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Ask Steve Claridge

Steve Claridge
Claridge is a pundit for The Football League Show and Football Focus

Crystal Palace have slipped into the Championship relegation zone since going into administration and being docked 10 points at the end of January and their manager Neil Warnock is being heavily linked with a move to QPR.

This week I examine the Eagles' prospects, as well as those of Warnock should he decide to leave Selhurst Park to take the reins at Loftus Road.

I also take a look at Roy Keane's future at Ipswich, consider Scunthorpe's dilemma over developing Glanford Park, assess Alan Pardew's position at Southampton and give my view on the League Two promotion race.

If you have a question for me, you can submit it through Twitter at http://twitter.com/AskClaridge or use the form on the top right of the page.


Do you think Crystal Palace can hold on to manager Neil Warnock and can they stay in the Championship?
Steve Bidwell, England

There is lots of speculation at the moment that Warnock will be taking charge at QPR next week, which is ironic considering he could have been sacked by Palace earlier on in the season because he had an absolute nightmare start. The reason he kept his job was that he has a very good relationship with Simon Jordan, Palace's former owner, but that tie is no longer there.

I understand the appeal of changing jobs. Palace are in a precarious state after going into administration while, at QPR, they finally look like they are getting back to some sort of sanity.

So I can see Warnock going to QPR but I think it will only be under his own terms. I don't know how long he is planning to stay in the game so it might be his last hurrah if they were to give him some dough and let him make a real go of it.

If Warnock does go to Loftus Road, and it looks like he will, then Palace are in trouble. Whoever replaces him will face a difficult job to keep them up and, in the longer term, a lot will depend on where they are when they come out of administration and who owns them.

Neil Warnock
Warnock is being linked with the manager's job at QPR

But the biggest problem Palace have is their ground. They need to agree a decent lease or acquire Selhurst Park themselves because, if the situation continues where they are told how much they have to pay for the rent of their ground, then it will hold them back forever. Whoever takes over the club will have to resolve that as quickly as possible.

Scunthorpe have been punching above their weight, and are hoping to consolidate their place in the Championship this season. However, should they stay up, they will have to pay a lot of money to turn their Glanford Park ground into an all-seater stadium, money that could otherwise be spent on strengthening their squad. Would you say the Championship stadia rules discriminate against the smaller clubs, when the majority of Scunny fans do not want an all-seater stadium?
Craig, UK

Well, Scunthorpe won't lose much of their capacity if they don't develop Glanford Park. It can hold just over 9,000 at the moment, which would fall to just below 8,000 if they cannot use the terracing next year, but they are stuck between a rock and a hard place with this ruling.

Like Craig says, the trouble is that if they build instead of buying new players then they could end up being relegated. Alternatively, if they don't build, then the club cannot really look to establish themselves in the Championship anyway because this situation would continue.

I don't think the rules discriminate against smaller clubs but a problem like this is another example of why it is a miracle that Scunthorpe can stay at that level - to say they are punching above their weight is an understatement.

They just need to stay up as long as they can and slowly improve things off the pitch. I think they might just about stay up this term but it won't last forever, sadly. If you are a smaller club playing at a higher level then, one way or another, the amount of people coming through your gates will catch up with you but let's hope Scunthorpe can keep on defying the odds for a while yet.

Roy Keane was brought in as Ipswich manager in April 2009 on a two-year contract to get them promoted to the Premier League. Personally, as hard as I try, I don't see any improvement in Ipswich over the past year. Do you think it is time for them to sack Keane and start again? We have spent over £10m and have gone from a team who were vying for the Championship play-offs to one fighting relegation. Your thoughts please, Steve.
Jules, England

Jules has a fair point. Results have improved, slightly, for Ipswich in the last couple of weeks but probably not enough. They definitely need to do better than they have done this season and, judging by how Keane has been speaking recently, he agrees that he needs to improve.

Sheffield Wednesday 0-1 Ipswich

For the amount of money they have spent and the quality of players that were brought in under him and Jim Magilton, they should be doing a lot better.

They should have been a top-eight side this season and looking to do better than that next year. In reality, they are quite a way off that.

But Keane is not going to get sacked now and, if they stay up, he will certainly get time to have another go next season.

I like the fact he doesn't make excuses and it would be nice if he can turn it round but he is running out of time to do so. If they are where they are now by the middle of next season, then I don't think he will still be in the job.

Steve, what are your thoughts on Southampton chairman Nicola Cortese putting pressure on manager Alan Pardew by saying results in League One have not been good enough?
Peter, England

There is no doubt Alan Pardew is under pressure. Southampton have spent an awful lot of money for a League One club and I expected them to be a lot closer to the play-offs than they are.

Leeds had a 15 point deduction in 2007/08 but were knocking on the door of the top two before losing in the play-offs. Compare that to Southampton who, even if you add the 10 points they were docked, are nine points off a play-off place this campaign.

Norwich 0-2 Southampton

But should Pardew's job be under threat? No, not this year. It's too early for him and them - he has only been there since the summer. It's not been a terrible season either; they are through to the Johnstone's Paint Trophy final and you might be surprised how much that means to their fans.

Pardew has asked to be judged after 18 months and that is only fair. But, if that is the case, then they have got to be going for the top two next season whatever happens and the play-offs are the very least they should achieve, otherwise his job is in serious danger.

When you spend the money he has, you have to accept the pressure that goes with it because people, rightly, expect a return.

But I'm not totally sure whether Alan will get it right. He did well at Reading and West Ham but was effectively relegated twice with Charlton and has a lot to prove again now. It will be interesting to see where he and Southampton are in a year's time.

What do you make of Bury this season, Steve? I think their manager Alan Knill is doing a great job, as the Shakers look to seal an automatic promotion place from League Two, but is not getting the credit he deserves. He has done a fantastic job with a small budget and squad, what are your views?
Steve Harden, England

After a mixed start, Knill has picked up where he left off last season when Bury finished fourth and lost in the play-offs and I'm pleased for him - he is turning into a great manager at that level despite not having much to work with at Gigg Lane.

In a season which started with everybody thinking that moneybags Notts County would run away with that division, I think it is fantastic that the likes of Rochdale and Bury are up there now. They are two teams that haven't had a lot to shout about recently and they are both overdue a place in the sun.

I'd like to see both of them go up, along with Bournemouth, who are one of my favourite former clubs. All three of them just need to keep going now but it is the Cherries I worry about the most because of their lack of transfer activity owing to their embargo.

You just worry they might run out of puff, or players, before the end of the campaign but it is an incredible achievement that they are up there and I hope they can see it through - I'm not sure many clubs or managers could cope with circumstances that they and their manager Eddie Howe have faced.


Steve Claridge is a BBC Football League pundit who played more than 800 matches for 15 clubs over the course of a 24-year playing career. He was talking to Chris Bevan.



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