Tuesday, March 02, 2010

The New Management Team At Crystal Palace Football Club

New Palace manager Paul Hart with his assistant Dougie Freedman

Since Crystal Palace F.C went into administration on the 26th January 2010, there had been much speculation but no real concrete substantiation on the movement or otherwise of manager Neil Warnock.

However on Tuesday it was announced Neil was leaving the Club, to become Queens Park Rangers' fifth managerial appointment of the 2009/10 season. Along with Neil the backroom staff of Keith Curle and Mick Jones also left to join him in palatial West London.

I would like to say that I personally was a fan of Mr. Warnock, or to be more accurate I grew to become a fan, because I have to admit I was somewhat apprehensive when this gregarious, brash, Yorkshire born and bred, larger than life character was initially appointed two and a half years ago.

Some of the unsubstantiated comments allegedly made by Neil on his departure left a somewhat sour taste in mine and many other Palace supporters mouths. How true those comments were I am none to sure, as much as I am as to why he decided to leave in the first place.

Swapping one London club in a perilous financial position and potentially relegation bound for another in an equally precarious position on the field, albeit with an affluent but seemingly self-destructible and unpredictable boardroom, with just 14 games of the season to go, I simply fail to understand!
The truth may never be known outside of those immediately implicated.

However during Neil's tenure I was also impressed with the work of Neil's assistant Keith Curle, (the ex Manchester City and England International player).

Without trying to stick my oar in, I went to watch the Ivory Coast play South Korea (two of the World Cup qualifiers) in an international friendly at Loftus Road on Wednesday afternoon, and unsurprisingly bumped into Keith as he arrived at his 'new home.'

Out of interest I asked Keith if he had been offered the position of manager at Palace after Neil decided to leave, to which he replied 'no.'
I then put it to him that if he had been offered the managerial role at Palace would he in fact have taken it. His somewhat muted, low-key reply was ' yes.'

Now I have to say my heart sank at that moment, because in my eyes he would have been an ideal replacement for Neil for several reasons. The obvious ones being that he already knew the set-up at Palace, the players - their abilities and mind set, he had the experience of working with Neil, was well respected at the Club by the players and supporters alike, and therefore was in my humble opinion the best person to fill the void left by Neil's departure, and to take the Club forward.

However a new management team is in place and Neil Warnock is in the library listed under the ' history' section, and I look forward on a positive note to the arrival of our three new amigos in the shape of Paul Hart, his assistant, ex-Palace hero Dougie Freedman, and first team coach John Pemberton, also a former Crystal Palace player.

The new men in charge:

The Manager:
Paul Hart

Born on 4th May 1953 in Golborne, Lancashire, Paul Hart began his playing career in 1970 at Stockport County. In 1978 he made a £300,000 move to Leeds United as a replacement for Gordon McQueen, and spent another five years at Elland Road where he made 191 appearances.

He went on to play for a number of other clubs namely Nottingham Forest, Sheffield Wednesay, Birmingham and finally Notts County.

After announcing his retirement Paul was appointed manager of Chesterfield. He spent three years with the Spireites, which included an unsuccessful run to the play-offs, before a fall out with the Chairman led to his depature in 1991.

He then moved into youth coaching and was offered the role as head of Leeds United's Academy.
His young side won the FA Youth Cup in 1993 and 1997, while many of his young players went on to establish themselves in the Leeds side that reached the Champions League semi finals in 2001.

He then moved to Nottingham Forest to take charge of their Academy, but was promoted in 2001 to first team manager upon the departure of David Platt.
Hart was forced to take control of a club that had spiralled into crippling debt under Platt, and he had to accept losing a series of key players to balance the books.
Nonetheless Hart still managed to stablise the team and actually led them to the First Division play-off semi-finals in 2003.

He was offered the vacant managerial position at League One side Barnsley, before his departure by mutual consent.

A short spell in charge of Rushden & Diamonds followed in 2006, but it proved to be another short stay and he returned to youth team management at Portsmouth in 2007.

Two years later Pompey's first team manager, Tony Adams was removed from his post and Hart was offered the position as caretaker manager until the end of the 2008/09 season.
It was made permanent in July 2009, but he couldn't replicate the success he had the previous campaign and after a difficult start to the new season he left the club.

It led to a surprise move to QPR in December in a move that turned out to be another bizarre turn of events in the South West London club's managerial merry-go-round, because after less than month in charge he left Loftus Road.

On 2nd March 2010 Hart was appointed manager of Crystal Palace.

Assistant Manager:
Dougie Freedman

Born 25th May 1974 in Glasgow, Dougie Freedman began his career with top flight Queens Park Rangers in 1992, but never made their first team. Instead, he moved to Third Division Barnet on a free transfer in July 1994. He made his league debut in August 1994 and quickly became the club's leading player as he struck 24 goals in his debut season. A bright start to the following season convinced Crystal Palace to bid £800,000 to take him to Selhurst Park in September 1995.

Freedman instantly showed he could continue his goalscoring antics at the higher level when he netted 20 times in the 1995–96 season.

The following season saw a less prolific 11 goals scored by the Scotsman, but it was enough to help the club to the promotion play-offs. He then scored crucial goals in the 89th and 90th minutes of their semi-final tie with Wolves after coming off the bench with just 17 minutes left. Palace went on to win promotion in the Wembley final, beating Sheffield United 1–0.

In October 1997, Freedman moved ironically to Wolves on a loan spell and was signed permanently after impressing at the Molineux club. However, his spell with the club would only last until the end of the 1997–98 season, before Freedman was sold to Nottingham Forest for £950,000 in August 1998.

Nottingham Forest offered Freedman his first full season in the top flight in 1998–99, but Forest were relegated. He remained with the club for a further full season before rejoining Crystal Palace again in October 2000, this time for £600,000.

Freedman joined the club during a relegation threatened campaign, but one which ended with perhaps his most famous goal for the club. Relegation to the third tier loomed in Palace's final game of the season at Stockport County. With three minutes left and the score 0-0, Freedman dramatically pounced to score probably the most vital goal in the Club's history, and one which secured Palace's survival in the division.

The following campaign saw him bag 21 goals in all competitions, his best seasonal tally for the club. This also earned him a call-up to the Scottish national team, to add to his earlier Under 21 caps.

However the following season was less of a personal success. His fortunes were revived in 2003–04 though, as he re-established himself as a first choice regular under new manager Iain Dowie. A strong surge in the second-half of the season saw the club go from relegation contenders to the promotion play-offs. He was an unused substitute in the final though, which saw the club beat West Ham and win promotion to the top flight, the second time he had been promoted with the club.

However, life in the Premier League in 2004–05 saw Freedman often overlooked as the team employed only one striker in most games, with Andy Johnson being the preferred choice in this role.
He remained committed to the Palace cause of consolidating FA Premier League status by rejecting a loan bid from Leeds, and scored in their final game of the season, but could not prevent the club enduring Premier League relegation in 2005.

Back in the Championship the form of fellow strikers Johnson and Clinton Morrison limited his first-team opportunities, but he scored his 100th and 101st goals for Crystal Palace in a 3–2 win at rivals Brighton & Hove Albion on 20th November 2005. This made him only the seventh player in Palace history to have reached the century mark.

His coaching career began when he was appointed as the reserve team manager of Crystal Palace in November 2007. He was in this role alongside his playing duties for the club's first team.

Freedman joined League One club Leeds United on loan in early 2008, until the end of the season, where he made quite an impression. He helped them reach a play-off final at the age of 34.

After returning to Palace at the end of the season, Dougie was granted a testimonial match to reward him for ten years' service at the club over two spells.

In September 2008, Southend United announced the signing of Dougie Freedman on a two year contract. On 2nd March 2010 Freedman had his contract at Southend terminated by mutual consent and he returned to his former club Crystal Palace as the new assistant manager.

1st Team Coach:
John Pemberton

Born 18 November 1964 in Oldham, Lancashire John Pemberton started his career as a junior at Manchester United but was released in June 1983. He signed for Chadderton F.C, then Rochdale A.F.C before moving to Crewe Alexandra in 1985.

He initially came to prominence when he joined Crystal Palace in 1988, helping them win promotion to the First Division in 1989.
He appeared for Palace in the 1990 FA Cup Final against Manchester United at Wembley.

In 1990, Pemberton moved to Sheffield United. His most memorable moment game in 1993 when he scored the winning penalty in the shootout against Blackburn Rovers in the Quarter Final replay of the FA Cup. The following summer he was sold to Yorkshire rivals Leeds United.

Pemberton became something of a cult figure at Leeds owing to his determination and high work-rate. He appeared in a second Wembley final when he played for Leeds in the 1996 League Cup Final against Aston Villa, again, unfortunately for Pemberton his side was defeated.

He ended his career back at Crewe Alexandra with two appearances in the 1997–98 season.

Pemberton coached Nottingham Forest's reserve team to the Central League title in the 2007–08 season. In December 2008, following the dismissal of first-team manager Colin Calderwood, Pemberton was appointed as caretaker manager before Billy Davies was named as the new first-team boss. At the end of the 2008–09 season Davies re-organised his coaching staff, and Pemberton's contract was terminated by mutual consent after more than a decade as part of Forest's backroom team.

On 2nd March 2010 Pemberton was appointed first team coach at Crystal Palace.

May I take this opportunity to wish the new management team the best of luck for the remainder of the season.
As a Palace fan, on behalf of all Palace fans, can I ask that each of you give 100% in your efforts to keep 'The Eagles' in the Championship. In return you will have our whole hearted support in these difficult times.

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