Here's Jack Pierce with his weekly eye on the opposition; this week it's West Ham.
Good old West Ham. Having their best season in years and yet there appears to still be tension and a crisis behind the scenes brewing regarding Sam Allardyce's future.
Love him or loathe him (incidentally I loathe him), Allardyce has got his team playing some really good stuff this season but is still likely to lose his job in the summer, if not before. Never loved by the West Ham faithful, Fat Sam was under pressure last summer when it was thought the board would move him on and look for a fresh face to come in. The board (the porn brothers and Lady Peschisolido) announced their backing of the manager while publicly promising a more pleasing-on-the-eye style of football. With such a promise, most thought Allardyce would be gone by Christmas.
But no. The big headed one remains and has integrated new signings such as Enner Valencia, Diafra Sakho (one of the best valued signings in the Premier League this season) and Cheikhou Kouyate into the squad while reinvigorating current players like Stewart Downing, who when at Liverpool was nothing more than laughing stock. At times this season, West Ham have played football that the Boelyn hadn't seen for years and neutral onlookers scarcely believed was possible from an Allardyce side. More resolute defensively and quicker on the break, West Ham look set to finish in the top 10 at the end of the campaign.
Another one of the new faces at West Ham this season has been Alex Song, although only on a temporary basis. There haven't been many players who have directly made the trip from The Camp Nou to Upton Park (I dare say he is the first) but Song has showed glimpses of the form that earned him a move to Barcelona, while wearing an Arsenal shirt, this season. Known for his ball winning, Song has clearly worked hard on his ball retention. When at Arsenal, he seemed to always be giving the ball away in stupid places. I would have said he has cut out making stupid decisions out of his game but then he went and naively fouled Harry Kane in the penalty area in the 95th minute of last weekend's London derby against Spurs. 2-0 up and playing well, The Hammers gave away two goals in the last 10 minutes and three points became one.
Disappointing but certainly an improvement on the 4-0 trouncing at The Hawthorns in the FA Cup the week before. With some of the 'bigger' sides out of the competition, this season offered a chance for a club like West Ham a real chance of a good run, possibly all the way to Wembley, in this season’s competition but the baseball-capped one and his West Brom side dashed any such dream becoming reality.
During this season there have at times been the briefest mentions of West Ham challenging for the Champions League. That’s now almost certainly not going to happen and even a Europa League place looks out of the question too. Having seen the impact European football has had on Everton this season, West Ham supporters might be rather pleased about the latter. With 12 games to go before the end of the season, Hammers’ fans will want performances to remain at the level they have been at for most of this campaign. Finishing as high up the table should keep the mood buoyant among West Ham fans going into what will be an emotional season for the club.
Once this campaign finishes, West Ham will only have one season left at Upton Park. Their much publicised move to the Olympic Stadium has been hanging over the club for a while and it will be interesting to see how the club reacts to their new surroundings and what, if any, changes they will implement. There's a feeling that a move to such a stadium requires a more high profile manager in the dugout for some unknown reason. Whether that's true or not, it seems unlikely Allardyce's spat out gum will be adorning the turf at Stratford.
Whether it's a Slaven Bilic, Michael Laudrup, Roberto Mancini, Harry Redknapp (fresh from his bionic knee treatment) or even Danny Dyer, the same challenges will remain. The manager, the current incumbent or a new man, will be under more pressure than ever to maintain West Ham’s place in the Premier League in order to make the stadium move worthwhile to keep the boardroom happy while at the same time producing attractive, open football on the pitch to keep the fans on side.
Good luck to whichever lucky bugger is tasked with that.
Pod ahoy! The FYP panel (yep, we're going with that) are back in the studio (Kevin's house) to look back at the frustrating defeat to Arsenal.
Should Bolasie have come on sooner? Should Souare have belted it clear? Is Muzza the answer up front? All that answered...and lots more random Palace chat.
They also answer your questions and look forward to this weekend's trip to West Ham.
Click on one of the links below to download!
And check out the podcast's lovely sponsors Vektor Printing
Palace unlucky against the Gunners. Here's Mark Gardiner's assessment...
Everyone has a bucket list. Among those [printable] listed on mine is to see Palace beat the Arsenal at Selhurst. That’s one that won’t be crossed off this year at least. Perhaps I should add a new one: watch a game where Blind Pugh isn’t appointed to run the line. Yet despite a home defeat I left feeling in an optimistic mood; for much of the game Palace matched Arsenal, if not in quality of passing, in attitude and attacking intent, and so nearly squeezed a point from a seemingly hopeless position. Two experienced Arsenal fans sitting next to me reckoned Arsenal carried no more threat than Palace and that the difference was apparently in the quality of the final ball; from the Whitehorse we couldn’t knowingly add: “The quality of the officiating!”
It was a surprisingly attacking line up chosen by Pardew; usually Arsenal are confronted by massed ranks of defensive midfielders. Here Zaha started on the right, Gayle on the left, and Puncheon in an advanced midfield role behind Campbell. In the absence of Jedinak (only deemed fit enough for the bench) & McArthur, Jordon Mutch started alongside Ledley in the midfield. At the back Delaney replaced Hangeland while Souaré made his League debut. The approach of the team was different as well; no waiting to catch Arsenal off-balance and counter, instead Palace went at them from the off with Zaha starting an enthralling contest with Monreal by whipping in a cross. Despite this bright start Palace were soon behind thanks to some awful defensive work: Souaré was caught dozing in possession on the edge of our box and in attempting to retrieve a situation of his own making fouled Welbeck. Clattenburg, reputedly our best referee, awarded a penalty (on the say so of the linesman?) which Cazorla stroked home. Palace fans, incensed that barely a minute earlier Ward had been decked in front of the other linesman who’d completely missed it, would not have been mollified by news from our totally unbiased correspondent on a dodgy feed from Siberia that the challenge was just outside the box.
Palace’s response was to turn on the pressure and I would be interested in the possession stats, as for once against Arsenal we must have had at least our fair share instead of the normally 20%. Zaha was winning about 50% of his battles while Gayle was a threat down the left, while Puncheon was pulling the strings in midfield. Sadly it was too often the final cross or pass that lacked the quality to open up the Gunners’ defence, and I can’t remember Ospina having an actual save to make. Gayle’s free kick wide, shooting when a cross would have been the money ball, was one of very few efforts to be directed at goal. As half time approached Arsenal had a lengthy spell where they dominated the ball, strangely an unusual event in this match, and just as we thought making half time one down wasn’t too bad Palace were caught out by a quick move, Sanchez finding a through ball to Welbeck in the inside left channel; Speroni blocked the shot but Giroud swept the rebound home. Undeservedly trailing by a doubled deficit we nodded our heads in grim recognition that it would be a huge order to pull back from this. That mood wasn’t helped by comments from the Middle East that Welbeck was in an offside position.
If we were downhearted in the stands, purely on the turn of events as the team had actually played very well, then the spirit in this Palace team remained undimmed and they started strongly for the second time today, winning a series of corners. Sadly most seem to be targeted on Mertesacker’s head and were cleared – from one such clearance Sanchez (who I thought was generally quiet today) really should have made it three-nil on a lightening break but somehow slid the ball inches past the far post. Still though palace rarely made Ospina work except on crosses, one of which he collided spectacularly with a defender only for Bolasie to be unable to take immediate advantage.
Yannick had come on for the injured Campbell, with Dwight moving into the middle, and he formed a good partnership with Souaré down the left, giving Chambers a real roughing up. Ledley was finding some good deliveries over the heads of the defenders for our pacy front three to chase after, but still the crosses wouldn’t quite arrive at the right place, while the shots tended to be all wide or high. Then, almost magically, Palace started to find the range, starting with a tremendous run & cross from Souaré that Gayle, for once beating Mertesacker in the air, headed just over. With Arsenal always looking dangerous on the break, Bolasie was sparking some hope – did one of his crosses scrape the bar? - and Puncheon delivered a cute free kick that bent around the (badly placed?) wall and trimmed the outside of the side netting with the keeper nowhere to be seen. Both wingers found themselves in possession in their box on several occasions but tended to be crowded out, while Puncheon continued an annoying habit of delaying shooting for ever & a day.
The last throw of the dice was to withdraw Ledley & Gayle and replace them with the veteran Ameobi & near-veteran Murray: a very Warnock-like move? We expected the long ball but instead Palace still tried to work the ball down the flanks, and finally we managed a shot on target which was saved by Ospina; he had to be smarter to stop a Murray header with what looked like our last chance. As the game entered 5 minutes stoppage time it seemed too late, especially with Murray putting another header wide, until with barely a minute left a Palace corner saw Zaha’s effort blocked and Murray stab home from close range. Surely too late! Not quite as, much to our intense agony, Bolasie again worked space on the left and his cross was met by a glancing header that beat the keeper, only to strike the inside of the far post & bounce straight into the grounded Ospina’s hands. B*gger! Still, when the final whistle went, it was most unusual to hear the whole ground rise and sing Palace’s praises after a home defeat. That perhaps is the most eloquent comment on what the performance was worth.
Two things that did make me wince. First: the pitch – again a number of players from both sides slipped on several occasions, including in one bizarre moment in the second half when Giroud slipped, presenting the ball to Delaney, who in turn played Bambi on ice, but Giroud wasn’t quite quick enough to take advantage. Second: Arsenal fans’ chants which included several derogatory anti-Semitic terms – are they Chelsea in disguise?
Speroni – 6 – Would like to see the second goal again – don’t think he could do anything but block Welbeck’s shot and let the consequences sort themselves out, and it unluckily fell to Giroud. Made competent saves in both halves and one good sprint from the line and gather at the forward’s feet. Again not exactly overworked against one of the Premier League’s best.
Ward – 6 – Was occasionally exposed on the right, more so in the second half when Arsenal played on the break. Tried hard to support Zaha down the right.
Souaré – 6 – Started disastrously with the penalty incident, apparently not aware you have to be switched on all the time in England; showed that with a couple of early passes that were snapped up by yellow shirts. He could have gone under completely but he dug in and began to become accustomed to the pace, playing some good passes. Second half did well sweeping up on the left and linked well with Gayle & later Bolasie, the highlight being a long run and excellent cross from the goal line that produced our first realistic chance on goal. So a 5 for the first half and a 7 for the second.
Delaney – 6 – First half kept Sanchez & co. relatively quiet. Was worked harder in the second but did his job well, occasionally finding the pace of the attackers a problem on the break.
Dann – 7 – Outstanding, one slight heart-in-mouth moment in the first half aside. If he did let Welbeck get beyond him for the second he was apparently betrayed by the lack of a flag for offside.
Ledley – 7 – Strong performance in the middle with some exceptionally well-timed challenges, and some well aimed balls over the top for Campbell or the wingers to chase. Substitution looked to be tactical.
Mutch – 6 – Not outstanding but signs of why we’ve paid £5m for Jordon, with some good tackles and some neat passing, although some did go astray. Deserved yellow card for trying (& failing) to cynically bringing down a breaking opponent.
Zaha – 7 – Difficult to mark Wilf as the results of his battles with the full back were about even, sometimes he’d lose the ball, sometimes he’d beat two or three. Sadly there wasn’t a lot of end product for much of the game but this improved in the second half. Mustn’t forget he tracked back a lot and was tackling opponents all over the pitch.
Gayle – 6 – Posed a threat behind Arsenal’s right back but his delivery from open play & set pieces was underwhelming, a wasted free kick a fine example. Was less effective when moved into the striker’s role when Campbell was injured.
Puncheon – 7 – An excellent display in the advanced midfield role; most good moves came through Puncheon and he was also involved in a lot of the challenges for the ball in the centre of the pitch. His corners were more dangerous than Gayle’s while his well-placed free kick just shaved the post. Being pedantic Jason did pass up several opportunities to shoot when making regular runs across the penalty area. Of the players who started he would be my Man of the Match for the influence he had on the game but...
Campbell – 6 – Worked hard but never really threatened the goal; challenged the giant Mertesacker in the air & won a few. Injured in the second half.
Bolasie – 8 – Was back to his best raiding down the left and his crosses were far more dangerous than any of his colleagues’. Showed up Chambers’s limitations as a full back and so nearly created an unlikely equaliser.
Murray – 7 – Initially made little impact when coming on, but in a short spell had three headers (one wide, one saved, one escaping the laws of geometry by hitting the post & staying out) and stabbed home a late goal.
Ameobi – 5 – Little chance to shine.
Former Crystal Palace sporting director Iain Moody has lifted the lid on the text-gate scandal which ended his spell with the Eagles, and denied his close friend Malky Mackay the manager’s job. He speaks exclusively to FYP's Matt Woosnam.
The 40-year-old joined Palace in October 2013, when the club was in the midst of searching for a new manager to replace Ian Holloway who left after a 4-1 drubbing at the hands of Fulham. But Moody lasted only 10 months, and he left the club following the leak of alleged sexist, racist and homophobic text messages and emails exchanged between himself and former Cardiff manager Malky Mackay.
Whilst he offered no excuses for his behaviour, he sought to explain the reasons behind it.
He said: “I think football is an intoxicating environment, both as a fan and as someone who works there. It’s a very strange world that I had 10 years of without a break. It’s been quite nice in some ways to devote myself to my kids and my wife in the last four or five months.
“In life most people you meet are good people, there are some who aren’t and never will be. I think good people sometimes do bad things. It doesn’t mean that they are no longer good people and I think everyone has got something you can refer to in your own past to say why did I do that?
“I think we can all look back on experiences of reacting to situations in a particular way and thinking ‘god there’s no way I would do that again’, or even as has happened to me, reading back things and not even recognising that it was me who said them, thinking… and I’m not denying it was me, but that’s unrecognisable and it’s not a reflection of where I am and what I stand for, and the education that I have had; and I don’t mean necessarily formal education but upbringing.
“I’m the father of two young kids at the moment and it’s become the most important thing in my life that there is a proper framework or behaviour and expectation for them to be good people. So there’s a distortion. People get distorted then things that people do are interpreted in a distorted way.”
Moody and Mackay are both subject to investigation from the Football Association following the texts. Proceedings remain active, and he was reluctant to discuss the situation but insisted he was keen to help the FA in any way he could.
He resigned from his position at Selhurst Park, and admits he considered it previously when other issues arose, including the allegations that he had obtained the Cardiff City team sheet prior to Palace’s 3-0 victory at the Cardiff City Stadium in April.
“I was conscious throughout my time at Palace that there were various storms that occurred around me,” he added. “I was conscious throughout my time there, it sounds contrite but the owners had been so good to me from the day I came in. The first day I met Steve [Parish] I was conscious that I didn’t want to be a problem. It’s got nothing to do with Palace really. I said to Steve on many occasions ‘I don’t want this ever to be awkward; if you think that the problem of having me here outweighs the benefit of having me here I will just go’. The story should never be about me, all the people who have done my job well in the past, no-one knows who they are."
He asks me if Dan Ashworth walked in would I recognise him, and although I know who he is talking about, I have to concede I do not know what the director of Elite Development for the FA, and former West Bromwich Albion sporting director looks like.
To emphasise his point, he adds: “Yet he is held up as one of the forebears of doing the job well. Nicky Hammond at Reading has been there for ten years and not many people would recognise him. I don’t ever want to be the story, and I was my own worst enemy in that in some ways, and I would act differently if I did it again now.
“There was kind of an understanding that I’ll just go, I’ll just go. Steve throughout [the previous issues] was like ‘no, no, no, I want you to stay, you’re doing a good job, we need you.’ But that was a little bit there and then. I didn’t want Palace… they were looking for a manager at the time, the season had just started, transfer window open, there was a lot of stuff going on and I had become a story and I didn’t want to be a story that impacted on Palace.
“So as soon as I knew what was going to happen in the press I spoke to Steve and said ‘I will just go’. From this day I will just go and I won’t bother you again, and that’s kind of what happened.”
“I was disappointed [to leave Palace]. I had a 10 fantastic months and I loved all the people. There’s brilliant people everywhere at the club, it’s quirky, it needs a bit of work, a bit of love but they’ve got absolutely the right people doing the right things for the right reasons, and it’s not often I can say that.”
Read the full interview in issue 42 of Five Year Plan, out vs Everton on 31 January and available around the ground at Selhurst Park.
He "ran around like a bull in china shop" says Ryan Wallis on Sandor Torghelle, as he starts a weekly look at where former Palace players ply their trade now.
In 2004, Crystal Palace shocked the world of football when they defeated a West Ham side managed by a certain Alan Pardew in the playoffs following a scintillating surge up the Division 1.
The promotion campaign took everyone by surprise, including the man who masterminded the promotion Iain Dowie and in the summer of 2004, supporters witnessed a mass overhaul of the playing squad including 11 summer additions and 10 departures. One addition was 22-year-old Hungarian striker Sandor Torghelle from MTK Hungaria for an undisclosed fee (believed to be in the region of £750k).
The announcement, made on August 3rd 2004 caused a cautious ripple of excitement amongst the Palace faithful as he was handed the number 10 shirt. The reality was, no one had really heard of Sandor, or of the club that he had arrived from. Torghelle however, had netted an impressive brace against Germany in a 2-0 victory for his native Hungary just two months earlier in a friendly. The BBC could also be responsible for the hype, labelling the striker as “one of Hungary's most exciting talents”.
It was a promising league debut for Torghelle; a vibrant and enthusiastic performance in the 1-1 draw away at Norwich gave the Palace fans hope in a display that could have seen him notch twice on a different day. However, that was really as good as it got for the striker and the only way was down for Torghelle’s Palace career after this; after scoring again for his country in the international break, the Hungarian went on to make just two more league starts for the club, both of which came in September.
There was little he could do right in red and blue, even in his club profile photo he couldn’t manage to keep his eyes open! His one and only goal for the club came in the fourth round of the league cup in a whirlwind display against Charlton. Torghelle completed the turnaround by the Eagles scoring the second in a 2-1 win before being sent off just 15 minutes later for receiving a second yellow for an alleged dive.
It is quite appropriate that his last notable action for the club was a dive as this is what can best describe his career following his departure from the club just 12 months later. His brief stint in England was just another leg of a nomadic career for Torghelle, who has played for 11 clubs so far in his 15 year career. He spent a year at Greek giants Panathinaikos before being shipped out to Greek Super League rivals POAK after failing to score a single goal for the club. His fortunes at POAK weren’t much better as he notched just the one goal for the club, although his only goal will never be forgotten by the Dikéfalos tou Vorrá faithful as he scored a goal in the famous POAK-Olympiakos derby, ending his near three-year period without scoring a league goal.
Torghelle finally started to rekindle his diminishing reputation after moving to Germany to play for second division side Carl Zeiss Jena. After netting five goals in his first twelve games, his form again dropped and was sold to Augsburg a year later. Augsburg was a ground-breaker for Torghelle in many ways; he managed to reach double figures for the club and even more astonishingly, he stayed there for two seasons, the first time in his career he had managed such a feat.
At the age of 32, you can still watch the Palace flop run around like a bull in a china shop in the top-flight of Hungarian football in the capital with MTK Budapest. His side currently sit in 2nd in the league with the man himself scoring three goals.
Many Palace fans were delighted when he left the club but also disappointed knowing the excitement that his arrival once brought. Little did the Palace fans know that the likes of Jon Macken and James Scowcroft were to be drafted in as his replacement. Be careful what you wish for!
Over halfway through the season, who are the contenders for Palace’s Player of the Year award? Jack Pierce gives us his five man shortlist.
The Palace skipper was outstanding for the club last season, playing every minute of the campaign bar the last half an hour at Fulham on the final day of the season; but this season has seen him improve even further. His leadership skills are among the best in the Premier league and there aren’t many better at doing the dirty work at the base of the midfield. The percentages of interceptions he makes and aerial challenges he wins are fantastic and proof that most Premier League sides would love to have him in their ranks.
What he has added to his game from last season have been goals. Five of them up to now. Admittedly the majority have been set pieces, three of which have been penalties, but they all count and when our strikers were struggling to score goals, Jedinak’s little flurry of finding of the net really helped the team out.
Having been away and lifted the Asia Cup as his national side’s skipper, a mark of how highly rated and important Jedinak is to the side is that it’s just assumed, that when fit, he will walk back into a side that in all honesty hasn’t been playing too badly in his absence.
There have been times this season when I’ve been concerned that Scott Dann is defending the Palace goal by himself such has been his dominance of the Palace penalty area. His determination to keep the Palace goal out of danger is clear for all to see and at less than £2 million is probably one of the best value centre halves currently plying their trade in the Premier League. He wins almost everything that is put in the Palace box but he’s not simply your old fashioned stopper. With the ball at his feet, he tries to use the ball as well as the options ahead of him offer him to and tries to resist knocking it long if he can.
Rumours of an England call up have emerged at times during the season but unfortunately for Dann, the night he committed his biggest mistake of the season (when he gave the ball to Christian Benteke who stroked the ball home against Villa in December) was the night that England scouts were allegedly in attendance to watch the centre half. However, if Dann carries on in the form he is currently in, Roy Hodgson and his staff may well make the trip to see our number six in action again before the end of the season.
In two and a half years, Yannick Bolasie has gone from not being able to get on the bench at Bristol City to starring at the African Cup of Nations for DR Congo. His stock has risen so much since he’s been wearing red and blue and I can’t imagine one Palace fan begrudging him any of the praise coming his way this season. His enthusiasm has been infectious on both teammates and fans and some of the stuff he does with a football blows our minds. There was a piece of skill he performed during our trip to White Hart Lane in December that left me (and I hope many others) baffled to the point my girlfriend took my phone away to stop watching the video on loop.
Prior to Christmas he was our most potent attacking threat and at times became our only outlet; never afraid to receive the ball, Bolasie is a fantastic player to have in our side. If he fails to return to the form he was showing before leaving for the AFCON, supporters shouldn’t forget how important he was to the team during the first half of the season.
An August deadline day signing, McArthur hit the ground running in a Palace shirt with very impressive performances in wins at Goodison Park and at home to Leicester. His willingness to go looking for the ball and carry it forward has really benefited the side and is proving good value for the £5 million-ish fee we paid Wigan Athletic for his services.
Before signing for Palace, I hadn’t appreciated what a good footballer the Scot is. His ball control and range of passing is of a very high quality and that’s not forgetting that he isn’t worried about getting stuck in too. Often asked to play the higher of a three man midfield, McArthur will need to start contributing a few more goals to the side but that aside, he has proven a very astute piece of business and added some real guile and class to our midfield.
He of the worst knee slide attempt in history (having put Palace 2-1 up at home to Liverpool in November), the former Celtic man has consistently performed well since joining the club in January 2014 and has become a permanent fixture in the middle of the park for Palace. His willingness to cover each and every blade of grass on the pitch is appreciated by teammates and fans alike and has seen him become a firm favourite among the Palace faithful.
His performances this season have been very good and it’s probably no coincidence that Palace’s good run of form under Alan Pardew has come when Ledley is playing some of his best football in a Palace shirt. Happy to do the defensive side of midfield work while posing a goal threat further forward, Ledley has become a very valuable member of the playing staff at Selhurst.
20-year-old Steph Mann is more than a match for most men on a football pitch, and the Palace Ladies' midfielder has her eyes on Super League status in the near future as she chats to Danielle Lowe.
Midfield superstar Steph Mann, 20, laughs off criticisms about women’s football by praising dedicated fans “It's just nice to see grown men actually interest in women's football”.
Mann first learnt to kick a ball aged six when her brother joined a local team: “I had to beg to let me go training with him,” she said. “He wasn’t keen on the idea as he didn’t want me to embarrass him.”
After much persuasion she tagged along and hasn’t looked back. “I picked it up really quickly and after a season of being a year younger in a team full of boys, I became their top scorer.”
Her brother stopped playing football after two seasons to pursue other dreams but Mann continued to play locally and gave the boys a run for their money at school.
Sport runs through Mann’s veins and the midfielder always dreamed of becoming a personal trainer, helping others achieve excellence. Now she aspires to enter sports physiotherapy.
Mann plays for Crystal Palace Ladies, her dream team, after seeing them battle at home against Portsmouth in 2002. She said: “I never imagined I would be playing for Palace. It’s a dream for any fan to have the privilege of playing for their club.”
That year also saw Palace legend Andy Johnson join the club and he wore Mann’s favourite number - eight. Although she avoids modelling herself on others the 20-year-old cannot help but look up to Palace midfielder James McArthur. “He's a very physical player and never stops running,” is her reasoning.
The squad consists of players between 19 and 29 and Mann believes girls are starting to pick up the game earlier than ever before. “I would say it’s a young sport, as the grassroots of women's football is getting bigger and better, meaning more girls are starting to get involved from a young age.”
The team has gone from strength to strength in recent years with young blood and new experiences ensuring a cyclical improvement for the club.
Mann highlights the increase in sponsorship as teams improve and notes how it helps “improve experiences for the girls and coaches.” She adds: “A lot of our funding goes towards allowing us to base our home at Bromley FC and using their amazing training facilities”.
The passion and exuberance demonstrated on a Saturday afternoon at Selhurst Park is not just limited to this corner of south London, indeed, it presents itself at Bromley FC on matchday for Palace Ladies. Mann loves the fans: “A group of boys from the Holmesdale Fanatics have supported the girls from day one and I don’t think they realise how much the girls appreciate their continuous support. They're constantly bringing down new people and doing what they do best, making noise.
“When songs get sung during match day it definitely gives the girls a buzz. If we are trailing in a game it will give us a boost and has helped us pull goals back.”
Dedicated fans often recognise the Ladies, Mann proudly explained: “Lads who come down and watch us regularly come and say hi. It’s good to know us girls are getting remembered and noticed.”
The team find themselves inspired by the big boys of Selhurst but Mann insisted: “There are a few Palace fans in the squad so we are obviously motivated by the men, but all the girls work hard to represent the badge on our shirt.”
Currently sitting third in the south East Division One table, Palace Ladies are pushing for Super League status in the near future. Mann said it “will be the next milestone for the club and I’d love to be part of it”.
Despite being professional footballers Mann and her teammates can only don the famous red and blue on a part time basis. Mann said: “I’m lucky, my job is very flexible. I don’t work on match days and they always make sure I get away on time for training.”
Mann also imagines playing international football but keeps herself grounded “I definitely have a long way to go before I can even start dreaming of that. You don’t realise how good some female footballers are until you play against teams like Millwall, they’re on another level.
“It’s amazing how much woman’s football has come in the last few years. The record attendance at Wembley for the recent woman’s England match was a great moment for all girls who play the sport.”