It's the last FYP Podcast of the season! Boooo! But there are TWO special guests on it! Yaaaay!
Keith Millen and Steve Browett join the boys for the end of season show to chat about all manner of things CPFC in this bumper podcast!
They also answer your Twitter and Facebook questions.
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Jack Pierce with his final eye on the opposition of the season as Palace entertain Swansea.
Here we are, folks. The last afternoon before you reintroduce yourself to your better halves for the summer and begin to take half an interest in The Ashes.
Three managers (four if you include the ever dependable Keith Millen) and 45 points later, Palace head into their last league game of the season looking in fairly decent shape. With threat of relegation averted a while back, the last month or so has offered Alan Pardew the chance to have a look at different options within his squad before he decided what to do with it during the summer. However, before beach towels are packed and footballers' wedding season commences - we welcome Swansea to SE25; a match against a side you could argue is one or two years ahead in their Premier League evolution than Palace are.
When Michael Laudrup was shown the door in February of last year and Garry Monk offered the chance to take charge of first team affairs, few would have thought he would have steered the club as successfully as he has done. Comfortably top half for most of this season, Swansea's first aim of the season would've been to avoid becoming part of the relegation scrap and having achieved that by the turn of the year, they've been able to play with a greater freedom and have achieved their highest points tally since promotion in 2011.
Monk's stock certainly has risen this season. In his first full season, he has overseen Swansea's most impressive season and proven himself tactically astute and a match for some of the most respected managers in the top flight. League doubles over Manchester United and Arsenal are proof enough of Monk's credentials but his management of his squad has also been noted. Bafetimbi Gomis, bought in last summer on a free from Lyon, was clearly frustrated by his lack of playing time while Wilfried Bony took the lone striker role. With Bony sold to Manchester City in January, Monk had to turn to Gomis and despite his clear unhappiness, Gomis now seems settled and has scored some very important goals. Off the top of my head, I can count three winning goals (twice against Arsenal and against Villa) he has scored this season, earning his side six extra points they might not have earned without him.
Monk's name has been tentatively linked with a few other clubs in the written press, notably Sunderland, but it's highly unlikely that Monk, a man who has been aligned with Swansea for over a decade, would look to move on unless it was an opportunity that would have a clear step up in prestige.
The club's aims for next season will really be to try and replicate or even improve upon the performances of this season. The next step is to do what Southampton have done this season and be competing for a Champions League place. Although unsuccessful, The Saints have been in and around the top seven all season and for the most part were being discussed as a potential top four side. Only time will tell whether Swansea have the squad or the mettle to be competing at that level but that really is the next logical step for them in regard to their league aspirations.
A cup run and another piece of silverware is also another tangible ambition for a club of Swansea's size. Next season will be Swansea's fifth consecutive season in the top flight and although the board will insist of retaining top flight status being the first aim, that really should almost go without saying now. The club now possess a body of players who will be looking at the higher reaches of the league rather than being concerned with becoming involved in a relegation scrap.
Summer recruitment will be key; as it will be with every Premier League club. Monk's squad looks to have a fairly youthful look to it and bringing players like Jack Cork to the club signals a smart and effective transfer policy being in place at The Liberty. The midfielder who was heavily linked with a move to Palace has proved a very good signing since arriving in South Wales in January. His marshalling of the midfield has allowed the likes of Jonjo Shelvey and Ki Seung-yung to push on and become move of a goal threat. With his contract at Southampton running down, Swansea were quick to move and willing to pay the fee that suited Southampton and instead of waiting for the summer and picking Cork up on a free, Monk added him to their ranks six months earlier.
It'll be interesting to see what, if any, business Swansea pursue during the summer. There are few players in the current Swansea starting 11 worthy of being dropped at the moment so if players were to be bought in, they'd surely need to be of a real quality to justify their place for the start of next season. The signing of Gomis last summer indicated that Swansea can lure players of international quality to The Liberty Stadium and they will be hoping they can repeat that again this summer.
Sunday's season crescendo is a chance for both sides to end their seasons on a high and with nothing to really play for, it'll either be a corker or a very damp squib. Let’s hope the former is the case before we wave goodbye to competitive football at Selhurst for at least 76 days.
God help us.
Crystal Palace is a club which strives to be inclusive and make football a fun day out for all the family, and this letter from the parent of an autistic child thanking the club for helping him to improve his social skills goes to show that the little things can make a huge difference.
To all the team at Crystal Palace Football Club,
I wanted to write to tell you all about my son and the wonderful things being at the club has done for him this season.
As some background information, he suffers with Autistic Spectrum Disorder (ASD), he also has a severe speech and language delay with mild learning difficulties and dyslexia. Life can be tough for him as he tends not to speak or look at people he does not know well. New situations and places are also difficult for him to deal with. The one absolute passion he has in his life is football. However, getting him out of the house can be challenging.
We visited the club at the end of last season with a family member for a game and he told me he had enjoyed the game and wanted to return. As a family we tend to buy passes for places so if we should have to leave because of an “autistic meltdown” as we call them we can return at no extra cost, with this in mind I thought a season ticket might not be best for us as I had a view it would take until quite far into the season for him to feel truly settled. How wrong I was!
From the first moment I rang up, the staff in the box office were amazing and put me straight onto Pam.
Pam was wonderful, I felt she listened to my concerns and quite frankly my moaning, I did not feel rushed and she made me and my son feel valued as a customer. After the phone call I felt so positive about bringing [redacted] to the games and knew if I had any problems Pam would be at the end of the phone for us. I cannot thank you enough it is not often I look forward to going somewhere.
The beginning of the season came and he was very withdrawn which I had expected, but we did not have to leave one game. The first breakthrough came around November time when a fan who was celebrating asked [redacted] for a “High-Five” which he did with a smile, from then on I can truly say it has been amazing! He has started talking to other fans who have spoken to him. He has even started to move independently around the area of our seats. He asked if he could wait for the players to have his programme signed which I thought I would have to manage for him, again I was wrong he talked to the players, who were also incredible being patient with him and I felt they listened to him which I know he feels he does not get very often.
So we now have a young man, who regularly asks to leave the house to go and practice his Puncheon corners or his Zaha runs. I have just had a meeting with his school who have said this year he has started to speak out in class and has recently given a class presentation which is incredible. Which I think is without doubt the result of coming to Selhurst Park.
Therefore, I would like to say the biggest thank you to all of you and the work you do to help young people like my son. You have all helped him in every aspect of his daily life.
As we reach the final match of the season, Crystal Palace find themselves in unfamiliar territory. At this stage of seasons gone by, Palace fans have mostly endured nail biting relegation battles or a frantic push for the playoffs. But with another mid table finish in the Premier League now secured we have the unique opportunity to take a moment and reflect on an historic season and celebrate what the club has achieved.
Upon “welcoming” Tony Pulis back to Selhurst Park a few weeks ago, we were reminded how much has been written about the managerial successes and failures during this new Premier League era for Crystal Palace. There is no question that Pulis did a sensational job as Palace manager and Alan Pardew has arguably done even better, but without the fantastic response from this group of players neither Pulis nor Pardew would have been as successful. This year we have witnessed heroic performances all over the pitch and so as we celebrate and reflect, I am presented with the nigh impossible task of choosing just four key influencers for the season and announce the Official Five Year Plan Player of the Year 2015.
The recent rise of Yannick “Yala” Bolasie has been remarkable; from playing in League 2 for Barnet just a few years ago he has played his way up the divisions, with Palace, to become one of the Premier League’s most sought after wingers.
The skill, pace and unpredictable trickery of the DR Congo International has frightened defenders all season, but the undeniable highlight for Yala was that 11 minute hat trick away to Sunderland. Bolasie became the first Crystal Palace player to score a hat trick in the Premier League, and it was Palace’s first in the top flight since Ian Wright netted three against Wimbledon back in 1991.
Bolasie has been a joy to watch this season, but it was that match winning display against Sunderland that finally brought about the attention he has long deserved. It comes as no surprise that he has become the subject of much transfer speculation with newspaper reports indicating Palace must brace themselves for a £20m summer bid.
If you cast your mind back to the turn of the calendar year, Palace were in a sorry state; with Warnock at the helm relegation seemed inevitable and the future looked bleak as two of last season’s outstanding performers were set to depart for extended International duty.
In particular, many wondered how the Palace midfield would cope without their captain and talisman, Mile Jedinak. Jedinak is an excellent destroyer, breaking down opposition moves with interceptions, tackles and blocks and you’d have been forgiven for thinking the team looked frail without him. Alan Pardew brought in Jordan Mutch from Queens Park Rangers to ease the loss of Jedinak, but it was last summer’s record signing James McArthur who stood out most in the absence of Jedi. Despite competition from the likes of Mutch, Adlène Guédioura and Barry Bannan, James McArthur has formed a solid partnership with Joe Ledley at the heart of the midfield. The consistency of Ledley and McArthur even led to speculation that Jedinak would struggle to regain his place upon his return to South London.
McArthur doesn’t possess the gladiator-like presence of Jedinak and it’s doubtful he instills the same kind of fear into the opposition, but McArthur has used different methods to achieve similarly effective results. McArthur is an intelligent footballer and his ability to read the game has positioned him well to intercept and tackle at close to the high levels set by the Australian, without the same number of fouls or cards.
James McArthur’s technical ability has been a joy to behold; he has a quality touch and tight control and very rarely gives up possession. He has displayed an impressive portfolio of (often key) passes and has one of the highest successful pass percentages in the squad. There is no questioning the Scot’s ability, but more than his ability it is his work rate and desire which have quickly seen him become a fan favourite at Selhurst Park. McArthur should also be applauded for the maturity and character he has shown both on and off the field, demonstrated most significantly with his measured response to the Nigel Pearson incident.
Last week during the Crystal Palace Awards Night at Fairfield Halls, James McArthur was presented with the award for the Vice President’s Player of the Year 2015.
Back in 2010, Sir Alex Ferguson noticed the potential of Scott Dann and made enquiries to sign the then Blackburn Rovers defender. Thankfully for Palace, the transfer never materialised and now under Alan Pardew, Scott Dann is realising that early promise.
Dann is quick to recognise Pardew’s impact on his own form telling the Mirror: “I feel I have got better under this manager. My performances have moved on to another level.”
Commanding and calm in defence, Dann is so often there with a perfectly timed tackle or a last ditch block and has the presence of mind to stay on his feet when needed. Not only the rock of Palace’s defence, Dann also is not afraid to come forward to join in attacks, notching 4 goals for the Eagles so far this season. Dann’s man of the match display against West Ham earlier this year particularly stands out; an exceptional performance in defence was topped off with a headed goal (assisted by Puncheon), which helped Palace secure the victory at Upton Park.
Superb all year, except on the rare occasion Roy Hodgson is present, Dann’s tremendous form has not gone unnoticed and the Liverpudlian is now in contention for a place in the national team.
Scott Dann was also recognized by the club at the Awards Night, when after receiving the most votes from those in attendance he was named the Crystal Palace Player of the Year 2015.
But the winner of the far more prestigious honour of FYP Player of the Year is...
Croydon born Palace fan, Jason “he’s one of our own” Puncheon has featured in all but one match in the Premier League so far this season. Consistently used to good effect on the right under Pulis, eyebrows were raised when earlier this season Pardew played Puncheon more centrally. At the time, the decision looked to have been made out of necessity, Marouane Chamakh had just suffered another frustrating injury and it made sense to keep pacier wingers Zaha and Bolasie on the flanks. But looking back, armed with hindsight and statistics, the decision may actually have been a stroke of tactical inventiveness by Pardew:
Since moving to the middle, Puncheon has created the second highest number of chances in the league, with only Manchester City’s David Silva having created more. Puncheon is only second to Santi Cazorla of Arsenal in goal assists and he currently sits third in the league for most successful key passes, behind only FA Player of the Year Eden Hazard and David Silva.
With Pardew implementing a system focusing on width and utilising the pace of our wingers, the vision and creativity of Puncheon have been vital. Not only has Puncheon improved since moving to a more central role, but also consequently so have the performances of Zaha and Bolasie.
Not satisfied with merely creating goals, Puncheon has consistently been the scorer of some of Palace’s most spectacular – it was his superb curler from range against Cardiff City last year that received my vote for goal of the season in 2014. This season Puncheon has scored less frequently from open play, but has remedied that by unexpectedly emerging as a free-kick specialist; scoring in 75% of the direct free kicks he has taken. Puncheon’s set piece technique has been a revelation, always clearing the wall before bending and dipping into the bottom corner of the goal. Puncheon also has a knack of putting away free kicks when it matters including the winner against Manchester City and just last week it was his equaliser against Liverpool that started the magnificent come-back at Anfield.
Puncheon has been involved in a third of all goals Palace have scored this season and so his influence on the team’s success is undeniable. He finished last season as Palace’s second highest scorer, but if he scores against Swansea on Sunday he will go one better and be crowned Palace’s top scorer of the year, a remarkable feat for a midfielder.
Last week's pod cliffhanger is answered as Andy is back (he was having a curry instead of podding, what a let down) as the FYP team get pod 141 under their belt.
They look back at the brilliant win at Liverpool as well as forward to the final day of the season against Swansea.
They also answer your Twitter and Facebook questions.
Click on one of the links below to download!
And check out the podcast's lovely sponsors Vektor Printing
The last away match of the season and the last away day diary. What an event to wind up the season on. And it was very much an event- there was a football match involved but at times it was very hard to tell.
We had not had an overnight stay for any of our away days this season, but the 5:30pm kickoff and the lack of trains home post 8:00pm ( other than via Manchester, Leeds or Outer Mongolia) meant that our end of the away trips would finish with a flourish. Demand for the "StevieG farewell event" aka LFC v CPFC meant that it would be an expensive flourish! The rooms at the Premier Inn/Travel Lodge etc in Liverpool had long gone by the time the kickoff had been moved to 5:30pm.
We also had the added complication of my son being in the midst of his AS Levels and although we were not going to let a little thing like that interfere with attending the StevieG farewell event, we did have make sure there was scope for a bit of revision here and there. For some reason this seemed more important to me than my son.
The noon train up to Liverpool on the Saturday was a sea of red with tiny specks of blue (and red) dotted around. Clearly another case of Liverpudlians breaking their holidays in London to go back home to attend the StevieG farewell event. The journey did have a real end of season feel about it- as if the supporters were as tired as the players were after a long, demanding season. That and fact that neither team really had anything to play for (disappointingly for Liverpool, happily for us) meant there was no match day nervous adrenaline.
Having easily found the hotel, I left my son revising while I went out to find a shirt. Somehow I managed to forget to pack a change of shirt, which bearing in mind we were only away for one night was pretty impressive. I resisted the temptation to pick up a commemorative Gerrard shirt (it was not difficult) from the numerous stalls in the city centre and managed to find a decent shirt for £10 from one of the high street chains.
I managed to figure out where the nearest bus stop was from the hotel to get us to the ground and we had an easy journey with some time to briefly wander into the StevieG farewell event fan zone with the usual giant screen, food, beer and merchandise stalls.
We got into the ground about 30 minutes before kickoff, which was more than enough time to take in the mass hysteria leading up to Steven Gerrard's entrance on the pitch. From what I have read, Steven Gerrard is a decent enough bloke and clearly he has had a brilliant career for Liverpool and England, but the over hyping of this match by the press became pretty wearing by the end. Still, massive credit to him for deliberately high fiving the Palace players in the guard of honour.
I rarely get worked up watching Palace but for most of the first half I was furious. I really did not want to end the season on a six match losing streak but until Puncheon's free kick this match had all the hallmarks of the previous two matches- we play well, do not take our chances and end up losing. Thankfully we ended up getting what we deserved, even if we did need a couple of refereeing decisions going our way for once.
Once the football took over from the farewell hype it was great to see a proper atmosphere develop. We abused Gerard a bit (but not too much), we made lots of noise-again, the Liverpool supporters were generous in clapping Bolasie off the pitch (hands off!) and the rest of our players at the end and we hung around to help give Steven Gerrard the send off he deserved- even if we had spoiled the football part of the day for him.
With no train home to rush back for we could take our time getting back into town and we had a happy walk in the evening sun back to the designated pub for some dinner and a post match celebratory pint. Unfortunately the service was a little slow so we ended up having to rush back to the hotel for Match of the Day. Although we were initially outraged to see that we were only fifth up on MOTD, with hindsight it meant that we did not have to get back bang on 10:30pm and at least some part of the press was resisting the hype. Of course the order might have been different if we had lost and Gerrard had scored the winning goal!
I am typing this now on a packed morning train back to London with a fair number of familiar Palace away faces on the train. We have had a fantastic time at a number of away matches this season and it is sad to think it is at an end now. Still, we could not have asked for a better last away match and we are already talking about the away season ticket for 2015-16!
Amazing win at Anfield in Steven Gerrard's last ever game there for Liverpool. Here's Mark Gardiner's assessment.
Apparently some bloke called Steve – or was it Gerald? – was quitting his day job yesterday. Guess he can’t be important as someone would have let the World know all about it. As it was this retirement was handled with the usual reserve and understated ceremonials that our Merseyside cousins traditionally display on such occasions; you’d hardly have known this game was any different to the last... ooh, 709 or so. Unfortunately, Palace didn’t follow the script and recorded a well-deserved win and first-ever league double over a pretty mediocre Liverpool side. Alan Green was very complimentary about us on today’s journey home and he was spot on. I don’t think we’ll be invited back next year though; didn’t even get one offer of £1500 for my ticket either!
Pardew made a number of changes, advertising in advance that he wanted to look at players who hadn’t had much game time during his reign. Hennessey had his first League start of the season in goal; Kelly came in a centre back against his old club while further forward Lee, Ledley & Chamakh came in. It was a strong bench too, evidence that over the last three years we have built a squad that can hold its own in this League. The formation looked to be 4-2-3-1 with originally Lee on the left, Bolasie in the hole and Puncheon on the right, with Chamakh up front, but it was highly fluid, with Puncheon swapping with Bolasie, then Bolasie swapping with Lee, and towards the end of the first half Chamakh dropping back and Bolasie going through the middle.
Despite this confusing state of affairs it was Liverpool’s formation – three central defenders – that proved difficult to get to grips with, no-one initially certain if our full backs or wide men should be picking up their wing backs. The Scousers initially saw a lot of the ball and there were plenty of nice touches in particular from Coutinho, but Hennessey was rarely bothered except to pick up some overhit through balls. Gerrard was anonymous in a deep holding role, completely overshadowed as player and onfield leader by Henderson, while Sterling up front seemed determined to waste his afternoon by going to ground at every possible opportunity.
Palace’s passing was poor at this stage, plenty of balls being intercepted in midfield, but after about 10-15 minutes started to sort their game out, and it looked highly effective, with plenty of movement, Puncheon dropping into the hole and pulling the strings, while Lee and Bolasie made some good runs. We’d just created some half-chances, with a Bolasie shot blocked and a couple of decent crosses, when typically Palace fell behind, and it was another loose pass, this time from Kelly, that cost us. Played across the back line it was overhit; Dann could possibly have salvaged the situation but slipped at the vital moment, and Lallana took advantage, giving Hennessey no chance. Ledley should have equalised almost immediately but shot over from a good position; this indicated a Palace assault as Bolasie, Lee and Puncheon all had shots from good positions, Jason’s just being saved by Mignolet’s long arms. The deserved leveller did come though just before half time after Bolasie was fouled by Can in the perfect position for Puncheon; his excellent free kick caught out Mignolet, obviously expecting a near post effort as the Manchester clubs had suffered; instead he won the battle of bluffs by sending the ball nestling in the lower far corner of the net.
The start of the second half was end-to-end, the perfect advertisement for the Premier League. Liverpool had switched to a 4-4-1-1 with Gerrard pushed further forward. This allowed Palace plenty of space in which to counter-attack at pace, suiting us down to the ground, and chances came at both ends, although Palace’s again tended to be more clear-cut. Puncheon & Bolasie had already been off-target when Lee was played into the perfect position on the left only to pull his shot badly wide. Liverpool pressure produced plenty of shots but they were off target or blocked by a defence & midfield that worked indefatigably all match. It looked like a refereeing decision would again come to haunt us when Moss inside a couple of seconds missed a handball by Skrtel and, when Lee burst inside the box, a foul by the same man, all in front of baying Palace supporters; that caused some exchanges between Pardew & the home crowd. It was Lee’s last real contribution, as he was withdrawn for Zaha as Palace sized up an attacking free kick. Although the first ball was cleared good work by Bolasie and an unexpected delicate return ball by Dann found Wilf unmarked on the far post to bundle the ball home. Wilf’s grin split his face and Pardew’s expression wasn’t far behind in delight.
Now we settled down to the anticipated Reds’ backlash, with an old bête-noire Lambert joining the fray, except it never really approached the battering we’d experienced here in the old days. The defence stood strong, and while there was plenty of possession around our box (Palace dropping deeper) the best opportunity came when Gerrard placed a shot inside the near post, only for Hennessey to get down well & repeat Mignolet’s feat with his equally long arms. It was Wayne’s only really difficult save as future Liverpool efforts were either blocked (McArthur again finding himself in the way of goal-bound efforts) or off-target, as Gerrard & Henderson missed. The absence of Sturridge & Suarez, along with Sterling’s current poor form, who had ripped Holloway’s team apart last season, was painfully obvious to the silent Scouse hordes. Palace were always dangerous on the counter-attack and Bolasie nearly doubled the lead with an effort that crashed against the bar – Liverpool could not live with his pace or trickery.
Mutch replaced a tiring Chamakh and Murray came on for Bolasie (who received a standing ovation from those knowledgeable Liverpool fans lost amongst the tourists) in an effort to avoid the fatigue that ultimately sank us against United, while Zaha and Henderson continued a personal feud with deep roots in their England Under-21 days. With the loss of pace Palace started to defend even deeper and some yellow cards were picked up towards the end. Yet it was Palace who finished the stronger, Puncheon being denied by Mignolet again, before Wilf was brought down on the edge of the box. Mister Moss, obviously under instructions to award a late penalty at The Kop End, was sadly confused and awarded that most unlikely event, a penalty against Liverpool at Anfield. (His invitation next year will be lost in the post.) Murray, deciding to follow Hazard’s recent example, played a wall pass over Mignolet before extinguishing Scouse hopes and popping the rebound home. Pardew had outwitted Rodgers in a tactical battle (never give us room to counter!) and every member of the Palace team turned in good performances. That plane & banner at kick-off looked like money wasted.
A great wit than I commented that it was good of the Anfield home crowd to pay respect to this Stevie bloke with 90 minutes silence. We didn’t stay for the state funeral – that would be intruding too far on public grief – and escaped into the empty sunlit fields of Stanley Park and a warm welcome from the Goodison car park attendants.
Hennessey – 6 – Might seem a low mark but Wayne was severely underemployed at Anfield (Suckling, Martyn & Kolinko are shaking their heads knowingly) and only had one real save to make, although it seemed to us that Gerrard’s effort was going to sneak inside the near post before that long arm snaked out. Looked save at other times, and while his kicking was overall good there were a couple punted straight into touch. Not enough evidence to show whether he can displace Julian at this stage, but wasn’t overawed or nervous about this audition.
Ward – 7 – A fine comeback after last week’s display, back to the assured Joel we’ve been used to.
Souaré – 7 – Worked very hard and also dealt with attempts to exploit his lack of height with some good jumps. Made a couple of early runs down the left to support the attack but held back after half time.
Kelly – 6 – Loses a mark for the poorly directed pass that set Lallana free. Apart from that really impressed against his old team in a central role. Very nearly beat Wilf to the cross for the second goal – how he would have loved that! Best Liverpool defender (current or past) on the park.
Dann – 8 – I at first thought he could have done a little better with his challenge that Lallana avoided, but he slipped trying to recover Kelly’s misdirected pass. Otherwise the usual imperious display, keeping first Sterling then Lambert fairly quiet. Nice little touch to set Bolasie free to create the second goal.
Ledley – 7 – Helped close down a midfield with far more illustrious reputations; would have been the cherry on the cake if his finish at Anfield had matched that at Selhurst.
McArthur – 7 – Played in a deeper role and was extremely effective, especially with interceptions and blocks around our box, the best a block that looped just wide of the post.
Chung-yong Lee – 6 – At first looked a little lightweight and his passing was awry, but then started making some good runs and showed some good touches. Missed a couple of decent chances and should really have won a penalty before tiring. Showed creative glimpses that could really help improve the team.
Puncheon – 8 – Difficult to tie down Jason’s position as he played all the way across the line, but was far better in a central role where his passing can unlock defences. Scored with yet another great free kick and was unlucky with efforts either side of the interval. Soon eclipsed Coutinho in that clash of talent.
Chamakh – 6 – Worked really hard, especially when dropping back into the hole, although seldom sighting goal himself his play helped create chances for others before he tired and was substituted.
Bolasie – 8 – Alan Green waxed lyrical about Yannick, comparing him extremely favourably to Sterling, and our lad really ripped Liverpool apart. Dangerous when played down the right, more so when switched down the middle, he won the free kick for the first goal, set up the second, hit the bar, had some other efforts blocked or sent wide, and created openings for others. Deserved the applause from both sets of fans when he departed late on.
Zaha – 7 – Started well, scoring with his first touch, and finished well, winning the penalty, but was mixed in-between, often giving possession away either directly with errors or indirectly by conceding silly small fouls.
Mutch – 6 – Came on to strengthen midfield and took one for the team with a yellow card.
Murray – 6 – Bit lucky with his penalty which was poor but remained cool to knock the rebound away.
Steven Gerrard's final day at Anfield, Palace need to play their part...and ruin the day! Here's Jack Pierce.
Who'd have thought that Palace would be providing the opposition when Anfield says goodbye to one of their most loved sons?
Saturday's tea time fixture is likely to be Glen Johnson's last fixture in a Liverpool shirt in their famed ground and heaven knows tears (of joy) will be shed.
Oh, and Steven Gerrard is off to America but nobody really cares about that, do they?
As the end of the season approaches, there aren’t many positives for Liverpool supporters to cling on to from this campaign. Having come so close to their first league title for 24 years last season, Liverpool fans hoped they’d succeed in challenging and winning the title this time around. The reality has been that they’ve not been anywhere near mounting a serious challenge for the title and have fallen away from finishing in the top four.
Be it poor recruitment, the absence of both Luis Suarez and Daniel Sturridge or poor management on the part of Brendan Rodgers, Liverpool haven’t really impressed in any competition this season and just 12 months on from the buzz of their impressive title challenge, The Reds need to take stock and start again if they are to challenge for major honours again any time soon.
Liverpool scored 102 league goals last season and at time of writing, Liverpool have scored 50 this term. That stat alone indicates the disparity in the team’s performances of this and last season. Luis Suarez, as he is now showing for Barcelona, is a world class player and one that it turns out couldn’t be replaced. Enough has been said about the signing of Mario Balotelli so I needn’t go there but the amount of time that Daniel Sturridge has spent on the treatment table this season has really hindered Liverpool’s chances of coping without the influence of Suarez. The lack of goal threat has allowed teams to attack Liverpool far more than they did last season. When opposition teams knew they had to take care of Suarez, Sturridge and Raheem Sterling last season, they could not afford to go gung-ho in case they were picked off by a strike force so high on confidence that games were often over before half time.
The Uruguayan was unplayable at times last season but as soon as he decided he wanted out of Anfield and knew Barcelona were interested, Liverpool should’ve been better prepared to handle his absence. Instead of spreading the money they earned from the Suarez deal as thinly as they did throughout the squad, Rodgers and the famed transfer committee could’ve and should’ve spent a larger chunk on a direct replacement. While it would’ve been highly unlikely any new signing wouldn’t had as an impressive impact on the side as Suarez, they might’ve been produced a little more than Rickie Lambert (who hasn’t really been given a fair crack) and Mario Balotelli (who was written off as soon as he arrived at the club) have. It’s no secret that the club were keen on Alexis Sanchez who chose North London over Merseyside but considering the club had returned to the Champions League and were keen to fight for domestic titles too, Liverpool fans had a right to be disappointed with summer recruitment.
Of last summer’s signings, it could be argued that only Emre Can has shown anywhere near the quality expected. Dejan Lovren and Adam Lallana have disappointed and having seen how well Southampton have performed without them this campaign, the pair might be regretting forcing their respective moves to Anfield. Neither of the ex-Saints have demonstrated the form that led to their £20 million moves and far more will be expected of both next season. While Lallana has struggled with injuries, Lovren has just looked severely overpriced and has found himself on the bench for most of the campaign.
One man who can hold his head high is Philippe Coutinho. His talent has never been in doubt but some of his performances this season have suggested he is ready to become the player so many thought he would be when he emerged at Inter Milan. His quick feet, glorious ball control and hammer of a right foot are fine characteristics and at times, Liverpool’s sole tactic has been to get the ball to the Brazilian in the hope that he can produce a piece of magic. Coutinho was overlooked for last year’s World Cup squad but his form this term has seen him force his way into the Brazil squad heading to Chile for this summer’s Copa America.
It’ll be interesting to see whether the likes of Coutinho and Jordan Henderson, himself in fine form this season and most likely to be next club captain, will be able to become figureheads of a club losing their favourite son who has been the face of the club since his debut in 1998.
Steven Gerrard has had a wonderful career. That night in Istanbul and that goal against West Ham in the FA Cup Final will stand the test of time as fantastic moments in football. However, Gerrard's staged exit doesn't seem to have been the happy experience that many thought it would be. Suspension, injury and poor form has seen him spend a lot of time out of the side this season, particularly since announcing that he was leaving for LA and as a result, the 'Stevie G Farewell Tour 2015' hasn't been half the show anyone thought it would be.
His red card against Manchester United after being on the pitch for just 38 seconds wasn’t in the script while Aston Villa beating Liverpool to this season’s FA Cup final put the mockers on the apparent fairy tale of Gerrard lifting the trophy on his 35th birthday. Don’t Villa have a heart?!
On Saturday, both sides will form a guard of honour as part of the Gerrard tribute that Saturday will inevitably become. Sky Sports have already stocked up on tissues so that Messrs Carragher, Redknapp and Souness don't show their emotions when on camera and it's not improbable that with 15 minutes to go, Liverpool are awarded a debatable free kick on the edge of the area or even a penalty in order for Gerrard to have his final moment in front of The Kop.
In fact, having just had a quick look to see who the man with the whistle on Saturday is, I’ve seen its Jon ‘How the f*** is he a Premier League referee?’ Moss; so forget dodgy decisions being 'improbable', almost certain is probably a more accurate assessment. Having been at the wrong end of a rather soft penalty award at Stamford Bridge a fortnight ago, you’d hope Palace wouldn’t be hard done by so soon after but with FA Cup Final referee, Moss, in charge, heaven knows what sort of decisions we’ll witness on Saturday?
Those Palace fans travelling up on Saturday have a duty to all football fans who have visited Anfield as an away supporter in the past 17 years. We are the last set of away fans who will be able to abuse Steven Gerrard when he comes over to take a corner or boo when his name is called out before kick off.
We must not let football down!