Palace eye a top-ten finish thanks to Pulis’ practicality

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If Tony Pulis isn’t in with a shout of swiping the Manager of the Year award for his efforts since taking over Crystal Palace, then the deciding panel must have a deep-rooted hatred of middle-aged men wearing caps.

When the battle-weary Ian Holloway walked away from his job at Selhurst Park, Palace were second bottom in the Premier League with one win to their name and 17 goals in the “against” column.

The Eagles net bulged four times more before Pulis arrived, taking their defensive record to 21 goals shipped in just 12 games and few onlookers would have backed them to cling to their top-flight status.

Less than five months on, a 3-2 victory at top-four chasing Everton warmed the hearts of neutrals and left Pulis secure enough in his situation to claim that safety had been achieved.

The fairytale turnaround has been built on a seismic shift in defensive capability. The south London club have conceded just 20 times in Pulis’ tenure and the Everton match was the first time in eight outings that his defence had been breached more than once.

That said, safety doesn’t mean the 56-year-old will suddenly throw caution to the wind in celebration of achieving the seemingly impossible. That just isn’t the Pulis way.

More likely to delight the relegation-proof boss is a clean sheet next time out and with his side 12/5 to hand him the pragmatist’s dream present against West Ham, it’s a punt well worth considering.

It’s true what they say about hindsight: it really is a wonderful thing. Holloway’s style of football was never going to keep Palace in the division. It didn’t work with Blackpool why would it work here?

Pulis’ philosophy is far more conducive to a “small club scrapping for survival” and it wouldn’t be a complete shock if he leapfrogged his old employers Stoke, who sit just three points ahead, to land an 11/2-rated top ten finish this term either.

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Matt Wiggins

No idyllic sound comes close to leather on willow for Matt, whose previous experience includes stints with Spin Magazine and Surrey County Cricket Club. It's not just cricket that interests him though, with football, golf, tennis and any American sport not played on ice all high on his list of favourites.