A year is a long time in football.
Take Alan Pardew, for example. In September 2014, the then Newcastle United manager faced the sack with his club sat bottom of the Premier League.
Toon fans set up the website ‘sackpardew.com’ to instigate his removal. But after a good run of form, Pardew ended up winning November’s manager of the month award.
Fast forward to 2015, after Newcastle avoided relegation by just four points under caretaker manager John Carver, the feeling of frustration has returned at St James’ Park with Steve McClaren the latest man in charge.
And the man Toon fans wanted out so badly is working wonders at Crystal Palace. Pardew took over in January 2015 and comfortably guided the Eagles to an eleventh place league finish.
This summer, the club have really built on their successes and were able to bring in the likes of Connor Wickham, Bakary Sakho and Yohan Cabaye.
But most importantly, their key players remained, despite bigger teams sniffing around. Wilfried Zaha and Jason Puncheon are integral parts of Pardew’s Palace puzzle, and most recently fellow attacker Yannick Bolasie committed his future to the Croydon based club.
If you look at Bolasie’s stats, you’d be right in thinking they aren’t particularly impressive. Since joining from Bristol City in 2012, the wideman has only scored seven league goals for Palace. But his game is about so much more than that.
Bolasie is a joy to watch. His pace and trickery is unbelievable, sometimes it looks as though he doesn’t know what he’s doing himself. But that’s what makes him unique and exciting, that sense of unpredictability he possesses.
When Palace went to Anfield and comfortably beat Liverpool 3-1 in May, Bolasie was man-of-the-match, directly contributing to two goals. His and Palace’s performance that day was overshadowed by the fact it was Steven Gerrard’s last Anfield appearance and the subsequent fanfare that followed the occasion.
After such a display, many thought Bolasie would move to pastures new in the summer. But despite the likes of Tottenham confirming an interest, no bids came in. For the player’s personal development, this was probably the best outcome.
Pardew admits himself that Bolasie needs to deliver more often in the final third, as his unpredictable style doesn’t always come off. And after signing a new three-and-a-half-year contract, he’s at the right place to harness his talents.
Bolasie only has to look at his team-mate Zaha to see what too much hype can do to a young player. Zaha impressed in the Championship before Manchester United signed the winger for £15 million.
After making only two Premier League appearances for the club, Zaha was loaned back to Palace, before re-joining them permanently in January 2015.
Too many players nowadays have half a dozen decent games and all of a sudden their price tag increases tenfold, so it’s refreshing to see Congo international Bolasie commit his future to Selhurst Park.
He’s been an integral part to Palace’s excellent league start this campaign. With Cabaye and James McArthur anchoring the midfield, this allows the likes of Puncheon, Zaha and Bolasie to really express themselves in attack, hence why the Eagles find themselves sitting seventh in the league table.
Palace’s style under Pardew is very gung-ho. They will attack every team, as they showed against Liverpool last season, and the fact they have won four, lost three and drawn none of their seven Premier League games so far is testament to that.
It should be fascinating to see how this Palace side get on this season. And if Bolasie can get some consistency into his game, maybe he won’t be at Selhurst Park in three-and-a-half years’ time…
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