Another former unpopular Palace manager comes back to Selhurst hoping for a win. Here's Jack Pierce's preview of the arrival of Hull and Steve Bruce.
With four weeks of the season to go, one of the sides on show at Selhurst Park on Saturday is slap bang in the middle of the scrap to stay up... and it's NOT our lot!
When Palace supporters had a look at the fixtures after they came out last summer, some may have looked at this fixture and thought it was probably our last viable chance of picking up points before the daunting run of matches May had in store. Well, the pressure's off as far as trying to avoid the drop but that certainly isn't the case for Saturday's opponents. Hull City are perilously close to the drop zone and know that the three clubs currently occupying the bottom three spots are eyeing them up and are well within reach of overtaking them by the end of the season.
If Hull were to be relegated, decisions would have to be made. Would Steve Bruce be kept on? Which players' wages need to be off the books? Will they sign an actual tiger in a bid to rebrand the club?
Bruce's future is an interesting one. The man seems to have built himself quite a favourable reputation, particularly within the media, despite never really achieving anything of note. He's quite well travelled but remains to have taken a club to that 'next level'. The bubble burst for him at Sunderland and in spite of a very good first campaign with Hull following promotion last season, this season has seem them struggle near the foot of the table for most of the term. Even if Hull were to avoid the drop, it's not too difficult to imagine a parting of manager and club in the close season. If he were to leave the club, relegated or not, the likelihood is Bruce would be back in a dugout before too long as he seems to be a liked man in football circles.
Bruce to Newcastle, anyone?
Players-wise, Hull have built themselves quite a hefty wage bill. The likes of Tom Huddlestone, Nikica Jelavic and Michael Dawson, established Premier League players, are likely to be earning substantial sums; sums that probably aren't viable for a club in the Championship to be paying. The question is, would any of the players attract bids from the top flight during the summer?
If you looked at Hull's and Palace's squads, ask yourself whether there are any Hull players you would want in a Palace shirt next season. Robbie Brady perhaps but other than that, there's nothing too tempting.
Aside from relegation, the other battle currently taking place at The KC is the battle to avoid the club changing its name and becoming a Hull City Tigers. If it were to be sanctioned, it's difficult to see who would actually refer to the new name but it's easy to see why and how Hull supporters have their issues about such a rebranding taking place.
As Palace fans, just consider Crystal Palace Eagles. Thank god we don't have American owners who already have two US sport franch...
A positive result for Palace on Saturday is likely to mathematically guarantee our place in the top flight next season. Such a result could also put Hull one step closer to the drop. Four of their last five matches are against Liverpool, Arsenal, Tottenham and Manchester United. On the looks of it, Saturday’s fixture in SE25 does represent, as West Brom proved on Saturday, a realistic chance to add some much needed points to their worryingly low tally.
Jim, Andy, Kevin and James are back a few days later than usual to look back over Palace's defeat to West Brom and you-know-who's return to Selhurst.
They also answer your Twitter and Facebook questions.
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Former Palace defender Darren Powell will turn out for a team of Eagles fans as they take on Brighton supporters in an annual charity match on Friday night.
The Robert Eaton Memorial Fund match has seen fans from Palace and Brighton play each other every year since the September 11th attacks where Seagulls fan Robert lost his life.
Friends of his set up the funs in his name which has since raised over more than £200,000 for underprivileged children in New York, Sussex, Croydon and Africa.
Palace fans won the first ever game on penalties after a 4-4 draw but went on to lose six on the bounce and currently trail in the series 9-6. They won last year and are looking to do the same on Friday night in Lewes.
They will have Powell, who played for Palace between 2002 and 2005 in their ranks. He is most well remembered for scoring a 95th minute equaliser against Sunderland in the playoff semi-final match in 2004 to take it to penalties. Palace won and went to Wembley where they beat West Ham to earn promotion.
Alongside Powell in defence will be another former Eagles man Robert Quinn, who came up through the youth team ranks at Palace and made appearances in the first team. Quinn scored Palace's goal last year as the REMF 2014 game ended 1-1 with the Eagles winning on penalties.
The rest of the team is made up of Palace fans, including FYP podcast host Jim Daly, who co-managed the team to success last year.
The game kicks off at 7.45pm on Friday evening - April 24th - at the Dripping Pan stadium in Lewes. Tickets are £5 adults on the door and £2 for under 16s (who can also get in free is accompanied by an adult).
Crystal Palace have offered new contracts to Jake Gray, Ryan Inniss, Jerome Binnom-Williams, Connor Dymond and Luke Croll.
Gray, signed from Wycombe in 2012, has impressed since joining Palace and spent part of this season on loan at Cheltenham making an assist in his three starts, while Inniss' impressive loan spell at Port Vale was cut short by injury.
Binnom-Williams has spent the season on loan at Southend, moving into the centre of defence and playing regularly, impressing.
Both Dymond and Croll have been with the club from a young age and moved up from the U18 side at the beginning of last season, but the pair have not been regulars in the U21 side this season.
Midfielder Kyle de Silva, who made several appearances under Dougie Freedman in the Championship has been released after a string of injuries took their toll, leaving him with almost two years without playing a competitive match. At 22, the club has decided it is too late for him to breakthrough into the first team and released him.
Also let go are strikers Morgan Ferrier and Fisayo Adarabioyo, as well as midfielder Ghassimu Sow and former England youth international defender Sam Magri.
Just had to happen didn't it? Pulis returned to Selhrust and won. Here's Mark Gardiner's assessment...
I know that distance lends enchantment, but were we really that unattractive to watch last season? Tony Pulis left us on the end of a typical Tony Pulis team performance – hard working, organised and not above breaking the game up with niggling fouls and time wasting from an early point in the game. Despite having the lion’s share of the ball Palace battered away but one sensed that the footballing gods had decreed we could play until midnight & still not score. All that good fortune we had against City? We saw none of that today as 50/50 decisions always appeared to go against us, loose balls would invariably spin away from Palace players and the cutting edge of recent weeks was dulled. It wasn’t that Palace were particularly poor, just that Albion were able to sit back in numbers and force us to play from deep. On a plus point I’ve lost the “9” key this morning.
Pardew’s team selection was intriguing, with Ledley coming in at left back with two specialist full backs on the bench, but more so was the deployment of resources in a 4-2-3-1 formation: it soon became clear that Puncheon had dropped deep alongside Jedinak with McArthur playing in the hole. However even before that Palace had gone a goal down, conceding a corner when our first attack broke down: Morrison had the freedom of Selhurst Park (well, our penalty area...) to put a free header past Speroni; it looked like Puncheon lost his footing and didn’t pick up the run. As an aside doubts about the pitch’s quality continue as players from both sides slipped & slid throughout the match.
88 minutes to recover and Palace nearly allowed a run from deep by Morrison to double the deficit, his shot deflected past Julian’s far post, before we started the assault, primarily down the right where Zaha had the beating of Brunt. The left side was not exploited so much, in part because Ledley lacked the pace to effectively support Bolasie, and was guilty of lobbing aimless balls into the box for Myhill or his giant defenders to gobble up; Yannick rarely exploited Dawson’s similar slowness in the first half. Wilf’s crosses seldom found a colleague so deep did Albion defend, and when they did Murray wasn’t quite sharp enough to work Myhill. Wilf was thumped to the ground for a seemingly certain penalty only for both officials to somehow miss it, and our best chance came from a Bolasie bicycle kick, well saved by Myhill. Palace started to pump more high balls from deep but for once Murray wasn’t as effective as normal in winning these aerial battles.
The second half started with two substitutions and a change in formation: Souaré came on for Ledley, probably based upon performance; more surprisingly Jedinak was replaced by Gayle – had Mile taken a knock – and we moved to 4-4-2 with McArthur dropping back with Puncheon. In fact so deep did both midfielders drop at times they were standing a few yards ahead of the central defenders when receiving the ball.
Palace did start with a bang and looked to have carried the momentum from the first half into the second, with Souaré in particular providing extra pace & width down the left, which gave Bolasie more freedom and opportunities to stretch the defence, and most of our best attacks this half would come down the left flank. Yet we were soon two down from a corner given although the ball did not appear to cross the line. Typical of our luck the corner was cleared but Gardner (untrustworthy family!) thumped the ball home from 30 yards; yet another unstoppable bullet past Julian made it three blinders conceded in the last three how games.
Palace heads did drop a little, although Bolasie & Souaré down one side and Zaha down the other always gave us hope, but Gayle could just not get into the game. The best chance came when Souaré's excellent cross was missed by both Murray & Gayle in turn, the latter having little reaction time and the ball hit him then clipped the bar. Murray would miss another decent chance later on while Delaney would force a save from Myhill from a corner but most of our set piece delivery was poor, and a number of short corners were tried with little success and rising frustration.
Albion could have really rubbed it in, McArthur clearing off the line (and looking to injure himself in the process) while hesitation between Dann & Delaney was rescued by Julian’s only save of the match. Sanogo was stripped ready to come on, presumably for Murray, when McArthur was lamed, so Palace ended the match with the seldom glimpsed midfield duo of Puncheon & Murray. The match was summed up when Souaré supplied another good cross only for Sanogo’s “goal” to be ruled out for offside.
Speroni – 6 – No chance with either goal – a point-blank free header and another thumped inside the far post from distance.
Ward – 5 – Thought it was one of Joel’s less impressive performances, summed up late on when he ran with the ball straight into an opponent, who robbed him easily and set off an Albion counter-attack. He’d started by losing possession upfield that led to their corner & first goal. His game looked a little careworn and he was one of many who decided that long balls from deep onto Albion’s penalty spot was a good idea. Did have moments supporting Zaha in attack, his deep cross setting up Bolasie’s acrobatic effort (yes, I know, a long ball from deep that worked...).
Ledley – 4 – Lacks the pace to be an effective Premier League full back and seldom supported Bolasie down the left, reduced to the long ball... you know the rest.
Delaney – 6 – Decent enough game, the only major error I noted was the “after you” interlude with Dann that nearly cost us a third goal. Tried hard to push the team forward and did at least force a save from Myhill with a glancing header.
Dann – 6 – Pretty much the same as Damien with the exception that he was never found from set pieces.
Jedinak – 5 – Not the force he usually was in the middle, blasting over Palace’s last chance of the first half and lucky not to concede a penalty for holding on Anichebe. Maybe he took a knock, as subbed at half time, or perhaps just rusty after his extended layoff. Just a shame he didn’t save the West Ham elbow for Dawson...
Puncheon – 6 – Mixed bag from Jason playing in a less familiar deeper role. Saw a lot of the ball but unable to find the incisive passes to unlock the massed defence. Set piece delivery was just as variable. Not sure how much the finger of blame for Morrison’s goal should be pointed in his direction and how much the pitch as he did seem to slip at the vital moment.
McArthur – 6 – Quiet game from James in a more advanced role, usually not close enough to Murray to help the striker out. Appeared to take a knock when clearing off the line (how many is that this season?) and limped off.
Zaha – 7 – Best performer in the first half when his skill and efforts were not rewarded by colleagues or officials. Much more willing to try and find a team mate instead of trying to do it all himself. Saw less of him in the second but he still created problems for Albion down the right.
Bolasie – 7 – Lack of support down the left saw Yannick have a quieter first half than Wilf, although his acrobatic bicycle kick was the closest we came to a legal goal. With Souaré’s support after half time saw far more of the ball and was far more dangerous without forcing a goal. Stupid and poorly executed dive saw him rightly booked.
Murray – 5 – A bit of a letdown after his recent run of excellent form, Glenn was well policed by Albion’s central defenders, and when chances came his way in both halves he wasn’t sharp enough to turn them on target.
Gayle – 4 – Anonymous for almost all the 45 minutes he was on, with the exception of the chance he missed. To be fair on second viewing he was perhaps deceived by Murray’s attempted flick (why not just crash it in, Glenn?) and the ball was on him very quickly. Should he have captured Gardner’s move on the cleared corner for the second?
Souaré – 7 – Excellent performance in the second half, great display of the overlapping full back, setting up a handful of chances with pace & accurate crossing. Not stretched defensively and that will be the aspect of the game he will need to work on but looks a stunning prospect for next season.
Sanogo – 5 – Didn’t impress in his limited time on the pitch, and moved too soon for his “goal”.
Crystal Palace defender Joel Ward has signed a new three year contract with the club.
The right-back, who signed from Portsmouth for a fee of £400,000 in 2012, has agreed a deal to keep him at Selhurst Park until 2018.
Ward was out of contract next summer and prolonged talks were held over the new deal, but he has finally committed his future to Palace
He has been tipped for an England call up after some fine performances in Palace's back line, but as yet it has not been forthcoming, with ex-Eagles defender Nathaniel Clyne one of those ahead of him.
The 25-year-old scored his first goal for the club in a 3-1 victory over Queens Park Rangers in March, and made his 100th appearance in the 2-1 win over Manchester City in April.
Scott Dann's impressive performances at the heart of Palace's defence have seen him watched by England staff in the majority of the Eagles' home games this season, and Dave Humber thinks he deserves a call-up to the national side.
We were presented with a seamless introduction to right-back by Joel Ward a couple of seasons back – having a tough act to follow from Clyne – and have been hopeful ever since that our reliable defender be rewarded with his continued fine form with an England call-up. But in the aftermath of the most recent round of international games it seems as though we’ve quickly been presented with another real England hopeful in Scott Dann.
Still learning his trade as a teenager, Dann played the majority of Walsall’s League Two title winning season in 2006/07 and he’s since established himself as a key player at his subsequent clubs Coventry, Birmingham, Blackburn and now at Selhurst Park. He’s a player who’s amassed total transfer fees of well over £10 million in the process.
Money isn’t everything, but it’s no coincidence that Palace’s change in fortunes and survival in the Premier League last year coincided with his arrival at the club. His qualities are there for all to see – he’s dominant in the air, strong, composed, a threat in the opposition box and can read the game extremely well. His performance against Manchester City on MNF (the Neville and Carragher show) showcased these qualities perfectly and evidenced his continued improvement since his arrival – his unwavering confidence against some of the best players in the league, mixing tough tackling with dummies and good distribution into midfield (along with a few excellent cross-field passes).
Now the focus here is on Scott Dann, but of course it’s unavoidable in considering the possibility of England recognition without also considering what alternatives England have. In short, not much.
Top class central defenders, like goalkeepers, are usually England specialities. Those that have been considered the best of what England have to offer over the last decade or so have included names like Adams, Campbell, Ferdinand, Terry, Woodgate, Southgate, Carragher, Keown. The list of centre backs that have been seen in more recent squads include: Smalling, Chambers, Jageilka, Cahill, Stones, Lescott, Jones, Caulker, Shawcross. A few decent names in there certainly, but definitely not as inspiring.
Cahill’s a cert, Jageilka has earned his place. But beyond that you wonder is Scott Dann really not as good as the alternatives? Chambers and Stones have heaps of potential obviously, but Jones and Smalling (the two who joined Jageilka and Cahill last time out) have been average at best for club and country – and also quite uninspiring for a while – with particularly poor performances from both against Italy. Roy doesn’t seem to be obviously swayed by the status of a club when picking his squads but you’ve really got to wonder whether certain players would be in there as regularly as they have been with the same level of performance if they played for a mid-table team.
There’s been plenty of previous on this point – Downing at Liverpool gets regular call-ups when playing average, but Downing at West Ham has to prove himself over several months to be considered. Aston Villa’s Tom Cleverley gets nowhere near the squad compared to Manchester United’s Tom Cleverley. And so on and so forth.
But I digress. The main point is that playing for Palace won’t stop Dann from getting a call-up but he’ll probably have to spend significantly longer proving himself worthy of a place when perhaps he wouldn’t elsewhere.
If nothing else the move to South London and the arrival of Pardew in particular has gone a long way to unlocking the potential that he’s shown at previous clubs, with Dann explaining that he’s currently “in the form of his life”. Dann himself doesn’t seem to be too fussed about it all, recently saying that he’s not really thinking about an England call-up – which only goes to show his focus and commitment on improving even further. Given the level and consistency of his performances this season, being one of the main factors in our climb up the table, he’s well deserving of a place in the next squad. There’s just no excuse I tell you!