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Warnock returns to Palace and Premier League with point to prove

When Neil Warnock was first appointed Crystal Palace boss in October 2007, he said it would be his last job in management. How prophetic those words seem now, only then it wasn’t intended to come across two spells at Selhurst Park.

At 65, this looks hugely likely to be the controversial coach’s last crack at the Premier League. Warnock, who has never kept a club up in England’s top-flight, is odds-on to do so with the Eagles with Coral at 8/15.

Co-chairman Steve Parish has assured Tony Pulis’ successor there is money to spend, but precious little time left in which to do so. The transfer window slams shut on September 1st, giving Warnock just a few days to identify targets and get them. No pressure then Neil.

Although he left Selhurst for QPR in the spring of 2010 under the cloud of administration, Warnock was one of the few commodities Palace had then that could bring them cash. Much was written at the time about whether he had the stomach to save the Eagles from the drop. That was idle speculation, and isn’t it ironic some four-and-a-half years later that it is Warnock’s first priority.

Rumours will be abound concerning the future of Eagles winger Jason Puncheon, after the spat he had with his new manager while Warnock was working as a radio pundit. That infamous penalty miss, and the resulting public war of words, could spell the end of the player’s time in south London. Puncheon is a 4/1 shot to leave Palace before the summer window closes.

Warnock has let bygones be bygones before after criticising players, though. El Hadji Diouf is a case in point. Who can forget the “sewer rat” diatribe? The pair patched things up at Leeds United, despite the mid-table mediocrity the fallen giants endured under Warnock in his previous job.

This live and let live philosophy would be helpful, not least because there are just two senior players left at Selhurst from the squad Warnock. He is keen to bring winger Wilfried Zaha back, however, and is confident of making the Manchester United misfit his first signing.

“I did speak to him [on Wednesday, August 27th] night,” Warnock said in a radio interview. “I spent half an hour telling him why I want him to come back and I’m optimistic we are going to do it today.”

Fans would certainly be appeased by the return of an academy product like Zaha, though the Ivorian-born England international has something to prove at Premier League level – much like his prospective new manager.

Palace had never stayed up since the elite division of English football was created in its current format, so Pulis made history. It’s a tough act to follow, and the Eagles are among the relegation favourites at 11/8.

Warnock will be targeting a last hurrah in London, however, and if he can improve the attack-defence balance from the solid, but cautious, platform built by his predecessor, then Palace will confound critics and establish themselves in the Premier League.