Crystal Palace come to White Hart Lane on Saturday for one of the less frequent London Derbies. In the league we’ve met only 29 times – not a lot of people know that. I caught up with Mike, an Eagle since birth, and tried to assess the mood in South London ahead of the big game.
So, remember the first game of the season and the balmy, heady and optimistic days of summer? A lot of rainwater has leaked under the roof of the Arthur Wait Stand since then. How has the first half of the campaign been for you? A bit of a mixed bag I imagine?
First thing I have to say is that it is wonderful being in the Premier League. I miss watching as many games as you get in the Championship, but the coverage, full stadiums, and buzz is amazing (much more then when we where last up 8 years ago). Having watched Palace for 25+ years when we have yo-yoed a few times, and I should say the Championship is a great division, but the difference now between the two divisions is immense. Still not nice to lose a lot, we have had many games much like the one against you where we matched you for most of the game, but ultimately were beaten on quality. Two really bad home performances against Fulham and Newcastle have hurt, but some great away games like Hull and Villa have kept us in the hunt to stay up.
Were you sad to see Olly go, you were behind him in August I seem to recall?
Holloway did a great job to get us promoted last season, and had a rapport with the fans, but it was fast becoming clear he had run out of ideas. During the summer we invested heavily in strikers and attacking midfielders, and did little at the back, and whilst we have had a problem with a lack of goals, it was often clear our heads dropped as soon as we conceded and Holloway had no ideas for fixing our defensive frailties. He did the honourable thing and left when he knew he couldn’t keep us up. I wish him all the best for the jobs he has after being Millwall manager.
And how about the appointment of Pulis? A desperate move or a wise one?
We took our time to appoint Pulis, so I don’t think it was desperate. He has a proven record of keeping people up and in the Premiership. Under Holloway it was clear we had a lot of enthusiastic hard working players with no plan and a lack of quality (it was a bit like watching a team of fans or kids play). Pulis has brought a plan, and hopefully he can bring in a couple of the right players in the transfer window to add the quality we need.
Pulis’s tactics at Stoke were notorious. Is he turning your team into Crystal Potters or has a few months off made him realise there’s more to the game than restarts and hoofing?
Who cares as long as we stay up! At Man City and Aston Villa we were clearly looking to defend and try and take a goal on the break, this worked well at both places (a win at Villa, and only losing 1-0 at City), under Holloway I’m sure we would have played great football as we lost 8-0 at the Etihad. Overall though we have a more creative team than Stoke, and a lot of smaller faster players (Parr, Bolasie, Bannan, Williams, O’Keefe, Gayle) and at home (and strangely away at Chelsea) we have played a lot of decent football. If anything the recent bad weather has hurt us as we have not been able to play our ground game. I’m sure Pulis will bring in some big men, but again if we stay up you will struggle to find many Palace fans that care about style.
Dwight Gayle seems to be finding his feet. Is he the Eagles danger man? (I can’t imagine it’s Chamakh).
At one point Chamakh had scored 3 goals from 4 shots, now whilst a great conversion rate the obvious problem is the lack of shots. He is shooting more now, so shouldn’t be written off. Gayle is starting to look good, at the start of the season he, like the rest of the team, looked out of his depth, he now needs a run in the team. The form man at the moment is Jason Puncheon with some great performances and a penalty goal against Norwich. Bannan is the other revelation for us of late although rarely plays a full game.
Any sign of Glenn Murray this season do you think?
The cruelties of life have meant that the man who got us promoted with his goals, will probably miss the whole season. I have seen various rumours about his return to fitness, but with a limited 25-man squad it is unlikely we will give a place to a man, who may only have couple of months to regain match fitness, and adjust to the Premier League. For the first half of the season for no obvious reason we had Paddy McCarthy in the squad (he had been out injured for over a year) and his first ‘appearance’ was as an unused sub in the FA Cap last week.
The three wins in December have left you only a point away from safety. A long way to go I know but presumably you’re now thinking that survival is definitely a distinct possibility?
Pulis coming in and the way we are now playing with more steel has given us that belief. We are now playing like a team than could stay up, and we just need 3 teams to play bad enough to go down, fortunately Sunderland, West Ham, Fulham, and Villa are doing their best!
Spurs have spent a lot of time washing £100m worth of dirty laundry in public lately. Do you think this is a good time to play us?
3 points and you’re in a Champions League spot, and just won at Man United (ok not as hard as it used to be). I want the problems Spurs have! I always look at goal difference as an indicator of the direction of travel of a team, and yours is a lot worse than the teams around you, but you’re clearly coming back into form. This season just confirms how good a player Bale is and the way a number of teams have stepped up, I think the money was well invested, but may take a season for the new squad to settle.
We might have a few players back from injury, Townsend, Defoe, Sandro and Lamela to name several. Will they have Danny Gabbidon and Adrian Mariappa shaking in their fluorescent orange or green boots?
I really hope our players don’t care who you have playing. At City and Chelsea we showed no extra respect to their players and got on and played our game, we need to do the same at the Lane.
And finally, as is traditional in this sort of piece, how about a prediction for this Saturday’s encounter?
1-1. We will defend like hell, take our time over every free kick, frustrate you, and hit on the break. I can’t see you not scoring; I just hope we can nick one (or two) back.
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