LONDON: Sam Allardyce is not yet prepared to admit he faces his toughest test as a manager.
Five games into his Crystal Palace tenure, it is abundantly clear that the renowned “relegation firefighter” will need to work his magic fast if he is to preserve his record of never having been demoted from the Premier League as a manager.
Palace is in 17th place, just as it was when the south London club hired the straight-talking 61-year-old Allardyce after firing Alan Pardew in December.
Allardyce’s remit was to abandon the expansive playing style under Pardew and start digging out results.
Three Premier League losses and two draws later and nothing much appears to have changed.
“If at the end of the season I haven’t kept them up, then it will be my toughest test,” Allardyce said.
Palace gets a breather from its league struggles when it faces Allardyce’s former club Bolton in an FA Cup replay on Tuesday. Although the coach will make plenty of changes to his team, he knows what he must quickly put right: restoring Crystal Palace’s identity.
“When I was at West Ham and Crystal Palace came and thrashed us it was all about how good they were using the little possession they had,” Allardyce said Monday. “The team has lost what it’s used to be. The identity has changed.”
Allardyce, looking to restore a reputation tarnished by his short-lived stint as England coach, also knows where his work must focus.
Renowned for his pragmatic approach and producing defensively-solid teams having been a no-nonsense center back himself, Allardyce said: “Defensively we are conceding too many goals.”
“That’s an area of my expertise. I have started working with them in that area but it hasn’t worked yet.”
With that in mind, and on the evidence of a 3-0 loss against West Ham on Saturday, Allardyce is targeting reinforcements in the January transfer window. Having already signed Jeffrey Schlupp from champion Leicester, he said Monday that the club was close to sealing a deal for Arsenal right back Carl Jenkinson.