Ah, the Premier League off-season. That wonderful time of the year when the babbling legion of sunken-eyed, agoraphobic teenagers behind Twitter’s myriad insufferable “ITK” accounts really comes into its own.
This enthusiastic bunch of fantasists and chancers claim to maintain a secretive network of “sources” and “clients” spanning the entire spectrum of world football, who constantly feed them information on the inner workings of élite-level clubs. Alas, Paddy Power boasts no such access to a similarly illuminati-like fraternity, but nevertheless we’ve deemed it worthwhile to speculate on who might end up being appointed to the currently vacant Premier League jobs.
Almost a year down the line, the regular clientele of Crystals nightclub – until recently located below Selhurst Park – are said to be still reeling in the aftermath of Alan Pardew’s departure from the Eagles. For these WKD-swigging permatanned socialites, Big Sam never really cut it as a man-about-town, and Crystallites will no doubt be hoping that whoever Steve Parish appoints as Allardyce’s replacement can bring back to the club some of Pards’ famed dancefloor effervescence.
That may well be an unrealistic expectation with which to lumber the new man, who will be forgiven for focusing more on improving Palace’s onfield fortunes than knocking back the West Coast Coolers in a private booth on a Tuesday evening.
As a result it’s perhaps no coincidence that most of the favourites to take over at the club are consummate, mostly foreign, corporate-type professionals.
Frank de Boer is one such man, and is currently the clear favourite at 6/4.
The epitome of cool Euro-competence, the former Dutch international excelled at Ajax, where in his debut campaign as coach he returned the club to the summit of the Eredivisie after they went seven seasons without a title. De Boer was aided by the fact that by the time of his appointment he’d already spent nearly twenty years at the club as a player and coach, but the almost infallible image that he created in Amsterdam took a hit after a poor spell at Inter Milan in 2016.
The Dutchman was hindered in Italy by some political turmoil within the club, but could well recover from this and thrive in England. And yet Palace, perhaps, doesn’t immediately spring to mind as the most suitable destination for him. The club is somewhat lacking in the type of infrastructure – on and off the field – that a man like de Boer would demand.
A few weeks ago, Burnley manager Sean Dyche seemed a dead cert for the job.
There were apocryphal rumours that he’d been shown around the London side’s training ground, and bookies’ odds were cut drastically – to as low as 1/6 – amid some very strong speculation. The price on Dyche has now drifted out to 11/4, which seems a very decent offering for a manager who could well be perfectly suited to Palace.
He’s cut from similar cloth as Allardyce, and his teams are always well-drilled but usually low-budget and low-ego. Given Parish’s reputation for parsimony, Dyche might be seen as the ideal candidate to work with a modest transfer kitty and a fairly jobbing set of players. He may now be only the second-favourite for the job, but still seems the most realistic target for the Selhurst Park outfit.
Former Liverpool defender Mauricio Pellegrino has also been linked with the position, and at 3/1 he’s a decent shout, but if you’re looking beyond Dyche and de Boer, the smart money might go elsewhere. At 33/1, Reading manager Jaap Stam is an outside bet, but a good one. The Bald Eagle of Berkshire, as absolutely no-one is calling him, led the Royals to an impressive 3rd-place in the Championship in 2016/17, but his side ultimately lost out on promotion to David Wagner’s Huddersfield. Stam has gained a reputation as a thoughtful and imaginative coach, and might now be tempted to move on to a bigger job.
Among the many other names being regularly mentioned in relation to Palace, two stand out as particularly interesting, if slightly implausible, options: Gus Poyet and Brendan Rodgers, both available at 40/1. As a former coach of Brighton, the Uruguayan (currently managing in China) may not be a popular choice among the Palace faithful, who maintain an improbable enmity with the south coast club, but merits genuine consideration as a coach of some repute.
Rodgers, meanwhile, is running amok in Scotland with his own peculiar brand of slightly awkward, pseudo-corporate Brentian management techniques, and could be reluctant to swap a Champions League club for a struggling Premier League outfit. He would, however, see Palace as a club of potential, and taking a job in London would quickly return him to the conversation when bigger jobs inevitably come up.
Despite being a short-odds favourite in the Palace shake-up, De Boer is also many people’s pick to replace Claude Puel as Liverpool FC Chief Scout Southampton manager, perhaps showing a lack of imagination on the part of the world’s pundits, punters and bookies. On the other hand, it’s hard not to see him as the perfect fit.
Like Ajax, Southampton are a club built around efficient organisation, well thought-out player recruitment and an outstanding youth setup. The club is extremely well-run on the financial side of things, spending frugally and generally buying to sell, but is also highly proficient when it comes to internal management. De Boer, with his focus on coaching, would slot in beautifully alongside Les Reed, Southampton’s Director of Football (officially Head of Football Development). Significantly, he was also mooted to be on the club’s shortlist to replace Ronald Koeman, but was apparently rejected in light of the club’s unwillingness to replace one Dutchman with another.
Thomas Tuchel, the highly regarded ex-Dortmund coach, might still be tempted to St Mary’s, but has recently expressed his lack of interest in going there. His ambitions, it seems, are rather loftier than pitching up at a mid-table Premier League club, and he can pretty safely be ruled out at this stage.
Consequently, if the club’s interest strays away from de Boer the next-best candidate could well be an acolyte of Tuchel, namely Julian Nagelsmann, Hoffenheim’s precocious young coach, who turns 30 this summer.
Nagelsmann describes his style as “30% tactics, 70% social competence,” and has been on a carefully marked road to the top of the coaching ladder since his early twenties.
Bayern failed to attract him with an offer to manage their under-23 side, despite inviting him to an interview at which, by all accounts, he called the shots. Nagelsmann may decide to remain at a club where he reigns supreme, but if there is a club in the Premier League that meets his high standards, it’s Southampton. The south coast club would be well-advised to consider him.
Mister Superinjunction himself, Ryan Giggs, has also expressed a strong interest in replacing Puel, but will presumably be unwilling to subject himself to the indignity of actually doing any preparation for the role, such as being interviewed or asked to come up with a coherent strategy for how he might approach the job. Giggsy, perhaps keen to transition in this instance from sinner to Saint, has been lurking on the fringes of the managerial merry-go-round for some time now, but appears to be under the impression that the cushiest jobs in the land should be handed to him on a plate. Southampton, however, don’t seem like the type of club to take a punt on an unproven “name”.
Giggs is generously priced at 20/1 to take control of the Saints, but those looking for a smarter outside bet would be better served by looking at his ex-boss, Louis Van Gaal, who is out-of-work and apparently keen to return to England. His time at Man Utd was ultimately a failure, but Southampton may be a club more suited to his skill-set. On the pitch, Van Gaal values organisation and tactical rigidity, but is also a smooth operator and a man not unused to working at provincial sides, having impressed at AZ in a four-year stint in Alkmaar.
Perhaps the best value currently on the market at the moment, however, is to be found with Mauricio Pellegrino at 7/1. The Argentine’s impressive last season with Alavés has won him many admirers, and he is surely appearing on the shortlist of many clubs around the world with a managerial vacancy. He’s a composed and authoritative figure, and it would be no surprise to see him in the dugout at St Mary’s in the 2017/18 season.