On Saturday, his voice was strained. Alan Pardew had spent the closing moments of his final match in charge of Crystal Palace bellowing at his players, but they proved incapable of finding an equaliser against Chelsea. The Premier League leaders held Palace comfortably at bay, and the decision to remove Pardew from his Selhurst Park duties appears to have been not much more difficult.
"I don't think the stuffing or the turkey will taste quite as sweet as it can do -- maybe I won't taste the cranberries," Pardew joked weakly after a 1-0 loss that left Palace just a point above the relegation zone. He was stripped of his trademark ultra-high self-confidence.
Just six league victories in an entire calendar year has damned him at the club he represented as a hard-running midfielder in the late 1980s and early '90s. Having taken over on Jan. 3 almost two years ago, Palace collected 63 points in 2015. This year, by painful comparison, they have collected just 26. It is little wonder that the club's owners, American pair Joshua Harris and Daniel Blitzer plus local businessman Steve Parish, now look elsewhere.
Sam Allardyce, who spent last weekend in the Middle East, seems likely to be jetted in to take up the fight of a relegation battle. England's manager for just 67 days boasts a proud record of never having been relegated from the Premier League with either of Bolton Wanderers, Newcastle United, Blackburn, West Ham or Sunderland -- the last of which he admirably rescued last season. It is also little secret in football that "Big Sam" is keen to return to football, having been forced to abandon his dream job in September due to some off-field indiscretions.
Back in 2015, there had been a point when Pardew was probably ahead of Allardyce in the queue to be England manager, but his name was barely mentioned once Roy Hodgson resigned after Euro 2016. Without Palace's run to losing 2-1 to Manchester United in May's FA Cup final, Pardew would probably have been long gone from Selhurst. His team won just two league matches in the second half of last season, not only frittering away a challenge for a European position away but dropping the club into relegation contention, only to be saved by timely victories over Norwich and Stoke.
Wembley, though, will probably define Pardew's reign in future generations. The touchline rumba he performed when Jason Puncheon volleyed Palace ahead is the meme that was reverberating around social media as soon as his departure was announced. As a player, he was on the losing team when Palace lost to United in 1990's FA Cup final, and he was unable to overturn history as Jesse Lingard thrashed in an extra-time winner last May.
Pardew's status as a former player and local boy won him respect from fans. "South London, it's a great place to be," he said after his team had ended Manchester City's title hopes in April 2015, with a memorable 2-1 victory. Even during Saturday's defeat, fans who had seen just two league victories at home all season directed their anger at officials and the opposition rather than a manager failing to get the best from a not untalented squad.
Big-name signings Yohan Cabaye and Christian Benteke have flopped this season, and the club's owners will have wondered why two players costing top dollar -- Cabaye was signed from PSG for over £14 million, and Benteke may eventually cost the Eagles £32m -- have so underachieved.
Club chairman Steve Parish, someone cut from similar South London cloth, has been supportive of Pardew, but investors Harris and Blitzer, who came on board last December, were reported to be less keen. Pardew, while celebrating a 3-0 home defeat of Southampton on Dec. 3, chose to respond to such rumours by suggesting the investors "perhaps don't know a lot about football." It was a somewhat risky tone to take in the circumstances. The next downturn eventually drained Pardew's self-confidence and his chance of survival.