Six days ago, I met with Steve Parish in his London office to discuss taking over at Crystal Palace. It would be fair to say that quite a bit has changed since then. I have watched the twists and turns from afar, from Spain where I have been on holiday with my family.
The longer the process went on at Palace, and the more names that came up, the more I felt that Steve was keeping his options open. It shows the great level of respect for the club among coaches. I know a lot of managers were interested. But at some point, as a manager, you want to know the interviews have stopped and you’re the club’s first choice.
That was why, on Thursday night, my agent sent a message to Steve to say that I was no longer interested in being in contention for the job.
I have to say, I took some persuading in the first place to go to see Steve last Sunday. My feeling at the time was that the race was already run and that the job was going to Malky Mackay. But in the end I thought it would be a worthwhile experience.
As it turned out the race is still on. It started as a three-horse race, with the runners being me, Malky and, I presume, Glenn Hoddle. By yesterday morning it had turned into the Grand National. There seems to be a new name every day.
There are some serious allegations made against Malky and he will have to deal with those. When I went to see Steve Parish last Sunday, Malky was still very much the lead candidate. I liked Steve and I thought that his passion for the club was impressive. I felt I could relate to him, the Palace supporters and, most importantly, the players.
Iain Moody was one of the people in the room during the interview. That did nothing to change my mind that Mackay was the favourite.
I wanted to bring with me my two assistants from Spurs, Chris Ramsey and Les Ferdinand. They know how I work and we operate well as a team. A manager’s staff is important. It makes it more difficult if you have to spend time teaching those you work most closely with how you want things done.
It was my intention that the meeting with Steve would be kept private and I hoped that would be the case. Yet, as soon as I arrived in London to see him I was getting text messages from people I knew, and some I didn’t, asking me when I was due to go to see Palace. I felt it was wrong that it should have got out like that. But then this whole episode has been played out in public.
Either way, I was not holding my breath about getting the job, and so it turned out. After seeing Steve and I asked people who knew Palace well about the club. Their immediate response was that they could not put me off the job. The feeling was that Palace was a good club and that the best thing about it was the current group of players, as well as the fans.
If I had been offered the job early in the process, soon after my interview, I would have taken it. Naturally, I am confident in my ability to do it. By the same token I realise that Steve Parish had a lot of responsibility in picking his next manager and he has taken his time over it. He has a lot invested in Palace too, emotionally and financially. He loves the club.
Whoever gets the Palace job may have the benefit of the end of the transfer window too. It is not quite like arriving in mid-season as I did at Tottenham last year. The key for a manager then, as Tony did with Palace last season, is being able to work with players who are not your own picks. You have to compromise on the way you want to play because the priority at that stage is results. I think I proved that I could do that at Spurs.
It is a fact of football that most opportunities come in adversity and it is important that, as a manager, you can react to those pressures. Ideally, any manager would want to take over in pre-season when the conditions are right. But that is not always possible.
It takes time to start building a club from the senior team right through the academy. As a manager that is ultimately what I want to do in my career. My background is in player development and my aim will always be to bring through the best young players.
Watching Palace against Arsenal, I thought Marouane Chamakh was the perfect example of the spirit and hard-work ethic that Tony has instilled in his former players. I like the way he played the No 10 position but worked hard for the team to shut down Arsenal’s midfield. That is the kind of mentality that they will need this season.
That earns the Palace players the respect of their supporters. It also buys them time to get results. The fans can see that they are giving everything for the cause.
I am back in England this weekend watching games and training sessions and continuing my education. I feel it is important that training grounds are open to managers and coaches to observe sessions. I have lots of invitations to do that at other clubs in England and around the world, and I intend to take them up. I will be ready when my time comes to return the game.
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