Crystal Palace (Red/Blue Stripes/Blue) 3-0 Brighton and Hove Albion (Lime Green and Black Stripes/Green), attendance 20,114, entrance by season ticket, programme £3, coffee £2.
“Quite Remarkable”, a term used by, oh, who was it? yes, David Coleman I believe, to describe something out of the ordinary, unexpected or rather special. That phrase is more than apt to describe the first twenty league games of the CPFC 12-13 campaign. After three games we sat the bottom of the league, and after a 4-1 mauling at Bristol City, most of us, me included, were expecting a season of struggle.
Wind forward some days, and the August transfer window was slowly closing, but through our window came, Yannick Bolasie, a wide man and bit part player from Bristol City. Andre Moritz, a Brazilian playmaker from an unheard of Turkish team, but recently having trialled at Glasgow Rangers. Damien Delaney, Irishman, centre back with already a few clubs tucked under his belt. Additionally the experienced Welsh defenders Darcy Blake and Danny Gabbidon also flew into London SE25.
A few players that had looked at times last season, as slow, lethargic, and possibly overweight, yes we are talking about you Kagisho Dikgacoi and Glenn Murray, suddenly looked fitter, slimmer, quicker. Throw this lot into the melting pot with exciting young talent, like Jonathan Parr, Wilfried Zaha, Jonny Williams and the Jedi warrior, our Ozzie central midfielder stopper and enforcer Mile Jedinak, and suddenly we had a team, in fact a very good team.
After turning over Sheff Wed in early Sept to gain our first 3 points of the season, I returned home excitedly to Ros to advise, that today, we looked a bloody good team with good balance, shape and flair, and we’d “be alright this season”. Of course I gained the virtual yellow card for my armchair punditry. But having watched live football for over 40 years, I know a decent side when I saw one. Having said all that, I was expecting a season of mid table security, possibly with one eye on the edge of the play offs. I hadn’t expected a 14 game unbeaten run, 11 wins/3 draws, and some stunning football, the like of which hasn’t really been seen at Selhurst Park for over 20 years. Of course, I cursed that run by taking myself to Leeds for the 15th game, which we duly lost, a slightly unfortunate 2-1 defeat.
When in Nov we beat Ipswich in midweek 5-0 to go top of the Championship, it felt very special. We’d been in administration just 3 years ago, and it’s been a struggle. Yet, Dougie Freedman had done an ok job, a good job, perhaps frustrating fans at times with his slightly negative tactics, but on that wonderful evening, I admit to having a lump in my throat and a watery eye, as the ground rocked to “We are Crystal Palace, and we are top of the league”. Inexplicably Freedman who put this great team together, then jumped ship to go to Bolton Wanderers, and Palace fans who were on a crest of a wave, sensed that the lifeboatmen were being called to duty. Typical Palace we thought, build up our hopes, and be knocked back down again, this is the life sentence I seem to have been dealt when I first set foot into Selhurst Park in 1970.
Various names were thrown into the ring, Robinson, McCarthy, Ince, Hoddle even. Ian Holloway was a very popular choice, but few Palace fans ever thought he’d depart Blackpool. After all, if Dougie Freedman saw Bolton as a more ambitious club with a Premier league infrastructure (rather than it just being about the money of offer), why would Ollie want to come to Palace? Of course he did, he apparently bought into the ideas and potential of the 2009 consortium, who are all Palace fans. Ollie was apparently on a rolling one year contract at Blackpool, and Palace were able to offer him a longer term 3 year contract. How chuffed was I? Well I’d read his biography just this year whilst on holiday in Alderney, and finished the book by declaring to Ros, that I’d love him to be our manager one day. I did not really expect that day to happen, especially so soon.
Can we sustain it? Will we still be playing such entertaining football in 2/3 months time? Will we still be top two? Who knows, football and form can change so quickly. But as we sang at Leeds last week, “Top of the league, and we’re having a laugh” 🙂
For the record, today, the game was really up for Brighton after 8 minutes when defender Lewis Dunk was dismissed for bringing down MOM Yannick Bolasie just outside the area, after that there was only ever going to one winner. Brighton fans had emptied the away section well before the end, probably finding it hard to stomach the Palace fans bonhomie, and already hoping for revenge at the Amex in March. Before the game, Kayla, the real live Palace Eagle, had flown across the pitch with red and blue ribbons attached to her talons. Kayla is on loan from Eagle Heights in Kent, and like her pre match flying, we can only hope that our lofty position is not just a flight of fancy. In my 50th year I’m awaiting the outcome of the next 26 league games with excitement, but also with the mentality of your average Palace fan, borne of having suffered years of hardship and under achievement, that being that the cup is half empty and what can go wrong, probably will go wrong. But if we just get close to what we are currently dreaming of, then at least it’ll probably have been a decent season.