Allardyce aims to end Palace hoodoo
Published 22/08/2014 | 16:36
Sam Allardyce is aiming to break West Ham's losing streak over Crystal Palace - but is expecting a tough challenge from a side still likely to play the 'Tony Pulis' way.
Former manager Pulis left Selhurt Park less than 48 hours before the start of the new Barclays Premier League season, with Keith Millen taking charge of Saturday's narrow 2-1 defeat at Arsenal.
With the furore surrounding Malky Mackay's ongoing wranglings with former club Cardiff, the Scot will no longer be filling the vacancy.
That means Millen is once again likely to be in charge of first-team affairs for the visit of West Ham - with the Eagles having won four of the last six meetings and remaining unbeaten in the fixture since 2003.
But Allardyce, who is struggling with early season injuries and suspension to his defensive line, is hopeful of overcoming their recent south London hoodoo.
"I think they have some better players than last season but they very much stick to the same type of structural organisation," he said.
"We didn't beat them last year and it will be just as difficult, if not more so, with the players they've brought in.
"The new players have lots of Premier League experience and from that point of view we'll have a tough job.
"There's still lots of excitement around the ground and the stadium, the players know their position now, they know what their job is. At the start of last season they found it difficult to cope with the league, but Tony Pulis came in and structured it accordingly.
"It'll be a tight game. I don't think there'll be many goals in it, but hopefully it'll be as entertaining as it possibly can be."
The Hammers slipped to two 1-0 defeats at the hands of Palace last season and went on to finish two places lower than the Eagles' final position of 11th.
With debutants Aaron Cresswell and Cheikhou Kouyate impressing in the last-gasp defeat to Tottenham last week, Allardyce could hand either Enner Valencia or Diafra Sakho their first starts for the club on Saturday.
But, after bolstering his attacking options over the summer, it is in defence where Allardyce will be weakened - with James Collins banned and James Tomkins, Joey O'Brien and Carl Jenkinson unlikely to be completely match fit.
Republic of Ireland international O'Brien is hoping the managerial uncertainty can see the Hammers turn the tables this season.
"Palace did a number on us twice last year, so we want to get one back," he said.
"In that first year in the Premier League you might wonder what to expect from them, but now everyone knows their players and the situations they create. We know what to expect this year.
"I don't know whether the managerial situation there will affect the players. I watched their game against Arsenal last week and they played really well - they were unlucky to lose the game, so it's a home game for them, their fans will be up for the first home game of the season and we'll have to play at our best."
Crystal Palace's rocky managerial search has clouded the club's future in uncertainty, according to caretaker boss Millen.
Former Palace defender Millen has pledged the protracted bid to replace Pulis will not affect Saturday's home Barclays Premier League clash with West Ham.
The 47-year-old did concede, however, that as long as the Eagles remain without a permanent manager, the club's future direction will be called into question.
Former Celtic manager Neil Lennon is the latest bookies' favourite to success Pulis, who walked out on Palace on the eve of the new season.
Allegations of racism and homophobia lodged with the FA by Cardiff put paid to Mackay's chances of taking the Selhurst Park helm, also forcing the resignation of Palace's sporting director Iain Moody.
"It's probably the same now as it was when Ian (Holloway) left last November," said Millen, still adamant he wants the permanent Palace job.
"It's the not knowing that's the hardest thing for the players and staff - which direction the club and the chairman want to go in.
"Who's going to come in, are we going to play a different way, what sort of structure will we have and as far as staff's concerned what role will we play?
"So it's probably the unknown ,the uncertainty, that is the hardest thing to get your head around."
Former Tottenham manager Tim Sherwood ruled himself out of contention for the Palace job after initially being deemed second choice to Mackay.
Millen took caretaker charge of Palace when Ian Holloway was sacked in October 2013, until former Stoke boss Pulis arrived.
Croydon-born Millen said he hopes his past experiences of temporary management can help Palace gear up to face Allardyce's Hammers this weekend.
"From day one we've been favourites to get relegated, so it's always been us against the world if you like anyway," said Millen.
"And I think that suits us, we like to be the underdogs, and we like to prove people wrong.
"Come Saturday you'll see a united team that will want to get three points for the club.
"I think they realise, the lads know that it's no reflection on them, they've done nothing wrong. None of the managers or anyone that's left has been because of the players, and they know that, it's not affected their confidence.
"The only question-mark from them is what direction we're going to take now.
"The beauty of me being able to continue it is I know what we're good at, so that hasn't caused too much unrest.
"We've continued on the lines that I think brings the best out of the players."
Scott Dann has an "outside chance" of featuring.
Millen wil l put Dann through a late fitness test as the central defender battles to beat a hip strain in time for the Hammers' visit.
Adrian Mariappa trained on Thursday following a rib complaint, while Jonny Williams and Jerome Thomas are also fit to return.