Strengthening Palace defence was crucial to survival says Allardyce
By Rex Gowar
LONDON (Reuters) - Sam Allardyce thanked the Crystal Palace board for the financial support that helped him to save the south London club from relegation and end a season that started with his ill-fated short reign as England manager on a high note.
Palace crushed Hull City 4-0 on Sunday in a relegation tussle at Selhurst Park that began with them needing one point for Premier League survival, while the visitors had to win to carry their fight to a final home match against Tottenham Hotspur next weekend.
“I came in on December 23 and it was a tough, tough time... The concentration on recruitment in the transfer market was certainly one of the big elements in our turnaround,” said Allardyce, who saved Sunderland from the drop last season.
“The acquisition of the players who arrived at the club made us better,” said Allardyce, who immediately set out to improve the club's leaky defence, signing Patrick van Aanholt and taking Mamadou Sakho on loan from Liverpool.
“We had to start at that (defensive) base if we were going to get anywhere... The acquisitions made a difference, it increased the confidence of the players who were already here. We stopped conceding goals and started winning football matches.”
Once the team became settled, Palace went on a good run of six wins in eight matches from late February that included memorable victories away to Chelsea and at home to Arsenal. A late wobble with three successive losses put them back in the relegation battle they won on Sunday.
Hull manager Marco Silva, who also took charge midway through the campaign in January, said the north-east club needed a rethink after their second relegation in three seasons.
“Now the most important thing is for the club to understand what it did wrong... I will give my opinion to the board and the chairman to understand what the club needs to do differently,” the Portuguese said.
“In the three-and-a-half months we have been here we did our best to get the team to play differently and to fight to the end.”
Conceding a goal in the third minute when Wilfried Zaha scored after a defensive blunder was a blow to Hull’s ambitions.
“When you prepare for a final and you give one goal away in the first minutes, it’s very difficult... We put them where they wanted to be.
“For them a draw was enough and they played to our mistakes,” said Silva, whose popularity with Hull’s fans remains strong despite their relegation.
Hull were bottom when Silva took charge and he led them to six wins in eight home games but they failed to get a win in nine away matches.
(Editing by Clare Fallon)