NEIL Warnock has become the Premier League’s first managerial casualty of the season - an “unfortunate decision” Crystal Palace co-chairman Steve Parish felt he had no choice but to take.
Just four months after beginning a second spell at the Selhurst Park helm, the 66-year-old has been relieved of his duties having failed to carry on the stellar work done by predecessor Tony Pulis.
The south Londoners slipped into the bottom three on Boxing Day after an embarrassing 3-1 home defeat to Southampton, during which supporters turned on Warnock.
Palace have acted swiftly to halt that alarming slide by sacking the Yorkshireman and putting Keith Millen in caretaker charge for the second time this season.
“It just didn’t gel,” co-chairman Steve Parish told the South London Press. “It didn’t work. Keith is probably in charge for the next two games.
“We need a win. QPR is no bigger than any other but we need three points.
“Neil is a lovely bloke. He did everything he could.
“It’s an unfortunate decision. I thought about it overnight and decided we needed a change. Hopefully we’ll get a reaction from everybody.”
Parish says Palace have not got anyone lined-up to come in, but confirmed they “want it sorted out as soon as possible”.
That change, the co-chairman admits, is something that will likely alter the Eagles’ January plans, with Warnock having confirmed on Boxing Day that the club had made bids for three strikers.
The imminent reopening of the transfer window heightens Palace’s need to name a successor, with Chris Hughton, Tony Popovic and even Pulis amongst the bookmakers’ favourites to replace Warnock.
It is former Tottenham head coach Tim Sherwood that is the overriding favourite, though, having been interviewed for the job in August, only to rule himself out after the process dragged on.
“After seeing Steve and I asked people who knew Palace well about the club,” Sherwood wrote at the time in his Independent column. “Their immediate response was that they could not put me off the job.
“The feeling was that Palace was a good club and that the best thing about it was the current group of players, as well as the fans
“If I had been offered the job early in the process, soon after my interview, I would have taken it. Naturally, I am confident in my ability to do it.”
Sherwood would need all that self-belief at Selhurst Park, given Palace head to QPR on Sunday on a run of just one win in 12 top-flight matches.
The latest defeat to Southampton not only saw them slip into the bottom three but resulted in a large number of supporters audibly turn on Warnock.
A chorus of ‘’you don’t know what you’re doing’’ echoed around Selhurst Park when the Yorkshireman brought defender Martin Kelly on for winger Yannick Bolasie with his side already three goals behind.
“When you lose a game you’re responsible, I’ve no complaints about that,’’ Warnock said of the fans’ reaction.
“Bolasie’s wife is having a baby and he was tired before the game today.
“What with us playing at QPR in not much more than 24 hours, I thought we would just save his legs a bit.
“You know when you take Bolasie off when you’re losing 3-0 you’re going to get stick, but you just have to think about QPR really.
“I have no complaints, at 3-0 down, you’d be very surprised not to get a bit of stick.
“I thought they (the players) were very good today in the circumstances, they were almost as shell-shocked as some of the fans.”