When Alan Pardew swapped Newcastle United for Crystal Palace in early January, it was said the deal was perfect for both parties. Indeed, St. James’ Park wanted to get rid of the man perceived to be owner Mike Ashley’s “puppet,” and he was hardly smitten with the fans who called for his sacking every week without fail.
So when Palace came calling following their dismissal of Neil Warnock in the winter months, Pardew was only too happy to move to a club he knew he’d be loved at. A clear affiliation existed from his playing days, and he was born just a stone’s throw away in Wimbledon, so his family are located close.
As we creep toward the end of the 2014-15 Premier League season, it’s become clear only one side really benefitted from Pardew’s move. Crystal Palace’s epic 2-1 victory over Manchester City more or less confirmed safety as they moved onto 39 points for the season, while Newcastle, fresh off a painful derby-day defeat to Sunderland, have just two wins since the turn of the year under caretaker boss John Carver.
Pardew’s impact at the club has been both immediate and durable, with too many points to count. Jason Puncheon has been phenomenal in a more central role, Wilfried Zaha is scoring goals and Scott Dann, in truth, is playing football worthy of notice from Roy Hodgson and England.
But perhaps the biggest change, and by proxy the most positive one, is the rejuvenation of Glenn Murray—Palace’s goalscoring hero of the past four months. No story emanating from the club or individual turnaround matches his, and it’s one Pardew can legitimately claim to be his own doing.
Murray was on the verge of being sold in January. He was out of favour and Championship clubs such as Reading were hovering with intent, per GetReading.co.uk. Pardew laid it plain and simple to reporters after his first Premier League win with Crystal Palace—a 2-1 defeat of Tottenham Hotspur—outlining his intent to speak to Murray and assure him he was in his plans. Shortly after, Murray signed a new deal.
Since then he’s been an assassin in front of goal, a genuine unsung hero in a rapidly improving side. Zaha and Yannick Bolasie dominate the highlight reels and Puncheon’s wand of a foot makes the headlines, but Murray’s five goals in his last five games—including a crazy brace and red card at Upton Park—could and should be the focus.
“We knew the centre-backs would be aggressive, we told Glenn he’d need to buy us fouls, win headers and work hard,” the manager told reporters after the game. “It was an exceptional performance. Forget about his goal, [it was] a real lesson in how to play as a No. 9.”
“He’s had a terrible time with injuries. [We are] so pleased with him and the quality he has.”
Pardew and Palace are building for next season and looking upward, not down. He won’t admit it yet but they are safe, and he can take a more considered and calculated stab at the transfer window in the summer without rushing and signing duds. Striker won’t be atop the wish list largely because Murray’s the No. 1 choice.
A club like Palace need a manager who can extract every last drop from the resources available, and Pardew—adored by the terraces and, seemingly, the board too—is in the perfect place. The rejuvenation of Murray typifies what he has brought to the club. He looks an inspired choice by chairman Steve Parish.
Isn’t it time we all started looking at our backs…for Crystal Palace?