I used to love watching Chris “Cookie” Coleman playing for Palace, in the early 1990’s. Back in the day, Sir Steve Coppell even converted Coleman into a makeshift striker during a struggling spell in the early 90’s, with a pretty good return. A very clever footballer, sweet left foot, Coleman adapted well to his new role within the side, and definitely saved Palace a few quid in the transfer market back then.
However, when Palace were relegated from the Premier League in 1995, Coleman kicked up a massive stink. He, like many of our other relegated team, wanted out, and wanted out at the very first opportunity. He was clearly too good for the then First Division, but his attitude was poor, and ultimately, we caved in and sold Coleman to the then Premier League champions, Blackburn Rovers for £2.8 million.
Most Palace fans at the time were gutted he left, but there was no benefit to us in him hanging around, potentially upsetting the morale of the dressing room, and to be honest, he became a sulker. Blackburn was a very good career move for Cookie, but unfortunately, his career did not go to plan and he suffered Achilles injuries, and then the fateful career ending broken leg in the car crash – which thankfully he survived.
We are (eventually) quite a forgiving lot down at Selhurst Park. So much so, that Coleman was even voted into the “Palace Centenary XI” in 2005. He had struck up a very good partnership with Richard Shaw. I can think of few better centre backs or left backs we have had since Cookie, (Ashley Cole was the only possible left back who was better in my opinion).
Fast forward nearly twenty years, and Coleman is now being heavily linked with our vacant manager’s job down in SE25. Whether or not Palace are being used as a smokescreen to his proposed new deal with the Welsh FA remains to be seen, but we have definitely been played in this way previously. If Coleman doesn’t return to Palace, I, for one, would not be shedding too many tears.
Don’t get me wrong, most of us football fans romance about one of “the favourites” coming home, the “prodigal son” returns, you get my drift. At Palace, we have had plenty of examples of these down the years. The most Ginger man ever, David Hopkin had two stints with us. Neil Shipperley (once referred to me as owning a frame “the size of a small tower block” and “The QE2 turns faster than Shipps”), the wonderfully skilled Dougie Freedman and the robust Andy Gray are also examples of players who have returned to us in years gone by – with mixed outcomes of success and failure.
Personally, I don’t think Coleman fits into the “prodigal son”, or “returning hero” bracket. My opinion also differs from the widely publicised opinions of CPFC 2010, that our new Manager should have a “connection” to Palace. I don’t think this is relevant in this appointment – fresh ideas and (even more) fresh faces are the things that Palace desperately need, which, for me, definitely rules out Coleman.
There are also various doubts over Coleman’s ability as a Manager. Personally, I don’t think he is as bad as some people have made out, he got off to a great start at Fulham, and had a good stint in charge there. One could argue that this job was easy for him, as he only had to make the transition from player to manager, and being captain there, he would have already gotten the respect of the dressing room anyway. But, in this ever changing fast paced game of football management, he was on his way soon after and had some mixed fortunes in his following roles.
Real Sociedad would have been a dream job, let’s face it, most managers would want a crack at Spanish football, let alone the beautiful lifestyle on offer over there. A love of this “lifestyle” supposedly let Coleman down in Spain though, and he was on his way back to Blighty, and literally sent to Coventry. Here, he did spectacularly average in the Championship, with a pretty decent squad of players at his disposal to be fair. Following a very poor 2009-10 season, he was on his bike again. A very successful spell in Greece then followed, with Larissa. Due to financial problems there though, his time was cut short after eight months, and he was once again, returning to Britain.
Naturally, the Wales job then followed for Coleman, and being a proud Welshman, I am sure he would have jumped at the chance of bossing his country, even in the tragic circumstances of the death of his predecessor, and good friend, Gary Speed. His record of four wins from fifteen games in charge of Wales is not that bad, when you consider the shortage of quality in the Welsh ranks.
But there still seems to be a “false arrogance” about Cookie, and to be perfectly frank, I would call him an average manager. He may have a very attractive wife, but this doesn’t make him our saviour. But maybe this is what Palace will have to settle for – the role of Crystal Palace manager is not exactly an exciting one for somebody at the moment – it could become a labour of love for somebody with genuine feeling for Palace, but for me, Coleman’s authenticity to all things Palace is just not there, and it’s not genuine – and I think he would be the wrong manager for us right now. So, sorry Cookie – it’s a no from me.