It has been quite a period of waiting for Crystal Palace fans. Since the end of the season, when long-term coach and Palace fan Roy Hodgson admitted he was leaving, there has been talk of numerous candidates. Talks with Nuno Espirito Santo failed at the last hurdle, while there are some interesting links with the likes of Eddie Howe, Frank Lampard, and Scott Parker. However, the most intriguing link is coming out of Wales in the form of Steve Cooper.
The coach has done a fine job in Wales, turning around an ailing Jacks side and getting them playing an aggressive, positive brand of football. His time as manager of the England youth sides, as well as time spent at Liverpool as a youth coach, has given the coach some intriguing relationships that led to some interesting signings. Could he bring those some contacts to Palace?
With the Eagles looking to rebuild their squad, we could see some pretty intriguing changes come in the near future. This could include a raft of players from the successful England youth sides he managed, with a few – such as Dominic Solanke and Rhian Brewster – looking for fresh top-flight opportunity. Palace could offer both players an opportunity to get consistent gametime in the top flight.
Is Steve Cooper the right fit for Crystal Palace?
An attack-minded coach with a penchant for youth development and for giving players a defined system? On paper, he sounds perfect. However, fans would worry about the lack of top-flight experience. Given he arrived at Swansea when they were in a total rebuild, too, it was ideal for the coach to build things slowly there. At Palace, as has been shown in the past, any time wasted could lead to a highly expensive relegation.
Therefore, can Cooper hit the ground running? So far, his managerial career appears to show a series of marginal gains. It would therefore be tough to imagine him making any of the major aesthetic changes that Palace fans crave in terms of playing style to happen in one summer. The problem is that, given the size of the club, it can be tough to keep players – and positions in the top-flight – long enough to build a successful side.
Frank de Boer and others have found that out to their cost – and this might see Palace shirk away from a more aesthetically pleasing style. Survival is the ultimate aim, yes, but fans want to see a more progressive style – at least in some quarters. Cooper, if backed and if given time without panicking, could offer that composure and style without much issue.
The only question for Palace, then, is whether or not the Swansea coach can put things together quickly enough. In a summer where change is going to be pretty major both in the playing staff and the dugout, it will be intriguing to see how inventive Palace get. While a risk, Cooper would definitely fit the description of outside-the-box.
For a fanbase that has gotten used to managers like Sam Allardyce, Alan Pardew, and Tony Pulis during the Premier League years, a more inventive appointment might just pay off.