Sam Allardyce ranks keeping Crystal Palace in the Premier League as his toughest challenge in a career of managing struggling sides in the top flight.
Palace ensured their survival with a 4-0 win over Hull City at Selhurst Park on Sunday – a result that confirmed the visitors’ relegation.
Allardyce boasts an impressive record of steering teams away from danger in England’s top flight, having never been relegated during spells with Bolton Wanderers, Blackburn Rovers, Newcastle United, West Ham and Sunderland, as well as Palace.
The Eagles have won eight of their last 15 league matches to climb to safety, beating Chelsea, Arsenal and Liverpool in that impressive run.
And Allardyce believes their difficult run of games made this his most difficult battle to beat the drop.
“Because of the run-in and the sides we’ve had to play, this was the hardest,” he told Sky Sports. “We’ve now not wasted the magnificent results we achieved in that short spell against Chelsea, Liverpool and Arsenal.
“We had a little slip-up after a lot of injuries, but now we’ve come back, and what a way to finish in your final home game.
“I know it puts Hull down after a brave fight, but for us it’s a great, great feeling.”
— Crystal Palace F.C. (@CPFC) May 14, 2017
Palace took the lead through Wilfried Zaha after only three minutes on Sunday, the winger capitalising on a mistake from centre-back Andrea Ranocchia to score.
Christian Benteke made it 2-0 before half-time and Palace comfortably kept Hull at bay in the second half before late goals from Luka Milivojevic and Patrick van Aanholt capped the victory.
Allardyce felt the way that they controlled the match and took advantage of their chances made it a “perfect performance”.
“It’s a massive relief, that’s for sure,” he said. “We all know the implications of relegation and the devastation it causes to a football club. This club has been in the Premier League for [four years] and wants to grow with it now.
“It was a brilliant effort by the players. Tactically we set up to nullify Hull and really expose them where we thought they were weak.
“[Then at 2-0 down] they had to change it and throw caution to the wind, so we sat in to defend that situation as we didn’t need to score again and they did. We allowed them all the possession they wanted and gave them no chances.
“They finally over-committed and we knocked in two great goals at the end. It was the perfect performance by the players and it’s terrific for everyone that’s taken part since I’ve been here, particularly the fans.”