Frank de Boer may have only lasted 77 days at Crystal Palace before parting company with the club. But in 1984, Dave Bassett only just managed to make it past the 77 hour mark at Selhurst Park.
The stock of Dave Bassett was certainly rising as the summer of 1984 approached. After guiding Wimbledon to the Fourth Division title with a whopping 98 point total in the 1982/83 season, Bassett would lead the club to a second promotion a year later. The style of play adopted by Bassett may not have been to the taste of the football purists, but the ends definitely justified the means.
Therefore, it was inevitable that Bassett would begin to attract the attention of many Football League chairmen up and down the country, and in May, 1984, a vacancy opened up that would test the loyalty of Wimbledon's boss. Alan Mullery's sacking at Crystal Palace was not completely unexpected; Chairman Ron Noades felt that the squad was "good enough to have finished in the top eight", and he was also concerned about the average attendances dropping by 1,600. With 15th and 18th place finishes in Division Two under Mullery, Noades decided to wield the axe.
Bassett's contract with Wimbledon expired in October, 1984, and he was immediately installed as the favourite to make the short move across London. However, if the call was to arrive from Noades, then the decision would not be an easy one to take for Bassett. After a decade at Wimbledon, and with two promotions under his belt, leaving Plough Lane would prove difficult.
Just three days after Mullery's sacking, Bassett was unveiled as the new manager of Crystal Palace, although he admitted that he was torn over the move. "It was the hardest decision I have ever had to make in football," Bassett revealed. "I have spent a great deal of my life at Wimbledon and you cannot turn your back on that sort of thing quickly." Nevertheless, Bassett sounded generally excited about the job ahead.
"But this is a new challenge and one that I feel capable facing. Palace can return to the top. This club can get back to where it belongs." With the appointment announced on May 17, Bassett had plenty of time to assess his playing resources before the start of the new campaign, and a full pre-season to work on getting his footballing philosophy across to his players. But Bassett didn't have time to get his feet under the table, before he shocked everyone with his dramatic U-turn.
Fast forward to May 21, and Bassett was now addressing the media to inform them of his change of heart. "I preach loyalty and integrity to my players at Wimbledon and I do not believe that this is the time for me to leave," Bassett explained to shocked and confused journalists. "Having taken Wimbledon in to the second division, I have a big challenge here. We have a tremendous bunch of players and they are doing so well at the moment. I really should have thought more deeply about the matter before agreeing to go to Palace."
"I know people will say I've ducked out, but that was never the case," Bassett added. "I personally think mine was a braver decision to make. I've lost weight, sleep, and years off my life not knowing what to do for the best. But my loyalty to Wimbledon proved the decisive factor. I've managed them from the Fourth to the Second Division and this is the time I'm needed most."
Bassett also indicated that his close friendship with Noades also played a factor in his decision. "I've known him for 20 years and I feel our relationship would have suffered if it became boss and worker." Bassett had not signed a contract, and admitted that his heart was still at Wimbledon. "Ron Noades was bitterly disappointed. But I think in the end he understood my reasons because he said: 'Go on, off you go. I'll see you later.' There was no animosity."
Noades' counterpart at Wimbledon was delighted that Bassett had changed his mind. "The door was shut but not bolted as far as Dave was concerned," Stanley Reed said. "Now we can really get down to celebrating our promotion." Under Bassett, the club would go from strength to strength, gaining promotion to the top flight in the 1985/86 season.
The Palace job would subsequently be handed on to Steve Coppell, the 28-year-old becoming the youngest manager in the Football League, signalling the start of a beautiful relationship with the club that would span nine years (in his first spell), and take in promotion, an FA Cup final, and a third placed finish in Division One.
Eventually Bassett would take the hot seat at Selhurst Park, and worked with Noades for over a year from February 1996. Naturally, once Bassett was appointed in 1996, a lot of talk surrounded his previous time at the club. "I was a bit younger then and it seemed a good idea at the time. I soon realised that I had made the wrong decision." I wonder one day if Steve Parish will ever utter that final sentence in relation to the appointment of Frank de Boer?