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Frank De Boer plots new beginning for Crystal Palace

Tuesday, 27 June 2017



A few hours later, Crystal Palace broke the seal on what chairman Steve Parish called "the worst-kept secret in football", unveiling the manager with the papal name whose job it is to give the club's legion of believers something to cheer over the next three seasons.

Franciscus de Boer, better and more prosaically known as Frank, is the new man in charge at Selhurst Park, having seen off competition from the fully 36 other coaches who made Parish's long list after the unexpected departure of Sam Allardyce at the end of the 2016/17 season. He comes with pedigree, too: four league titles as Ajax manager, plus a nifty line in youth development.

De Boer looking to cultivate 'attractive, dominant' football at Palace

It is a glamorous capture for the Eagles, given De Boer's standing in the game, and one Parish believes is the right one to take them to the next level. According to latter, the Dutchman's vision can help shape a distinctive footballing philosophy that has been missing over the last few years and can turn the club into a consistent force. Call it Palace 2.0, if you will, or a Super Sweet Sistine coming-of-age.

"I don’t want to cling on to Premier League status for nine years, only to fall out of it and still be the same club," said an impassioned Parish. "I look at Southampton and Everton. It’s very difficult for those teams to suddenly get relegated in one season. It’s hard to see that because of the structure and what they’ve got in place. You know the people there are on top of the situation. That’s where I want this club to be. It’s a belief system that we need to generate."

The idea, it seems, is to create a side more comfortable with taking matches to their opponents. Palace picked up some impressive results against the big teams but struggled when asked to dictate play, especially at Selhurst Park. De Boer says he wants to bring more control, with the Ajax influence clearly strong in his coaching convictions.

De Boer was sacked at Inter Milan before joining Palace
"The fans are excited to come to see a team that wants to win, who wants to fight for every metre," said the former centre-back. "That's always the starting point for me. Also the technical ability to change to different systems.

"Ajax is famous for Total Football when [Johan] Cruyff started in the 1970s with Rinus Michels, so it's in our DNA to try and play tactical and technical football – to try to dominate. If you do that well it’s a plus because it's attractive and it looks nice.

"When you don't have the ball you can try to move them [the opposition] to where you want them to go. That's what I also mean, to be dominant. Everybody knows, 'Okay, this is happening, we're still in charge.' Against big clubs with fantastic players sometimes you will be pulled back, but still you have to be in the kind of shape where you can transition, be dangerous, or get the ball."

De Boer won four league titles with Ajax
That will be music to the ears of Parish, who clearly feels the time has come for Palace to trade in some of their loveable-underdogs chips for something altogether more ambitious.

"It's a simple problem to me: we were eighth or ninth in the league away from home, third bottom in the league at home [last season]," Parish contined. "We need to find a way of breaking down teams that give us the ball. The technical detail is Frank’s world, but if teams give us the ball, typically we lose. If we give them the ball we beat them, and that’s top teams as well.

"From the start, we developed a certain style of play, partly because it’s the DNA of the club, and partly because it’s less expensive. If you want to play on the break in the Championship, it’s less expensive than if you want a lot of technical midfielders. That’s stuck with us a little bit, but I  think we have got players here who are capable of doing a bit more.

"And that's not a sustainable model. We can all talk about Leicester winning the league, but we all know that was a bit of an anomaly. This year, when I watched Swansea and I watched us when the crunch time came, I thought that Swansea’s way of playing football gave them a higher [chance] of winning games.

"The last time we were in this division for four years, we lost Ian Wright and we got relegated. In Wifried [Zaha], we’ve got that kind of player who can do something out of nothing. But you can’t always rely on that and the machine is more important than the individual parts. We have to create that here if we are going to have a legacy football club that has a security and presence in the Premier League."

Is that why Parish has turned away from British coaches for the first time? Is there something extra that De Boer is bringing to the table that the likes of Allardyce, and Alan Pardew and Tony Pulis before him, could not muster?

"I've never sat down and said we are only going to get a British manager," Parish added. "When you look at the kind of situations we have been in, the people who have been out of work, it’s lent itself that way. But maybe, just maybe, there is a technical nature to the coaching across Europe that lends itself to [developing an identity] than maybe some of the British coaches.

"That is not denigrating any of the British coaches at all, as there are some fantastic ones that work in the game. Sam was perfectly capable of using different tactics. But I think that on a long-term basis, to generate what we want to achieve here, someone like Frank can take us to another level."
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