Palace latest: Bassett in, nobody out

Nicholas Harling on the problems facing Crystal Palace's new boss
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The Independent Online
Crystal Palace, who have been keen to reiterate over the past few months their desire to play an attractive passing game, yesterday confirmed the appointment of a man who has become renowned over the years for his obsession with just the opposite, the dreaded long ball.

Dave Bassett, whose reputation was built on the success and tactics employed by Wimbledon (who won the FA Cup in 1988 shortly after he had left them), moved in at Selhurst Park with a declaration that the team would play "winning football in a style which would suit the players and team best".

Whatever that means, Palace supporters will soon find out, but Bassett was making no promises. "It has irked me that I've been typecast by the media as a long-ball manager," he admitted, "but sometimes teams have to use the resources they have got available. You don't expect every team to play like Ajax. We've got to have a brand of football the players want.

"Of course we'd all like to see our team win 3-0 every week playing like Brazil but that doesn't happen. What I've got to do is make sure that even if our performances are not so good, we get the results."

The arrival of Bassett, who managed Palace for three days in 1984 before changing his mind and returning to Wimbledon, does not necessarily mean that the club's first-team coaches, Ray Lewington and Peter Nicholas, will leave. In charge since the departure of Alan Smith following Palace's relegation from the Premier League last season, they have seen the team lose only once in the last 11 League games. Consequently both men have good cause to feel hurt at the decision by the Palace chairman, Ron Noades, to bring in Bassett, who will have money to spend and is under contract until the end of the 1997/98 season.

They will continue for the time being to work under the new manager but may not remain happy for long with what they clearly regard as a demotion even though Lewington - who played for a season under Bassett at Sheffield United - promised: "We will do everything we can to help him."

Bassett will look up to Steve Coppell, who stays as technical director with extra responsibility for the club's youth policy. "I would be stupid to ignore the comments of Steve, Ray and Peter," Bassett said. "You can't afford to ignore the inputs of people like that. But the buck finishes there. If I didn't think I could manage and do things in the way I want, then I wouldn't be here."

That, at least, should placate the players, who have complained all season of "too many chiefs" at the club's Mitcham training ground. Supporters, who recently criticised Noades for not sanctioning the pounds 500,000 transfer of Jason Cundy from Spurs after the on-loan centre half had contributed significantly to three successive away victories, may not be so happy. They may wonder whether money should have been spent on a player who might have hastened the promotion push rather than on the salary of a new manager who left his last club, Sheffield United, at the foot of the First Division two months ago and may change the playing style.

By a quirk of coincidence, Bassett's first two games, both at Selhurst Park, will be against his former clubs, Sheffield United, tomorrow, and Watford, the following Saturday.