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Oliver Glasner relishing Crystal Palace challenge but warns: 'I'm not a magician'

Oliver Glasner relishing Palace challenge but warns: I'm not a magician, I'm not David Copperfield
Oliver Glasner is tasked with keeping Crystal Palace in the Premier League - Getty Images/Sebastian Frej

Oliver Glasner has made his name as a manager overachieving with some of the perennial underdogs of German and Austrian football and now, as the Crystal Palace manager, he declared himself impatient when it comes to changing the fortunes of his new club.

First comes Burnley at Selhurst Park on Saturday, a monumental game at the bottom of the Premier League, which will do much to set the early mood around the new man. Glasner was introduced at the club’s training ground on Friday after his emergency appointment following Roy Hodgson’s sudden illness a week earlier, having had just a few days to acquaint himself with his players.

A Europa League winner with Eintracht Frankfurt – and the man who led LASK Linz and Wolfsburg to the Champions League – he is well accustomed to challenges. He accepted this one with good grace and humour. “I’m not a magician,” he said, “I’m not David Copperfield”. He cheerfully recalled that his opening sequence leading up to his first win at Frankfurt in the autumn of 2021 was two defeats followed by six draws, although the season ended with triumph over Rangers in the final the following May.

While that may cause some anxiety at Palace, where results need to improve immediately, Glasner said he relished the chances to make improvements. “I am so ambitious and I know myself quite well,” he said. “If I think we cannot improve anymore I get impatient. When I was the manager at LASK when we got promoted, it was the first season in the Bundesliga, we came fourth and qualified for Europe.

“Everyone said, ‘Wow, cool, can we repeat it next year?’ And I said, ‘Why repeat? We want to be better.’ They said, ‘Yeah but the second year after promotion will be much more difficult.’ I said, ‘Why? We want to improve’. Then we came second and qualified for the Champions League.”

Progress may be slower at Palace where an 11th successive season in the Premier League is the modest aim as the club attempts to continue with its £150 million main stand rebuild at Selhurst Park and capitalise on the advantages of its new training ground and academy. Once this tricky season is negotiated, the club will doubtless wish to harness some of the new manager’s optimism.

“We have a great environment here,” Glasner said, “this organisation, this club is not at the end of its development. Great players, great owners, great chairman and a great project. I said, ‘Wow, yeah, it could be good’.” Much of that will be needed against Burnley with the club’s big four – Eberechi Eze, Michael Olise, Marc Guehi and Cheick Doucoure – all injured and at different stages of recovery.

Oliver Glasner relishing Palace challenge but warns: I'm not a magician, I'm not David Copperfield
Eberechi Eze has had an injury hit season - Getty Images /Julian Finney

The essence of Palace over the last decade has been an attempt to achieve Premier League stability in order to allow the club to invest in much-needed infrastructure. On top of that they have always been capable of springing surprises, including two away wins at Manchester City in the last six seasons, an FA Cup final and one run to the semis. They are up against some formidably wealthy clubs.

“Of course we compete with them and I am sure we can beat them,” Glasner said. “I don’t want to talk about the past but when we played with Frankfurt against Barcelona [in the Europa league quarter-finals] it was the same and we could beat them [3-2 in the Nou Camp to progress 4-3 on aggregate]. It is important for us to develop a belief that we are able to compete against every team in the Premier League

Glasner spent his entire playing career, 19 years, at Austrian club SV Ried until, aged 36, a brain haemorrhage brought it to an abrupt halt. He discussed those lost hours of his career when the bleeding wiped his memory as he showered in his hotel room on the morning of a Uefa Cup qualifier away in Copenhagen. He had been concussed in a collision the previous Sunday and, come Thursday, at the team hotel had headed a few balls on the morning of a second leg tie against Brondby – just to check he still could.

The pain was so acute he went back to his hotel room, where it got worse. Glasner says he was told he was conscious but incoherent when the team-mate he was rooming with called the club doctor. By the time he woke up, he had been through brain surgery.

“My wife was told it was 50-50 I would survive,” said the father of three. Earlier he had spoken warmly about Hodgson, and his health. “This is why,” he said, “it really comes from the bottom of my heart. Sometimes we forget that our health is our biggest asset. When you are healthy, you don’t think about it.

“I had this and survived so I always said to myself, never forget this. But to be honest, when I am on this wheel, Bundesliga and now Premier League, sometimes I do forget it.”

He dismissed previous public disputes with sporting directors, including Jorg Schmadtke, latterly of Liverpool, when the pair were at Wolfsburg and more recently with Markus Krosche at Frankfurt. At Palace, where budgets are much tighter, relationships with chairman Steve Parish and director of football Dougie Freedman will be key.

“For me, the most important thing is success and to win games,” Glasner said. “And for that we all have to work together. I am convinced on the pitch if the players work together we have the biggest chance for success. The same with the club.”

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