As Crystal Palace ready themselves for their club-record fifth consecutive season in the Premier League, the signing of Dutchman Frank de Boer as their new manager is a clear signal that it is time for the club to take the next step in their development and battle for top ten finishes and even European football.
De Boer can be considered quite a coup, considering the obvious pedigree that he has. As the Netherlands’ most capped defensive outfield player in history, with 112 appearances, the defender captained the Oranje to the semi-finals of the 1998 FIFA World Cup as well as Euro 2000. His club career was even more impressive, as his time with Ajax, Barcelona and short spells with Galatasaray, Rangers, Al-Rayyan and Al-Shamal yielded five Eredivisie titles, two KNVB Cups, one UEFA Cup, the Champions League and a La Liga title.
His career in management began in 2007 with a spell with the Ajax youth team, during which De Boer was also named assistant to then-Netherlands manager Bert van Marwijk during the Dutch World Cup campaign of 2010 – Making it all the way to the final of the tournament. In December of the same year, De Boer was handed the reins to the senior Ajax squad, whom he duly guided to the league title. Over the next three seasons, three more consecutive Eredivisie titles would follow, and De Boer became the first manager to win the Dutch league title four times in a row. In August 2016, the Dutchman took over from Roberto Mancini as the manager of Inter Milan. However, his tumultuous reign would only last around three months before his dismissal due to what he called a lack of sufficient time to get his ideas across and poor leadership after the takeover of the club.
This, of course, brings us to the present day and his appointment as Crystal Palace manager. “I am thrilled to be appointed as manager of Crystal Palace Football Club. It is a great honor to take charge of such an historic club, a club that is known around the world for its hugely proud and passionate fan base. This role is a hugely exciting opportunity for me, and I cannot wait to get started in the Premier League with the players and staff here in south London.” (Crystal Palace Official Website). It isn’t hard to see why Palace was an attractive option for De Boer; the Premier League’s immense appeal all over the world makes it a great platform and showcase for football, and the revenue being brought in by bumper TV-deals means that there aren’t too many restrictions on which players can be brought in – And that is not even considering the quality of the club’s fans and the location in London.
But most importantly, Palace provides De Boer with something of a blank canvas. The Alan Pardew era started brightly and yielded a trip to the FA-Cup final, but unraveled in typically Pardew fashion, because there was no real style of play, or plan for that matter, in place. Sam Allardyce was never anything more than a stop-gap in order to stave off relegation, and unsurprisingly was less than aesthetically pleasing to watch. So while De Boer inherits a number of fine players such as Yohan Cabaye, Wilfried Zaha and Christian Benteke, he has the opportunity to mold them into whatever he desires. This, of course, will also greatly benefit Palace as a club heading forward. If a club has an identity on the pitch, it is much easier to identify cogs to be added to or replaced in the machine, whether it be a coach or a player.
Additionally, De Boer has never been shy to give youth a chance or develop his players. Among those players who have blossomed under the tutelage of the Dutchman at Ajax one can count a number of current Premier League stalwarts, such as Tottenham Hotspur trio Jan Vertonghen, Toby Alderweireld and Christian Eriksen, as well as Manchester United’s Daley Blind. Furthermore, De Boer also handed a debut at Ajax to Everton’s new £23 million summer signing Davey Klaassen, who has 14 senior Netherlands caps under his belt. True to form, at his unveiling De Boer already stressed that he will be having a good look at the youngsters at Selhurst Park, stating “I will give youth an opportunity when they are good enough and it’ll be interesting to see how talented the players are” (Crystal Palace Official Twitter Account).
It definitely is well worth keeping an eye on Palace this season, and fans have some cause for optimism, as the future looks quite bright. This move is a real statement of intent from the powers-that-be at Selhurst Park that it is time to take a step forward after a number of seasons spent consolidating the club’s position in the top tier of English football. It would be unrealistic to expect De Boer and his charges to immediately take the Premier League by storm, but his presence alone will command respect in the dressing room and even attract transfer targets who, before, would not necessarily have reason to choose Crystal Palace over other suitors.
All in all, this appointment seems to be a move that has only positives for both sides – In theory. But the question now is whether everyone involved will make the most of this situation on the pitch, where theory has a nasty habit of becoming irrelevant.