In-form striker? Check
Zaha ‘adding goals to his game’? Check
Well clear of the relegation zone? Check
It’s not been a bad month for Crystal Palace at all says George Martin as he assesses the Eagles' form in March.
There were just three games to chew over in March, with the Eagles picking up six of the nine points available. Two wins on the bounce since the defeat away at Southampton has seen Alan Pardew’s side move an incredible 11 points clear of the drop zone.
It may well be that we look back on March as the month that saw us safe. While it’s never a good idea to get too carried away around these parts, it’s certainly fair to say now that it would take a monumental collapse for the club to find themselves back in the Championship. Likewise a winning run of equally monumental proportions would have to be put together by the Premier League’s bottom clubs.
We’re finally looking up, not down.
One man who may have very quick downwards glance however is a certain Mr Alan Pardew – is that Newcastle United languishing just beneath us in 12th? Ah, so it is.
While the month didn’t get off to the brightest of starts, there was certainly no need for panic among the fans. Were it not for Sadio Mane’s 83rd minute winner we would have returned from the south coast with a hard-fought point. Some may have been disappointed that we left with nothing having recently beaten the Saints in their own back yard in the FA Cup as recently as January. But with Southampton flying so high this season there was no disgrace in a narrow defeat.
Any concern this may have caused however was swiftly extinguished with the return to home form we’d all been looking forward to. QPR were no match for an exuberant and dangerous Crystal Palace side which devastated from the wide positions.
The form of Yannick Bolasie has been celebrated throughout the season, and the 25 year-old was superb again here, but it was this game that really marked the return and revival of Wilfried Zaha.
I was hugely sceptical of a deal to bring Zaha back to Selhurst Park being sanctioned back in the summer, but I challenged the highly gifted winger to prove me wrong should he return, and prove me wrong he has. It’s justified to say that it has taken some time for Zaha to adapt to the Premier League (in realistic terms, he’s barely been given a sniff since the briefest of top-flight appearances for Cardiff), but adjust he has – it’s like his season had been building to this game.
I’ve not seen Zaha take on and twist defenders in knots since he was spearheading our charge up the Championship. This was a performance worthy of a Premier League (and Crystal Palace) player – pace, skill, trickery and, above all, hard work.
For an example of the latter, take a look at the way he busted a gut to hit the back post in anticipation of Bolasie’s excellent cross. And if that’s not enough, keep watching for an example of a player putting the club above all else in his fearless collision with the post that he knew would be a consequence of putting the ball in the back of the net.
The ghosts of the ‘questions about his attitude’ have been well and truly banished.
Backing up the win over QPR was a trip to a Stoke side on course for their best ever Premier League finish. A much clichéd ‘difficult place to go’, Palace staged yet another of the comebacks that have defined our season. I’ve not seen anyone rifle a penalty in with that kind of force since Kevin Phillips, so credit to Glenn Murray for another on his growing list of Premier League goals. And if that wasn’t enough, less than five minutes later that man Zaha was at it again with a finish higher on quality than it was on pain this time around.
This was a win that has all but secured our place among the country’s elite for an incredible third successive season. Who could have imagined how far we would come in such a short space of time!?
And having said that, who could have imagined just how far our players would come in that time? This is something I’ve discussed with a number of people lately, and something that is just wonderful to see:
Speroni, Ward, Delaney, Jedinak, Zaha, Bolasie, Murray
The players that played their heart out to get us where we are, now enjoying fantastic individual form on the biggest stage – they deserve all the plaudits possible for making the step up so impressively, and it’s something I’d love to see the likes of Sky and the BBC pick up on more. It’s amazing what you can achieve with continued support and the right attitude.
March has given more reason for optimism as the season reaches its climax, no one is looking forward to playing Crystal Palace right now. Bring on Man City at home.
Palace’s clash with Stoke last week brought back memories of academy graduate Tom Soares, but love him or loathe him, the midfielder has earned himself a hero’s welcome should we meet again says Ryan Wallis.
Soares, now plying his trade in League 1 with Bury, via Sheffield and Scotland, made more than 150 appearances for the club he came through the ranks with, but despite being one of our own, he was like marmite, splitting opinions down the middle. Some saw his versatility in midfield as useful, but for other he was simply a scapegoat for poor performances.
Having made his debut in Iain Dowie’s 2003/2004 promotion season as a fresh faced 17-year-old, the midfielder largely impressed in his first full season as a professional as Palace scrapped for their lives in the Premier League. Impressively, Soares joined the 100 club at the age of just 20, reaching the appearance landmark in a 1-1 draw against Southampton in 2006. At this point he had genuine promise having etched himself into the history books at Selhurst Park alongside other Palace and England U21 rising stars Ben Watson and Gary Borrowdale.
However, after a heart-wrenching exit from the play-offs in 2008, Soares only donned the red and blue five more times, scoring in his final game for the club in a 4-2 defeat to Reading before deciding it was time to move on. He was snapped up by Premier League new-boys Stoke City for a large initial fee of £1.25m on the final day of the transfer window. Many Palace fans were disappointed to see the youngster leave, but others rubbed their hands together after the hefty cash injection. Unfortunately, the cash was plundered away despite being used to help balance the books, with the arrival of 30-year-old Alan Lee.
The Palace graduate was now out of his comfort zone, moving to another city, far from home, but he settled in well at Stoke, so much so as to earn meaningful praise from the Potters’ faithful. Soares endeared himself to Potters’ supporters by winning two penalties in his second appearance for the club in a 2-1 triumph over Tottenham. Alas, that was as good as it got for the midfielder. Another five more league appearances under Tony Pulis ensued, before he was shipped out on loan back to south London, this time to Charlton Athletic.
Much to the delight of Palace fans, Charlton and Soares endured a torrid season in the Championship, leaving them to play in the third tier for the first time in nearly 30 years.
Clearly, Soares’ role in the demise of Charlton Athletic did him no favours at the Britannia Stadium and he was shipped out on loan again the following season without featuring in the league for Pulis. This time he moved to Sheffield Wednesday. It was here when Soares really started to gain appreciation from the Crystal Palace faithful as not only did he feature in Palace’s south London rivals’ relegation but he played an integral role in the relegation of Sheffield Wednesday too, even coming on as a first-half substitute in the famous 2-2 draw at Hillsborough which saw the Eagles survive at Wednesday’s expense. At just 23 years of age, this was already Soares’ third relegation.
As if Soares’ confidence was low enough following successive relegations during his two loan spells, he was given just eleven minutes of football during the following campaign, coming on as a substitute for Stoke in a 2-0 victory over Cardiff in an FA Cup replay.
His fourth and final year as an official Stoke City player yet again saw him fail to record a league appearance for Pulis since his first season at the club. Now 25, the interest in Soares had seemingly diminished in England and he was offered a loan move to SPL side Hibernian in January 2012 for the remainder of the season. He accepted the offer with an open mind and admitted he was desperate to get his career back on track. He was part of the squad to help guide the club to a Scottish League Cup final for the first time in over ten years and started in the 5-1 defeat against Hearts. Despite this, Hibs nearly succumbed to Soares’ relegation curse and survived by the skin of their teeth finishing second bottom.
In the summer of 2012, Tom Soares’ Stoke City nightmare came to an end when he was relieved of his duties from the Potter’s after making just seven league appearances in his four years at the club since his move from Palace.
At the beginning of the 2012/2013, desperate to play football again, Soares decided to join League Two side Bury on a non-contract basis. Things started to look bright again for the former England U21 man as his dedication and talent was rewarded with a professional contract at the end of that season. Tom continues to don the number 19 shirt just as he did at Selhurst and has recently surpassed 100 appearances for The Shakers.
Despite splitting opinions in a Palace shirt, his efforts as ‘agent Soares’ have been remarkable for the failings at rival clubs and, like any academy graduate, is owed a fantastic reception should we ever meet again.
Well..could he? The Palace boss is certainly going about things the right way...
There are some tables which managers do not like being top of. The price on Leicester boss Nigel Pearson to be the next Premier League manager to lose his job is just 4/1 at the time of writing. To be fair to Pearson, with his side mired at the foot of the table, and with the pressure all too evident, that price looks quite generous.
Happily for Palace, the price on Alan Pardew offered by the odds-makers at 32Red is a far more reassuring 80/1. That puts him outside the likes of Liverpool’s Brendan Rogers and Arsenal’s Arsene Wenger (66/1 with Sky Bet and 888 Sport), and alongside the likes of Southampton’s Ronald Koeman, Mauricio Pochettino, Tim Sherwood, Mark Hughes and Louis van Gaal at 80/1. Jose Mourinho is a special 100/1.
To be fair, it’s not just 32Red who see things this way. Those prices are pretty much reflected elsewhere. For example, they’re actually a point more generous than Paddy Power when it comes to Pearson, but otherwise there seems to be a consensus that Pardew is about as safe as any manager can realistically hope to be. In fact, it was heartening to hear this week Steve Parish insisting that as and when (and if) the sale of the club goes through, then there is no prospect for any deal that does not include the current management. He was even talking about him being around for the next four or five years. Now that sounds like a plan!
Whilst it is always slightly ghoulish to sit and ponder the unravelling of someone else’s career, we’ve been in the position where the Palace boss is short odds for the sack that we should enjoy the luxury of our current state of grace. ‘Enjoy it while you can’ should be every Palace fan’s motto.
But such has been the revolution that Pards has wrought at Selhurst Park since he arrived at the start of the year, it takes a moment to remind yourself that his Newcastle side were ten points ahead of the Eagles at that point. It speaks volumes for what Pards has done that Palace are now looking down on the Toon. Their loss has most definitely been our gain.
So just what is it that Pardew has done since he arrived? It’s easy to say he’s put a spring in everyone’s step, given the club a lift and a sense of belief, but those are either fairly empty metaphors or just a description of the results of what he has actually been doing. If you really could go out and put springs in people’s steps like you put a new set of plugs in an old motor, we’d all be football managers.
The thing that we can all see is that he has been bolder in terms of the way the team set up. I confess, I had my doubts about Jason Puncheon operating through the middle. I wasn’t convinced that he wouldn’t be a defensive weak link. But even in the absence of Mile Jedinak behind him in midfield he has been an out-an-out success in that position.
As a result, the side has a really nice balanced look about it. Yannick Bolasie is always going to be a threat down the left, freeing up a berth on the right side has given Wilfried Zaha room to run in, and Puncheon himself looks to be relishing in a role that makes the most of his ability to go both ways.
The other thing that Pards has done is find a source of goals. Glenn Murray has spent a long time waiting for his chance, but you have to say he has grabbed it with both hands. Four goals from nine outings is the sort of ratio that gets any striker a good name. And beyond his goal tally he is proving to be exactly the sort of front line nuisance that defenders hate playing against and that inevitably frees up space for others to play in.
As a result the shapeless mush that we saw rolling out under Neil Warnock in the last throes of his regime has been replaced by a side that looks like it really knows what it’s doing. It has defensive solidity, craft and muscle through the middle, and pace and a real goal threat up front.
If that all sounds very straightforward, then that’s because the manager makes it look that way. They always say that football is a simple game. Pards is making it look like a piece of cake right now. The bookies will have him at short odds for manager of the season.
He hasn't set South London alight but will Yaya Sanogo come good at Palace and make Arsene Wenger regret his decision?
It’s another bleak-looking spring for British teams as the nation’s finest are all officially out of the Champions League for another year. With Arsenal’s sensational exit from the league at the hands of Monaco, British teams are now forced to focus on the remaining Premier League and FA Cup trophies.
But while Arsene Wenger may be closer to the FA Cup dream thanks to signing Paulista in January, he could regret his recent loan of Yaya Sanogo to Crystal Palace. The 22-year-old joined Arsenal from Auxerre in 2013, but in January 2015, Wenger made the decision to sign Sanogo to Crystal Palace for the rest of the season.
Sanogo was the first signing for Crystal Palace under the management of Alan Pardew, who had moved over from Newcastle United just 11 days before the signing took place. As part of his intentions to make waves within Crystal Palace, Pardew told Sanogo that he would play far more often than he was currently playing at Arsenal.
So did Sanogo make the same waves that Pardew promised to? Indeed, just four days into his loan to Crystal Palace, he assisted the team in the 3-2 Premier League away win at Burnley. It did not take him much time to start scoring either, having scored for the first time for the Eagles on 24th January during their victory over Southampton in the FA Cup fourth round.
The question is, then, does Wenger regret signing Sanogo away so hastily? If the latest statistics are anything to go by, the answer could be yes. Whilst all British teams may be out of the Champions League, there was an interesting statistic bobbing around the tournament in early March: it emerged that, whilst playing for Arsenal, Sanogo managed to tally up more goals than Chelsea’s Diego Costa during the Champions League.
While Costa missed out on a goal in seven Champions League games, Sanogo managed to claim one in two appearances. It’s a worrying statistic for Jose Mourinho, let alone Arsene Wenger, and with Sanogo already showing just how comfortable he is at Crystal Palace, he could be in line for even more impressive statistics this season.
With just the FA Cup and the Premier League trophies to focus on now, could it be too little, too late for Arsene Wenger? Could he indeed regret signing away one of his finest young talents to Palace? Watch this space.
With Jonny Williams securing a loan move to Ipswich for the remainder of the season, Ipswich Town Blogger Harry Wainwright describes the emotional return of an old favourite for the finale of a dramatic Championship campaign.
It is a truth universally acknowledged that every football supporter in this country worth their salt has a friend, acquaintance of colleague who is a Palace fan. What is equally true this season is that for Palace fans this season seems to be ending on a uniquely tranquil note, with no gut-wrenching struggles to wrestle with either way.
My Palace-supporting mate Andy is struggling without needing spreadsheets, slide rules and assorted abacus with mid-table safety assured in the absurdly early month of March. I even tried the well-known “Ah, but you’re Palace, I’m sure you’ll find a way” anxiety balm on Tuesday, but this was met with a bemused smile as even he knows that late spring 2015 is missing a certain something.
What you may (or may not) be missing is a collective loss of sanity in what has become a most ridiculous Championship finale. You all remember the joyous irrationality of this division and how it manifests itself uniquely every year. This year’s spécialité de la maison is an eight-team promotion bunch sprint which for Ipswich Town supporters has the added novelty of the late arrival of that lot from up the road.
This is all by way of a backdrop, but it’s probably best to start this story of Jonny’s return at Vicarage Road last Saturday, and on the 30th minute to be precise. Tyrone Mings was twisting Joel Ekstrand hither-and-thither to the point that the ungainly Swedish defender went off on a stretcher with a season-ending knee injury.
We are a polite lot and applauded Ekstrand off the field, but many fans were thinking of karma for his cowardly and brutal assault in Jonny Williams at Portman Road back in November. It heralded the end of Jonny’s loan spell and many fans were offended by the high-fives they saw Watford players giving each other after the foul had been committed. Maybe Watford should be playing in Serie B.
The news of his return today has been greeted emotionally and joyously. The pretty sixth-form girl has returned and there is a sense of unfinished business being fulfilled, at least until after the play-off semi-final when his loan spell will conclude.
“The lack of ball-carrying midfielders has been the biggest identifiable weakness in our squad.” Mick has been quietly team-building, adding forgotten gems like Freddie Sears, Richard Chaplow and Luke Varney to the squad, but with home-grown Teddy Bishop in his first season we need back-up and there are genuine tactical reasons why Jonny will be welcomed back with open arms.
The real reason for welcoming him goes deeper for me, and it goes back to being smitten at Huish Park in February last year when he came on from the bench and instantly lifted the team. The love affair was cemented when he was kicked from pillar to post by Derby last March but scored a memorable pile-driver and put in a match-winning performance full of character.
After our Cup defeat to Southampton (yes, I’m sorry you had to watch that) we lost our way in February and early March this year, losing at Rotherham, Leeds, Reading and worst of all at Brighton. We competed manfully in these games, but it was obvious how we lacked the Williams’ wit and imagination to turn industry into points.
I have a good friend and Manchester United fan who sees Mick McCarthy in a colder light than us Ipswich lot. He memorably once described Mick’s teams as being like slightly warm grey tea, whereas other managers in contrast will serve up hot chocolate with cream and marshmallows on top.
Jonny offers more to us than marshmallows and cream. He has an ability to galvanise fans and players like nobody I have seen in a blue shirt since the days of the Dark Lord (Keane). Ideas suddenly spring forth instead of the honest ball into the channels and the team’s collective imagination and confidence are simultaneously sparked into life.
A quick glance over on the Ipswich forums will give you all the evidence of this imagination and confidence being sparked into life. Jonny never quite had the time to forge a bond on the pitch with David McGoldrick in the autumn, but with Sears, Varney, Chris Wood and Murphy, we have assembled an arsenal of fire-power which just might catapult us over the wall.
London has been unremittingly kind to us this season. We have done the double over Watford, Fulham, Millwall and Charlton, and only a Daryl Murphy miss stopped us doing the same over Brentford. Palace have echoed this generosity in letting us have Jonny back. He has form over Derby and Watford won’t have Ekstrand should our paths cross once again.
North London may yet have one more gift for us in May, but we will deal with that if or when we come to it. For many of us, our joy is complete tonight knowing that we have a Welsh wizard who just might help make that catapult work.
WATCH: Jonny Williams' wondergoal for Ipswich back in October
Palace trio Jonny Williams, Zeki Fryers and Kwesi Appiah have all secured temporary moves away from Selhurst Park as clubs sought to strenghten their squads before the Football League loan deadline passed on Thursday.
Popular midfielder Williams has returned to Ipswich for a third spell after two very successful loan moves earlier this season, having recently returned from a lengthy period on the sidelines with injury.
The international break came too soon for Williams to return to the Wales squad, but good performances for Ipswich will likely see him back in the international fold.
Several clubs including Fulham, Wolves and Watford were all keen on luring the Welsh wizard away from Selhurst Park but he opted for a move back to Ipswich.
Meanwhile, defender Zeki Fryers, who recently returned from a loan spell with Rotherham, has also made the trip to East Anglia as cover at left-back for the suspended Tyrone Mings.
The final move of the day saw striker Kwesi Appiah, who signed a new two year contract with Palace last week, snapped up by Championship side Reading after an impressive showing in the African Cup of Nations.
Watch: Jonny Williams' wondergoal for Ipswich in his second loan spell:
No Palace this week due to an international break (booo) but there's still an FYP podcast to fill the void (yay!)
The FYP team look back at the win at Stoke on Palace On Tour Day as well as looking forward to the home clash with Manchester City on Easter Monday.
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
On April 24th Palace fans have yet another chance to confirm the Eagles' dominance over the Seagulls. Here's why...
Each year the supporters of Brighton and Hove Albion face off against fans of their arch rivals Crystal Palace in the Robert Eaton Memorial Fund Challenge Match.
Usually close games and always played in the best spirit, the matches have become a popular fixture - regularly drawing crowds upwards of 300-400.
The match is now a permanent fixture at Lewes FC's Dripping Pan ground, and this year’s game is on Friday, April 24, 7:45pm kick off.
Although the fixture is aimed at supporters, there have been some high profile former professionals including in the line-ups over the years, such as Albion legend Peter Ward, Robert Eaton's favourite player Ricky Marlow, one-time Palace and Brighton midfielder Simon Rodger, Peter Taylor and ex-Albion captain Paul Rogers.
Each year a member of Robert's family attends to present the trophies and tens of thousands of pounds have been raised through player sponsorship and gate receipts.
On the morning of September 11 2001, Brighton & Hove Albion fan Robert Eaton was going about his usual day's work on the 105th floor of the World Trade Centre in New York.
But, as the aeroplanes struck, it became clear Robert would never watch his beloved Seagulls again. He wouldn't even make it home. He was one of over 3,000 innocent lives which were lost that tragic day.
Despite living in New York, Robert remained an avid Seagulls fan – using online fans' forum North Stand Chat to keep up to date with all things Albion. Posting under the username Ricky Marlowe's Hairpiece, he was a popular figure among the site’s regulars. Chances are he would have logged on later that day for the latest transfer news, club gossip and irreverent ramblings.
However, as fans here in England saw the drama unfolding through live news broadcasts, thoughts turned away from the Albion to New York...and Robert.
The news filtered back that Robert had been caught in the attacks. His death hit home with Seagulls fans everywhere and brought a sense of realism to the distant drama being told and retold on breaking news bulletins.
As news of his death spread, friends and fellow supporters were determined the popular Albion fan would not be forgotten.
The Robert Eaton Memorial Fund (REMF) was formed. The principle idea was to hold a charity match and use the money to help fund a junior football club in Robert’s adopted home across the Pond. Later that year the first REMF game took place - a challenge match between Brighton Supporters and Crystal Palace Supporters in front of more than 1,000 fans – with the team of Brighton Supporters losing on penalties. Yes, THAT Crystal Palace. Rivalries were put aside in Robert’s name and thousands of pounds was raised.
That cash helped provide football equipment to Los Peladitos – a youth football team in Queens, New York helping promote societal benefits of playing football, while helping underprivileged Latino children gain soccer scholarships to US universities. And, shortly after the match, a party led by Robert’s parents headed to the Big Apple to see how the money was being spent.
Doug Eaton, Robert’s father, was moved by what he saw being achieved in memory of his son. “They didn't speak English, but while we couldn't communicate we were very pleased to see them” he says. “There's no doubt they were very hard up. You tend to think of Americans as having plenty of money but these were all young families, there simply trying to establish themselves in a new country.”
Since that initial match, the REMF football challenge has become a popular annual fixture on the calendar of many Albion fans. Doug and his wife Laura are regulars at the match, presenting the trophies and taking comfort from the fact Robert’s name is being kept alive in such a fitting way.
It is also fair to say, the success of REMF as a charity has provided some small comfort to the Eatons,“Yes it has helped us cope,” Doug reveals, “because out of something pretty horrible other people have benefited and a little bit of good has come out of it. It doesn’t usually happen like that. From that point of view the whole family is pleased to give support as much as we can.
“To think that out of such a tragedy so much goodness can come is amazing really.”
The REMF has gone on to raise more than £100,000 since that first, hastily arranged, match. Nobody really knew how the charity would develop, how long it would run for nor how much interest there would be in it. Even the most optimistic couldn’t have foreseen how successful it would become.
The annual match is now just one part of the REMF, with an annual golf day, a quiz night, a regular five-a-side tournament and more marathon runners and fundraisers than you could shake a stick at. Even friendly bets among friends end up benefiting the charity.
And, as well as the budding Beckhams of Los Peladitos, the REMF has poured thousands of pounds into youth football closer to home.
The Seagulls Specials club, which works with disabled youngsters, has been given £7,000 to help with their amazing work as well and another eight clubs have benefited from the charity’s fundraising - including junior teams in Croydon in recognition of the vital part played by our new found friends in South London.
Elsewhere, Coaching For Hope – a charity which uses football to support youngsters orphaned by the Aids epidemic in areas like Cambodia – has been given £3,000 while Albion in the Community was recently given a £30,000 mini bus.
The charity continues to go from strength to strength – scooping The Argus newspaper’s Charity of the Year award along the way.
It is now more than ten years since Robert's untimely death. According to the fund’s former chairman Gareth Glover, the first decade has just been the beginning. He said, “The REMF has become a real success story and shows just what can be achieved by football fans when rivalries are put to one side. It would not be possible without the continued support of Crystal Palace fans and the many people who work behind the scenes.
“More than 500 children from New York, Africa, South Africa, Croydon and Sussex have been given the opportunity to play football in memory of Robert. Everyone involved is determined to continue to support good and worthy causes in the local area and beyond. What better way to honour Robert's memory?”
And what would Robert have thought of it all? “It's great,” says Doug Eaton. “It's something I think Rob would have applauded without a doubt.”
So far the REMF has raised tens of thousands for young footballers, crossed footballing rivalries and seen the charity establish itself and a real part of Brighton & Hove Albion.
Long may it continue.
The Robert Eaton Memorial Fund Game, Brighton & Hove Albion v Crystal Palace, Friday, April 24, The Dripping Pan, Lewes Football Club, Kick Off 7:45pm