Sam Allardyce was looning it up on the touchline at Bournemouth when Palace earned their first win under the ex-England boss on Tuesday night, but Sunderland mercilessly removed the smile from their former manager’s face at Selhurst Park on Saturday.
Big Sam was jigging at Dean Court and also again today as he flirted with Alice the Eagle on his way to the dugout before kick-off. The return trip was rather less jovial as Palace fans, who have probably by now had their fill of shifty shape-throwing managers, vented their frustration having seen their side ripped to pieces by the Premier League’s worst team.
From seven shots – all seven on target – David Moyes’ Black Cats mauled the Eagles, most devastatingly in a three-goal burst just before half-time. Wayne Hennessey, who was already desperately short on credit with the Palace fans, dropped a bollock to allow Lamine Kone to score the opener in the ninth minute before the travelling Sunderland supporters experienced the most enjoyable six minutes of their season. Joe Ledley presented the ball to Didier Ndong, who scored a fine first goal for the club, prior to Palace allowing Adnan Januzaj the freedom of the park to twice set up Jermain Defoe for his 13th and 14th Premier League goals of the season. Where the hell would Sunderland be without him?
Half-time provided little relief for the Palace players, who shuffled off towards the tunnel with cries of “you’re not fit to wear the shirt” ringing in their ears. It was all too much for one Palace fan, who felt it necessary confront Damien Delaney. The defender never returned for the second half as Allardyce changed shape to 4-4-2. That served only to keep Sunderland scoreless in the second-half as both sides went through the motions knowing the game was up.
Fans ran on to get in Delaney's face at half time whistle. Toxic scenes here.
— Adam Crafton (@AdamCrafton_) February 4, 2017
This must be rock-bottom from Palace. It can’t surely get any worse – and Allardyce has to use that as a positive.
He will tell you this is still Pardew’s team. Of his January recruits, only Patrick van Aanholt played – or at least, he was on the pitch. Mamadou Sakho will go straight into the back four – Palace won’t persist with a three, surely? – while Jeffrey Schlupp will be expected to justify his £56,000-a-week wages immediately when he is fit. Few people are sure what to expect from Luka Milivojevic but the Serbia midfielder is likely to add some steel to a midfield from which Allardyce will demand more fight than finesse.
With summer recruits Steve Mandanda and Loic Remy edging back towards fitness, Allardyce could – and probably will – argue that there is an entirely new spine to be transplanted into his XI.
As poor as Palace have been, they are in a dog fight with at least five other teams. Only two points currently separate the bottom six, and you would find it hard to argue against any of them being relegated.
Some teams, like Palace, pinned their hopes on a new manager bounce, and it seems to be paying dividends, certainly in the short-term for the Swans and the Tigers. The Eagles, however, have completely failed to take flight under Allardyce so far, though he will point to last season at Sunderland as a source of encouragement.
— Gary Taphouse (@garytaphouse) February 4, 2017
Allardyce failed then to inspire an immediate improvement, with Sunderland losing eight of their first 11 games under his stewardship. However, once he was able to recruit and drill his troops into a more functional unit, they were beaten only four times in the remaining 18 games.
Palace have lost six of their first 10 under Allardyce, so an improvement is certainly due. The next five games are crucial with Stoke, Boro, West Brom, Tottenham and Watford waiting – and three of those are at Selhurst Park.
The Palace ‘ultras’ certainly won’t stomach a repeat of today’s shambles when Boro arrive on February 25 – their next home game which follows a two-week break during which Allardyce has to provoke an improvement. We all know it won’t be pretty, but at least for a few months we’ll be spared the sight of Big Sam’s shapes.