It finally happened. After nine seasons and 341 (soon-to-be 342) Serie A matches later, Palermo will head back to Serie B for the first time since the 2003-04 championship. Even when the writing was on the wall and reality sets in, the significance of returning to a lower league can never quite be felt until the Rosanero take to the pitch for the first time in late summer, 2013.
Of course, it could have all been avoided after last season’s close encounter with relegation. The club had an opportunity to start fresh with a new director and new coach at the helm. Yet, in circumstances that have become all too frequent in Sicily, projects were quashed before they even began. Perhaps the right players weren’t brought in or the decisions were too rash and plans were never truly implemented. No matter the issue, the Rosanero continued to stumble throughout the course of this cursed campaign.
As stated before, the blame can too easily be placed on one person. Naturally, the man pulling the strings should be the first to step forward and admit his faults (and, in somewhat of a tepid statement, he has). But, it’d be remiss to start and stop right there. Several days ago, the man at the top claimed Palermo was a team capable of 50-53 points and instead they are currently stuck on 32 with one game remaining and relegation a certainty. That comment was met with scorn and laughter even though there is truth to such words. Let’s not forget that this Palermo team dropped an incredible 18 points from winning or tied positions this season in the last ten minutes or later. You don’t have to be a math whiz to know that 32 + 18 = 50. Had Palermo even managed to hold onto half of those games, they would have been free from the drop. Alas, maybe it wasn’t meant to be.
Now, Serie B awaits. This summer will be vital to how Palermo addresses its problems and forms a team capable of returning to the top flight as quickly as possible. Nothing can be taken for granted. There is an opportunity to rebuild and realign the strategy and direction for this club. Palermo became successful because of smart investments that focused on a diet of promising youth players and strong veterans. It is apparent that the plan over the past few seasons strayed from what made Palermo a beacon to other clubs with modest budgets. There were too many risks, too many projects, too many players simply earning a paycheck and not enough players who were at the club to fight and defend the Rosanero colors. It’s time to get back to the roots.
There have been some incredible moments over the past nine seasons; there have been some heartbreaking ones as well. Let’s hope that this is only a temporary vacation from Serie A rather than an arduous 32 year journey back to the top. Palermo the city and Palermo the fans and Palermo the team deserve to play with the best clubs in Italy; yet, no matter the division, it’ll always be “Forza Palermo!”