The Last Word: Tony Pulis emerges as the winner

At most progressive clubs individual egos and the owner’s perception of  his expertise are not allowed to compromise the common good

Steve Parish comes straight from Central Casting. His haircut evokes memories of George Michael in Club Tropicana mode. He’s an amateur racing driver who made his money in advertising. The camera caresses him, so he excels in the antiseptic environment of the modern TV studio.

He is an opinionated football fan, but hardly the type to be patronised by Premier League officials after marching through the streets of London in the rain, in vain, to protest about ticket prices. He loved Crystal Palace so much he bought the company, in conjunction with three other like-minded multi-millionaires.

His largesse saved the club from bankruptcy, and he was happy to claim the credit when Ian Holloway drove himself to distraction after achieving the minor miracle of winning promotion to the Premier League. His luck ran out when survival was assured, and his strategy unravelled.

Building networks with blue-sky thinkers in creative agencies and TV production companies is child’s play compared to establishing a working relationship with a blue-collar, old-school football manager like Tony Pulis.

Parish is as much of a cliché as the manager with whom he fell out, so dramatically yet inevitably, on the eve of a new season. A celebrity chairman, who insinuates himself into the working life of a football man who resents being treated as a hired hand, is as fossilised a creature as a teacup-throwing, spittle-flecked dug-out dictator.

To be fair, Parish was protecting his emotional and financial investment in seeking value from an absurdly inflated transfer market. Paying journeymen footballers in excess of £2million a year offends cherished business principles.

Yet his approach was incoherent, because it sought to combine conflicting cultures without thinking through the consequences. Palace’s pretensions of modernity, embodied by the puzzlingly over-rated Sporting Director Iain Moody, left the club hopelessly unbalanced.

The most progressive clubs remain in touch with their traditions but are directed with emotional intelligence, in measured fashion. Individual egos, and the owner’s perception of his expertise, are not allowed to compromise the common good.

Roberto Martinez, the most impressive of the new generation of managers, offers an object lesson in the benefits of strong personal relationships based on mutual trust and respect. He has found kindred spirits in the boardroom, ranging from Huw Jenkins at Swansea, through Dave Whelan at Wigan, to Bill Kenwright at Everton.

Everton manager Roberto Martinez Everton manager Roberto Martinez Martinez appreciates the human dimension to leadership and the subtleties involved in the application of authority. He recognises the importance of the dream and accepts the ultimate judgement of the bottom line. He works in a spirit of partnership.

Confrontation, of the type favoured by  comedic chairmen like Cardiff City’s Vincent Tan, leads to stagnation and relegation. Treating a football club as just another cost base, in the fashion of Newcastle owner Mike Ashley, invites disillusion and dissent.

Pulis emerges as the winner in all this. His reputation has been enhanced immeasurably by Palace’s overachievement under his management. His players evidently loved him, as a cross between a father figure and a regimental sergeant major. Supporters, almost juvenile in their excitability, are bereft.

His availability highlights the vulnerability of Sam Allardyce and Paul Lambert, prime candidates for the traditional cull in the first international break of the season. Since that comes after only three Premier League games, Pulis may not have the luxury of a lie-in for long.

Parish is spoiled for choice as he seeks his successor. If his judgement is flawed, Palace will revert to type, as a second-tier club with the unfortunate habit of making the wrong decisions at the worst possible time.

Health dangers of refereeing

The life of German referee Babak Rafati was saved by his linesman, who found him in a hotel bath tub, covered in blood. His suicide attempt, hours before he was due to control a Bundesliga match between Cologne and Mainz, was mercifully thwarted.

His career over, Rafati represents the failure of football’s duty of care towards men who are expected to act as human shields. He insists his depression was exacerbated by media criticism and relentless pressure from managers and players.

Do not think it cannot happen here. Too little is being done to protect the mental health of those who bear the consequences of the game’s confrontational culture. Referees are feeling increasingly isolated, and the suspicion that the priority is the product rather than the person is understandable.

Referees are expected to absorb systematic, virulent abuse. I sat next to a fourth official overlooking the tunnel at White Hart Lane last season: he was triple-teamed by both sets of coaches, who took turns to intimidate. The disrespect was casual, callous. One day, it will be calamitous.

Stripped of credibility

Athletics lacks characters and credibility. Its powerbrokers had better pray that Mahiedine Mekhissi Benabbad becomes European 1500 metre champion in Zurich today. They made themselves look ridiculous by stripping the Frenchman of his gold medal in the 3,000 metres steeplechase for the heinous crime of ripping his vest off in the final straight and sticking it in his mouth.

Mahiedine Mekhissi-Benabbad Mahiedine Mekhissi-Benabbad A joyful gesture was exploited by the Spanish team, whose protest allowed Angel Mullera, who failed a drugs test 11 months ago, to “win” a bronze medal. The symbolism of such stupidity is damning, and entirely unsurprising.

Lashings of games for Kevin

Kevin Pietersen, whose reputation has been an appropriate casualty of England’s recent revival under the principled captaincy of Alastair Cook, wants to play more cricket. Glossing over the fact his announcement coincided with a holiday in Miami, following the gaudy irrelevance of a Caribbean slogathon, help may be at hand. I hear that Lashings, a self-important touring team formed of recently retired cricketers who play village sides for beer money, are seeking new recruits.

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
Independent Dating

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

Day In a Page

Mullah Omar, creator of the Taliban, is dead... for the fourth time

Mullah Omar, creator of the Taliban, is dead... again

I was once told that intelligence services declare their enemies dead to provoke them into popping up their heads and revealing their location, says Robert Fisk
Margaret Attwood on climate change: 'Time is running out for our fragile, Goldilocks planet'

Margaret Attwood on climate change

The author looks back on what she wrote about oil in 2009, and reflects on how the conversation has changed in a mere six years
New Dr Seuss manuscript discovered: What Pet Should I Get? goes on sale this week

New Dr Seuss manuscript discovered

What Pet Should I Get? goes on sale this week
Oculus Rift and the lonely cartoon hedgehog who could become the first ever virtual reality movie star

The cartoon hedgehog leading the way into a whole new reality

Virtual reality is the 'next chapter' of entertainment. Tim Walker gives it a try
Ants have unique ability to switch between individual and collective action, says study

Secrets of ants' teamwork revealed

The insects have an almost unique ability to switch between individual and collective action
Donovan interview: The singer is releasing a greatest hits album to mark his 50th year in folk

Donovan marks his 50th year in folk

The singer tells Nick Duerden about receiving death threats, why the world is 'mentally ill', and how he can write a song about anything, from ecology to crumpets
Let's Race simulator: Ultra-realistic technology recreates thrill of the Formula One circuit

Simulator recreates thrill of F1 circuit

Rory Buckeridge gets behind the wheel and explains how it works
Twitter accused of 'Facebookisation' over plans to overhaul reverse-chronological timeline

Twitter accused of 'Facebookisation'

Facebook exasperates its users by deciding which posts they can and can’t see. So why has Twitter announced plans to do the same?
Jane Birkin asks Hermès to rename bag - but what else could the fashion house call it?

Jane Birkin asks Hermès to rename bag

The star was shocked by a Peta investigation into the exotic skins trade
10 best waterproof mascaras

Whatever the weather: 10 best waterproof mascaras

We found lash-enhancing beauties that won’t budge no matter what you throw at them
Diego Costa biography: Chelsea striker's route to the top - from those who shared his journey

Diego Costa: I go to war. You come with me...

Chelsea's rampaging striker had to fight his way from a poor city in Brazil to life at the top of the Premier League. A new book speaks to those who shared his journey
Ashes 2015: England show the mettle to strike back hard in third Test

England show the mettle to strike back hard in third Test

The biggest problem facing them in Birmingham was the recovery of the zeitgeist that drained so quickly under the weight of Australian runs at Lord's, says Kevin Garside
Women's Open 2015: Charley Hull - 'I know I'm a good golfer but I'm also just a person'

Charley Hull: 'I know I'm a good golfer but I'm also just a person'

British teen keeps her feet on ground ahead of Women's Open
Turkey's conflict with Kurdish guerrillas in Iraq can benefit Isis in Syria

Turkey's conflict with Kurdish guerrillas in Iraq can benefit Isis in Syria

Turkish President Erdogan could benefit politically from the targeting of the PKK, says Patrick Cockburn
Yvette Cooper: Our choice is years of Tory rule under Jeremy Corbyn or a return to a Labour government

Our choice is years of Tory rule under Corbyn or a return to a Labour government

Yvette Cooper urged Labour members to 'get serious' about the next general election rather than become 'a protest movement'