When Tony Pulis took over at Crystal Palace in November, they lay bottom of the Premier League with just four points from 11 games. They seemed doomed, but Pulis nonetheless gathered the players at their Beckenham training ground and told them that he had never been relegated and had no intention of losing that record.
Since then, Palace have the seventh best record of any side in the league, winning seven and drawing one of 14 games, making up 13 points on Cardiff City and West Bromwich Albion. In this tightest of seasons, they remain only three points from the relegation zone, but what Pulis has done is instil hope at a club that had seemed doomed when Ian Holloway resigned.
It's easy to write Pulis off as a long-ball coach, as some sort of Neanderthal from the days before tiki-taka: easy, but wrong. When he arrived, he found a sprawling squad riven by the divide between the players who had achieved promotion and the legions brought in in strangely haphazard fashion over the summer.
One of the first things he had to do, he knew, was to get everybody pulling together, so he pushed training back, encouraging players to eat brunch together beforehand. It's not a panacea, but it seems to have had a short-term impact.
Pulis also brings a sense of energy, practicality and purpose. He never sits down for press-conferences, always giving the impression he can't wait to be off and lifting his side to new heights. The day his mother died, Stoke played Aston Villa at home. Pulis, not surprisingly, wasn't there. Or at least he wasn't there at first: when he heard Stoke were 1-0 down, he drove to the ground, got their at half-time and inspired a comeback to win 2-1. It's hard for players to find excuses for slacking off in the face of that kind of commitment.
On the pitch, the most striking aspect since Pulis arrived has been the defence. They've conceded only 13 in 14 games, as opposed to 21 in their first 11. The centre-backs are playing slightly deeper, which means their lack of pace is less exposed, but really this seems more a case of a general stiffening of the sinews, a Pulis-inspired refocusing, than anything revolutionary.
And, of course, as you'd expect under Pulis, Palace play a more direct style now. The proportion of long passes has gone up from 14.4% to 18.1%, and a predictable decline in pass completion - from 75% to 67.4% - and possession - from 42.2% to 35.7%.
The emphasis on heading is reflected in the number of crosses: 16.6 before Pulis up to 20.1 under him. The real beneficiary of that has been Marouane Chamakh who, if he is not looking anything like the player Arsenal signed from Bordeaux in 2010, is at least looking a competent Premier League centre-forward. Five goals and one assist in 24 games may be only a moderate record, but he is winning 5.1 aerial duels per match, the fourth highest figure in the league.
Shots conceded has remained roughly the same - 13.2 without Pulis and 13.1 with him - but Palace are crafting more opportunities. Shots per game has risen only from 10.6 to 11.6, but shots on target has gone up from 2.9 to 4.1. Goalscoring is still a weakness, with only 12 scored in those 14 games, but there has been a clear improvement in terms of chance creation and, perhaps more importantly, in terms of creating the right kind of chance.
Palace still have Everton, Manchester United, Chelsea, Manchester City and Liverpool to play before the end of the season, but if they can replicate the form of the last 14 games over the next 13, they'd pick up a further 20 points, which would leave them comfortably on 46: that means they can even afford a couple of additional defeats and should still survive.
Will Tony Pulis maintain his record of having never been relegated as a manger with Palace this season? Let us know in the comments below