One route for Pulis and Palace, but will it lead to survival?

There are a lot of reasons to feel uninspired by Tony Pulis’ football – the route one approach and flurry of long balls, the at times over reliance on a physical approach and the lack of a plan B.

There are, however, a lot of reasons to consider Pulis’ brand of football perfect for a side like Crystal Palace, languishing at the bottom of the Premier League table and facing a mighty uphill battle if they’re to ensure top-flight status for another season.

For all the criticism his tactics attract, the former Stoke manager knows how to make his teams hard to beat which, quite plainly, is often the difference between a 17th spot finish and the drop.

His appointment might not be the inspiring and inspired choice many in South London had hope for but, as the saying goes, beggars can’t be choosers and Palace look to have got the right man, even if that meant having to shelve plans of hiring an ambitious prospect – Dan Petrescu – or welcoming the most ill-advised of returns – Ian Dowie.

Pulis’ reign at Stoke is perhaps too often judged on the reputation his team developed and on the circumstances that surrounded his departure, but it’s easy to forget that the Welshman kept the Potters in the Premier League for five years, guiding them to an FA Cup final and to a solid Europa League run.

Furthermore, the man who almost – almost – made baseball cap fashionable among football managers has never been relegated in 21 years and, given the circumstances, Palace need all different sorts of morale boots they can get.

“I personally don’t think we were [a long-ball team] at Stoke,” said Pulis at his unveiling, when the obvious question about his football credo was fired at him.

“When you have Matthew Etherington, Charlie Adam, Steven Nzonzi you’ve got some really top players and we weren’t that. The problem is you start in a way that will make you successful and you build up from there and you get a reputation for playing a certain way, but you try to take it on. For the seven years I was there we had that upward curve.

“It’s down to the players you’ve got. You put an identity on a team, you put an identify on a football club.

“I hate going to watch games of football and at the end you don’t know what that team is trying to achieve. So having an identity is key for me. Whether it’s Swansea or whoever. It’s determined by the players.”

An identity is exactly what Palace have been missing this season, with Ian Holloway handed his P45 after a summer of travail in the transfer window translated into an awful start to the season, so bad in fact, that Palace were tipped to equal Derby’s woeful record in the 2007-08 season.

Palace’s first away win of the season lifted the Eagles off the bottom of the table, albeit only on goal difference and with the January transfer window looming large, the next two months are likely to prove crucial for the South Londoners.

Among the critics for his tactics, many tend to forget that at Stoke Pulis sealed some very astute signings, with Asmir Begovic, Ryan Shawcross and Robert Huth being prime examples.

The new Palace manager will need all his shrewdness to strengthen Palace’s squad and steer them clear of the relegation zone.

Whether that’s achieved via long balls or a passing game, nobody is likely to care. Not for the moment, anyway.

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