It was around this time I wrote a guest post about Crystal Palace and their outlook just a few weeks into the 2014-15 season.
Palace’s first two seasons back in the Premier League were heart-attack inducing followed by infinite swooning.
Much of Crystal Palace’s 2013-14 season consisted of an intensely bad start. Then manager Ian Holloway dropped eight of the first nine fixtures, their only win being a 3-1 bashing of Sunderland. Holloway was then sacked, current West Brom manager Tony Pulis took over and, somehow, catapulted them from the bowels of the Premier League (in 20th) all the way to 11th at season’s end. Pulis won Manager of The Year, went into harsh contract negotiations and never returned after disagreements with co-chairman Steve Parish over transfer policies and missed opportunities, who, aside from the players, is the model the team is based off of.
It was perfectly acceptable for supporters to feel displeased with the board: their team’s Manager of The Year didn’t return (at the time, over something presumably ridiculous) and they foiled Liverpool’s title chances in the second to last week of the season. But looking back, thank goodness Pulis didn’t return, because, despite pulling off a very memorable relegation rescue, his system consisted of austere, drudged, bus parking while trying retain a one goal lead that was, somewhat, overly reliant on Mile Jedinak. Dreadful. Now, Pulis rejected four of Daniel Levy’s bids for Saido Berahino and is playing the same old deliberate system.
(Yes, you have to do whatever you can to win, but good god, it was like trying to watch Ross Turnbull trying to play for Chelsea. Please go back there, Ross; they need you)
Warnock was sacked again, the first four fixtures resulted in two losses and two draws and Alan Pardew (the managerial version of Zidane’s headbutt) took over at the helm. Sounds all too familiar, right? Well, sort of.
After a nice late surge of four straight wins from weeks 29-32 brought them up the ranks, they dropped the next four games, two of them against Manchester United and eventual champions Chelsea, respectively and won the last two weeks of the season, bringing them up to 10th for the season.
Fast forward to this season and the pendulum is swinging in the right direction. Through the first four weeks, the Premier League’s number one darling (with Gary Lineker’s Leicester up on their tails) are currently sitting at 2nd with 8 points, sitting behind red hot Manchester City, who have won their first four fixtures by clean sheets.
Now, we’re all wondering why the Eagles are doing this well. Is it the business that they’ve conducted over this summer? Is it the broad scale improvement? The immaculate power of Pardiola? It’s a matter of all three.
Palace has done brilliant business this summer. They swooped in for Wolverhampton’s best player in Bakary Sako (on a free, which is even more impressive) and he was a colossal component in their win against Chelsea this past weekend. Yohan Cabaye passed on PSG to come to South London on a club record fee of £13 million, and Alex McCarthy, who signed for £3.5 million from QPR, has impressed with his latest string of superb overall goalkeeping performances, warranting a very possible England call-up from the man Woy himself (then again, he’ll be sitting on his ass as the third choice goalkeeper, but that’s what Tom Heaton did last season before Burnley got the stamp of relegation last season).
And now, with the Premier League’s bloated new TV deal for next season, Palace will be in even better financial position. They earned just under £74.3M last season for their top half finish and they’ll earn at least £81M next year. With even more financial firepower, who knows who they’ll swoop in for?
According to Richard Foster of The Guardian, Parish has cleared out 30M in debts, while bagging a 23M profit in the most recent financial year. Something else:
“Given that every Premier League position is worth an extra £1.2m, while prize money for FA Cup winners is £1.8m and only £100,000 for League Cup winners, moving up those two league places earned them more money than they would have made from winning both domestic cups.”
Hard to believe, because just five years ago, former chairman Simon Jordan was running them six feet under with their dismal finances, getting docked 10 points and being placed under administration. How Portsmouthian of him.
However, though, despite a nice return of £4M, Glenn Murray’s departure to Bournemouth hit fans the hardest. The man, besides Wilfried Zaha, who carried them on his knapsack via his 31 goals in all comps on the 2012-13 promotion winning side, was a disciple to supporters. He stuck around till the end of last season as Pardew’s main striker.
Nevertheless, without the cult figure in Murray, Connor Wickham isn’t such a horrible replacement like the press says he is. Sure, he’ll slow down by holding up play, but with Sako’s authoritarian left foot, he could provide toe-tip goals from him that Olivier Giroud wishes he could put in. Plus, Yannick Bolasie, Jason Puncheon and Wilfried Zaha are always around to pester opposing fullbacks with their winger dynamics and find Wickham in the box for a finish.
Parrish and his constituency are all about making correct, veracious decisions. He could have broke the bank on somebody like Jordan Rhodes or Craig Bryson, but instead of being cocksure like City Football Group, where money is dumped out of an office ceiling on one of their targets while negotiating, they look for the right move for the club at all times (like buying McArthur and using him and Jedinak as a double pivot for Pulis’s system).
Palace had dished out their £7M record fee on James McArthur last year, but getting Cabaye was perhaps indicative of their board room continuing to build themselves off of last year’s successes.
Alan Pardew made history last year: he became the first manager in Premier League history to take over a club in the relegation zone and guide them to top half territory, and it was also Palace’s second time ever in the top half. 21 league games in the bottom three and a top 10 finish five months later is an absolutely incredible feat.
It seems like a far-fetched proposition, but just thinking about Palace’s current identity taking a top 6-7 finish can be possible if this run of results stays constant. We even discussed the potential snagging of a Europa League spot on the Zlatcast. It might seem semi-unrealistic, but everything is coming full circle for Palace and their fans. You can see and feel it at Selhurst Park. These guys and their fans – probably the best set of fans in the BPL – truly believe.
As optimistic as I am, I don’t think Palace gets the Europa League spot, but I think they warrant a 8th-9th place finish. The excitement will continue as the season progresses. And if they beat Manchester City this upcoming weekend, let’s just say that each season will exponentially get better and better.