(Reuters) - Crystal Palace risk suffering a mass exodus of players at the end of the season if they lose their Premier League status, manager Sam Allardyce said on Friday, ahead of Saturday’s vital match against Watford at Selhurst Park.
Palace, who currently hover only a point and a place above the bottom three, have had players including French goalkeeper Steve Mandanda and winger Wilfried Zaha linked with moves away from the club by the British media.
“Securing our position in the Premier League will mean the majority of players will still be here. I dread to think what will happen if we don’t secure our status,” Allardyce told reporters.
On-loan Liverpool defender Mamadou Sakho’s composure in the heart of defence has been instrumental in Palace winning back-to-back games for the first time since Allardyce’s appointment in December.
Allardyce admitted he would like to secure the French centre-back, who joined the club in January, on a permanent deal if Palace stay up, although the price is likely to be high.
“That would be a big negotiation if we’re still in the Premier League at the end of the season,” the former England manager said.
“At this moment in time he chose Crystal Palace to play first-team football. He’s worked extremely hard at getting himself fitter... He’s shown he is not just a good defender but also his capabilities on the ball.”
Palace have been in the Premier League since they beat Watford in the play-off final in 2013.
Watford, who are currently 13th in the Premier League, were eventually promoted in 2015.
Reporting by Aditi Prakash in Bengaluru; Editing by Keith Weir