed their managers, the exceptions being Cardiff City (managed by Dave Jones since May 2005), Doncaster Rovers (Sean O'Driscoll since September 2006), Millwall (Kenny Jackett since November 2007), Leeds United (Simon Grayson since December 2008), Nottingham Forest (Billy Davies since January 2009), Derby County (Nigel Clough since January 2009), Ipswich Town (Roy Keane since April 2009) and Watford (Malky Mackay since June 2009). Six of the eight clubs to have kept faith with their managers are in the top half of the table, while Doncaster are 13th and Ipswich 19th.
Burley took charge last summer after Palace escaped relegation on the final day of the season, having earlier been deducted 10 points for going into administration.
Money has clearly still been tight, although Palace insist that reasonable funding had been made available to Burley. He paid a fee for only one player, Owen Garvan from Ipswich.
Most of Burley's other recruits have been loan or short-term signings. James Vaughan, who has gone back to Everton, and Blackburn's Alex Marrow, an industrious midfielder, have been the only loanees to impress consistently. Burley's most recent short-term acquisition, the former Tottenham forward Steffen Iversen, who has joined from Rosenborg on an initial six-month deal, could play today against Preston if Palace receive international clearance.
Fans will be hoping he is more successful than another ageing overseas recruit, former Dutch international Edgar Davids, who was a woeful flop and lasted only a matter of weeks.
Burley was not the luckiest of managers. He arrived just after Shaun Derry and Clint Hill, two key members in the fight against relegation, had agreed to join Queens Park Rangers, while Darren Ambrose, last season's leading scorer, has missed most of the current campaign through injury.
Under Burley, Palace have regularly let leads slip: before the Millwall defeat they had led going into the last 15 minutes of four out of five of their previous away League matches, yet had lost three of them and conceded a 95th-minute equaliser at Bristol City in the fourth.
Palace tried to play more of a passing game under Burley, but the priority now will simply be survival. Former striker Dougie Freedman, who returned to the club as Burley's assistant, is in charge for today's match and is understood to be keen to have the job on a permanent basis.
Steve Parish, one of the owners who took over last summer, told a supporters' website (www.Holmesdale.net) on Saturday night that the board had a "short shortlist" of candidates. Asked about the fact that Chris Hughton, recently sacked by Newcastle, had been in the crowd at Millwall, Parish said it was "coincidence or maybe he's a mindreader". He said Palace's new manager would be given "funds that we know are enough to be competitive in the division".
Palace are likely to sound out Steve Coppell, who has already had four different spells in charge at Selhurst Park, though he said he was retiring from management when he left Bristol City at the start of this season. Two former Palace players, Gareth Southgate and Chris Coleman, could also be in contention.
Of Burley's dismissal, Parish said: "It wasn't a knee-jerk reaction. I have had concerns for a while that I had made a mistake. In the end I don't think George and Crystal Palace were the right fit."
He added: "I spoke to George more or less every day. I have no issues with him. He's a decent, hard-working and very nice man. It was difficult to have to tell him as I think it's as much my fault as his."
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