When Crystal Palace gained promotion to the Premier League in 2013, no one thought it would last very long.
After all, they didn’t have huge financial resources, they’d been in the Championship for quite some time, and they looked precisely like one of those sides that come up for one season, take the TV money and head back down.
And for the first couple of months of the season, those presumptions appeared to be accurate.
Ian Holloway left his post with Palace in the lower reaches of the league table, with assistant Keith Millen taking over on a temporary basis. It all looked pretty bleak.
Then something changed. Tony Pulis was installed as coach.
And then they just started winning…and winning and winning. In the latter half of that season, Palace showed Premier League-winning form, ending up in 11th.
Not only had they exceeded expectations, they’d cemented themselves in English football’s top tier.
But there was still the second season to overcome – arguably even harder than the first.
A spanner was thrown straight into the works on the eve of that season, with Pulis departing and Neil Warnock taking over. Things began to go south again.
But once again, a saviour came to the rescue – Palace hero Alan Pardew. Pardew was transformational, and the South London club finished in 10th, despite the poor form under Warnock.
Which brings us to this season. A season that started so well. For many weeks it appeared as if Pardew’s Palace were going to take another significant step forward and start challenging for European football.
But something’s happened. The wheels appear to be on the verge of coming off.
They haven’t won in the league since December 19th. They’ve lost to Premier League no-hopers Aston Villa, failed to beat Bournemouth and Swansea and been soundly defeated by Chelsea, despite the West London club’s ignominious form this year.
This Saturday, they were humiliated at the Etihad. Things aren’t going well.
If it was easy to put the finger on what has happened and why, there’s no doubt that Pardew would have sorted it.
But nothing’s changed. If anything it’s got worse.
It almost seems silly to be worrying about a Crystal Palace team in 8th, but given how far they’ve come, their downturn in form will be concerning fans.
Because when form disappears, it’s possible for a team like Palace to drop like a stone.
Whether the answer lies in some investment, some additional coaching or some psychological work, the observer won’t know; but Alan Pardew will be well aware of the importance of halting this slide, sooner rather than later. The repercussions of failing to do that could be severe.