We are staying up, say we are staying up!
Palace are indeed mathematically safe from relegation, and the FYP podcast team revel in the Eagles' new awesomeness - in particular the wins at Everton and West Ham.
They also look forward to the visit of Man City and answer your tweets and Facebook questions.
So join Jim Daly, Andy Street, Kevin Day and James Endeacott for 50 minutes of Palace chat!
And check out the podcast's lovely sponsors Vektor Printing!
Mathematically safe! Palace have secured their Premier League status for next season thanks to a 1-0 win at West Ham! Here's Mark Gardiner's thoughts.
Palace stunned West Ham with the perfect display of counter-attacking football, teaching the so-called “Football Academy” a real lesson. Five straight top-flight League wins and the dizzy heights of 43 points mean nothing short of a Vincent Tan inspired points deducting conspiracy will deny us the joys of Premier League football for a second successive season. This result was the final vindication of Tony Pulis’s management reign at Selhurst Park, leaving the doubters – and that includes me – with a very healthy & satisfying portion of humble pie. The achievement of his teams – on & off field – is one of the greatest managerial feats most Palace fans can remember, probably ranking alongside Steve Coppell keeping the (first) Administration squad of the young, old, lame and bloody awful in the second flight.
Said manager made one enforced change with KG replacing the unfit Chamakh, with Ledley filling – at least nominally – the position behind the lone striker. Sam Allardyce sent out a similar formation, with two attacking wingers and the efficient Nolan as support to the giant Carroll. This resulted in two teams playing the ball down both flanks, while anything down the middle tended to be long. The difference was that whereas everything for the Hammers was aimed for Carroll to win in the air, Palace had the option of playing the ball over the top for Jerome to run after. Neither tactic was particularly effective although Nolan was able to supply more close support to his striker than Ledley was for Jerome. Again both sides were happier using wingers and there was an early chance for Carroll whose far post header struck the outside of the stanchion. Generally though Carroll was well policed by either Delaney or Dann, who picked him up depending upon which side of the box he was.
Palace then created a little pressure, winning a succession of corners thanks mostly to the efforts of Bolasie on the left, and from one of those corners KG rose for what looked an unchallenged header that looked bound to end up in the opposite side of the goal but somehow stayed out; Dann also had a decent chance from a similar position a little later. West Ham’s wingers were also having some success with Downing creating problems for Ward, but the pace of Palace’s breaks were the real difference between the teams, so different from the laboured build-ups of no more than two months ago. Jedinak’s storming game in the middle also helped delay any real Hammers’ pressure, and it was not until nearly half an hour had gone before they exerted real pressure. Speroni had already tipped over one effort from distance, then Carroll started to win balls in the box, getting the better of Delaney on three occasions: merely seconds after blocking a shot at the foot of one post, Julian clawed a Carroll header out of the net at the other. The centre forward was to put another harder chance wide a little later. Although the home team’s spurt died off before half-time the game was in the balance.
Carroll was also the leading figure at the start of the second half with three decent half-chances all spurned. Slowly the match started to slip towards the visitors with Bolasie tearing McCartney apart on the left while Puncheon was gaining the upper hand on the other flank over the “liability” (cf. My Hammers’ mate) Armero. Combined with Jerome’s hard running and Jedinak’s steel the West Ham defence appeared vulnerable, and the only surprise was that it wasn’t Bolasie who unlocked it. Puncheon had a loud but not convincing appeal for a penalty turned down a few minutes before he fed Jerome who broke into the box, this time drawing a trip from Armero; referee Atkinson rightly awarded the penalty, and Jedinak’s finish from the spot was clinical and unstoppable.
Although the Irons tried to muscle their way back in the game, from that point on it really became a question of whether Palace could add to their advantage as counter attacks shredded the home team’s cover as Bolasie’s brilliance and the skill of Puncheon was too much for them. Unfortunately Palace decided to play like Arsenal and were brilliant up to the edge of the box when they decided to score the perfect goal. Jerome was left screaming in frustration as chances were carved out but wasted, with the two wingers, Ward & Ledley all delaying shots or trying one little reverse pas too many. It seems strange (& frankly hypocritical) to moan about a Pulis team playing too much football! West Ham’s response was typical Big Sam, ditching any pretence of following the Football Academy textbook and going straight for Route One, withdrawing both wingers and sticking another tall lad up front in Carlton Cole; actually Downing & Jarvis, who had swapped wings in the second half, had gradually faded from the game in the second half, and Diamé looked far more dangerous on the left than he had in midfield. Palace responded by withdrawing our own two wingers with Parr & Ledley shoring up the flanks and Gabbidon helping repel the aerial assault. In the end skill at pace outwitted the thud & blunder that stoked the home fans’ ire, and the after-match celebrations from the squad confirmed the great teamwork & spirit that had achieved safety against all the odds.
Speroni – 7 – On a couple of occasions I thought Julian could have helped out his defenders against Carroll by coming for crosses, but then that’s never really been his style, and he did grab all those that threatened his six-yard box. Apart from this minor nit-picking, he again did nothing wrong and made two important saves inside a couple of seconds, the later one keeping out Carroll’s header with a fine reflex reaction. Second half saw him collect some easier efforts.
Ward – 7 – Had some difficulty against Downing in the first half, and some of his clearances lacked power &/or direction, causing more problems, but he also made at least three important interceptions in the first half. He also found it easier against Jarvis in the second half. Was an important factor is supporting Bolasie’s attacks.
Mariappa – 7 – First half generally handled Jarvis well and made some important clearances, not least with his head. Second half was more stretched as first Downing then Diamé caused him problems, but he was also prominent in supporting Puncheon in attacks down the right.
Delaney – 7 – At first looked to have the upper hand over Carroll but the big man escaped him three times and nearly made Palace pay. More difficult to tell from the far end who should have been picking Carroll up in the second half when he had his half chances. On all other occasions was a rock with plenty of headers and one sublime back-heeled clearance.
Dann – 7 – Looked to have handled Carroll better overall than Damien although the second half was more difficult to tell when he was taking the big man. Another impressive performance but perhaps should have done better with an early header.
Dikgacoi – 6 – Solid enough game but sometimes his passing was woefully poor, and still trying to figure out how his header didn’t go in. Also missed a good chance with a wayward shot in the first half.
Jedinak – 8 – Alright, his passing wasn’t perfect but he played enough good ones to make a real difference. Where he really shone was in his tackling and especially his aerial prowess with some important headers at the back. His penalty wasn’t too shabby either!
Ledley – 6 – Thought he had a quiet game overall, with his lack of pace handicapping his ability to support Jerome. Did the dirty work well with solid tackles in the centre.
Puncheon – 8 – Looks a completely different player to that from the turn of the year, playing with confidence – perhaps too much confidence given his penchant for over-elaboration after we went a goal ahead. Still it was that skill that helped remove the left hinge of the Irons’ defence and he tormented Armero.
Bolasie – 8 – Did pull out his usual box of tricks but also decided the best way to attack McCartney was to knock the ball past him and turn on the afterburners. In the second half this pace didn’t unhinge the defence as much as knock the whole door in. How he did not end up with a goal or at least an assist beats me, and perhaps his colleagues wasted some of his effort with an unwillingness to shoot when given the chance. Also continued to work hard at tracking back, something Pulis (& Millen) can take credit for.
Jerome – 7 – Lots of hard running as usual and some excellent link play with both wingers, although again didn’t get many chances on goal and could have been better served on occasion by colleagues who didn’t pass when he’d found space. Did draw an unwise challenge from Armero to win the penalty.
Murray – 6 – Replaced Jerome and committed a couple of fouls but never really had a sight of goal as Palace dropped a little deeper & withdrew the speedy wingers.
Gabbidon – 6 – Late sub to help repel the East End Air Force and marked it with one firm header.
Parr – N/A – Injury time sub to help Mariappa shore up the right.
Saturday 19th April, 2014. Kick-off 3.00pm. Upton Park, East London.
Palace have already reached that magical 40 point mark so can go into this London derby fairly relaxed, having jumped above the Hammers with the midweek win at Everton. Pulis and co will be hoping to complete the double over West Ham having won 1-0 at Selhurst last year.
Marouane Chamakh and Yannick Bolasie will have late fitness tests after picking up knocks during the midweek win at Everton.
Tom Ince could come in for Yala, having had to make do with the bench in recent weeks, while Joel Ward also picked up a knock but should be ok.
"We've got 24 hours to see how they are and we'll take it from there," Pulis said.
"We'll take a view on it tomorrow. With one or two them it is just a case of tiredness."
Meanwhile, KG could miss out again having been rested at Goodison Park with a hamstring injury.
For West Ham, captain Kevin Nolan missed the trip to Arsenal in midweek with a hamstring problem and is a doubt for Saturday, as are James Collins (calf) and Joey O'Brien (shoulder).
By Jack Pierce
Sam Allardyce has not had the easiest of seasons.
Between December and February, the West Ham manager was under huge pressure following a very poor run of form and in grave threat of losing his job. He then guided his team to a sequence of results from which the club moved away from the immediate threat of relegation and as a result, you might think his job security would have been strengthened. You would be wrong.
Despite all but securing another season in the Premier League, there is a lot of clamour for a new manager to be installed before next season kicks off. It is thought that Allardyce needs to convince the two Davids (Gold and Sullivan) and Karen (her off The Apprentice) that he is the right man to take West Ham further prior to their move from Upton Park to the Olympic Stadium.
Tuesday night’s defeat against Arsenal was indicative of their season. They looked a threat when they were going forward but seemed to be unsure of exactly what do when in what might be dangerous positions. In Stewart Downing, they possess the most hesitant winger currently playing in the Premier League. His reluctance to cross the ball when having beaten a full back is baffling when you consider the threat that the waiting Andy Carroll poses to defences. On the opposite flank is Matthew Jarvis, a man who could not have done less in his two seasons at West Ham to justify the £10m+ fee that he cost the club when signed from Wolves. On paper, two decent wingers but have not performed to the levels expected of them so far this season.
Andy Carroll’s return from a long lay off has added some vigour to West Ham going forward but having scored only twice since coming back into the side; any chance of the ex-Liverpool man going to Brazil this summer looks incredibly slim.
Defensively speaking, The Hammers have been fairly resolute – typical of any Allardyce outfit – and that has been without the influence of Winston Reid, one of the most underrated centre halves in the top flight for much of the campaign. The New Zealander was exceptional last season and when fit this season, has demonstrated why the likes of Arsenal and Tottenham are keen to add him to their ranks. Reid’s reading of the game is invaluable at the highest level and it is no coincidence that West Ham’s league form went belly up when Reid first got injured.
Behind West Ham’s defence is Adrian. Signed last summer, the Spaniard had to bide his time until Jussi Jääskeläinen made one too many mistakes for Allardyce not to act upon his goalkeeper’s erratic form. Brilliant one minute, dropping clangers the next, Jääskeläinen has now probably played his last game for West Ham (injuries permitting) such has been the consistency of Adrian’s performances since becoming number one.
During November, if you had told West Ham fans that with four games of the season to go, they would be below Palace, you might have them worried. Like everyone else, how would they be to know that Tony Pulis would instil such resilience into a side so out of form and looking so short of ideas?
For most neutrals, West Ham finishing in and around 10th to 13th place looks like a par score but for supporters of the club, the brand of football being played under Allardyce is not doing justice to a club so proud of their football heritage. Whether or not harking back to the days of Bobby Moore, Martin Peters and Geoff Hurst is relevant nearly 50 years after England’s World Cup win is debatable but if fans are booing players off the pitch after WINNING, as happened against Hull last month, then there is a serious problem between supporters and the club’s management.
Given the trigger happy nature of Premier League chairmen, Allardyce did well to see out the storm that was brewing during the middle part of the season although that might have had something to do with the huge pay off that he would have been due should he have been relieved of his duties. Allardyce is alleged to be one of the highest paid football managers in world football.
However, the board will have taken note of fans’ unhappiness with recent performances and West Ham’s final four games of the season may well be Allardyce’s audition for next season starting with the visit of a bang in form Palace side this Saturday.
Provided by FootballFanCast.com
West Ham have only lost one of their 12 previous home league games against Crystal Palace (W6 D5).
Crystal Palace have won just five of their 24 away London derbies in the Barclays Premier League (D5 L14).
Against Everton in midweek Palace scored 3+ goals in successive away games for the first time in their top-flight history.
Only once in top-flight history have Palace won five games in a row before (December 1992).
If the season had started when Tony Pulis took charge of Palace, the Eagles would be in eighth place.
Only Chelsea (14) have conceded fewer goals than Palace (20) in the period Pulis has been in charge.
Palace have conceded fewer goals (20) in Pulis’ 22 games in charge than they did in the previous 12 this season (21).
West Ham have lost five of their last seven Premier League games.
Palace have scored only 16 goals from open play this season yet have 40 points.
The last time both of these sides were in the top-flight and both avoided relegation was the 1971-72 season.
A point would do for both teams, so expect a game that might not be the fiercest of contests. We're expecting a 0-0 draw.
The BBC this morning revealed that it had obtained a copy of the letter sent to the Premier League by Cardiff City which claims that Palace, in particular, Iain Moody, obtained their team line-up through unfair means prior to Palace's 3-0 victory at the Cardiff City Stadium. Resident FYP lawyer Andy Street gives his expert view on the situation.
The claims include the suggestion that Palace's sporting director attempted to obtain the team sheet by phoning the Cardiff City performance analyst - who has subsequently been sacked by the club - although he was unsuccessful in his endeavours.
In an even more bizarre twist, Cardiff have claimed that after Moody had discovered the line-up, he mistakenly sent a text message to former Palace boss Dougie Freedman with the information; before Freedman alerted his friend Ole Gunnar Solskjaer about the leak. The BBC explained that the document sent to the Premier League notes that Cardiff midfielder Aron Gunnarsson is named as the source of the leak; something which the player and his agent both have denied.
We asked our resident lawyer, Andy Street to give us his view on the situation, and he believes there is nothing for Palace fans to worry about.
"As all Palace fans will now be aware, Cardiff’s complaint to the Premier League is made on the basis of its allegation that Iain Moody obtained information relating to the Bluebirds’ starting line-up for the match at the Cardiff City Stadium. Cardiff’s complaint alleges breaches of three of the Premier League’s regulations, as contained in its 2013-2014 Handbook.
The first of those, Rule B.15, imposes an obligation upon Premier League clubs to behave towards one another and towards the League in “good faith”. This provision of the Premier League’s regulations is drafted widely in an attempt to impose a uniform standard of behaviour upon Clubs, not only in their interactions between one another, but also with the League. The second breach alleged by Cardiff arises from Rule B.16. This Rule precludes Premier League clubs from unfairly “criticising, belittling or discrediting one another or the [Premier] League”. This regulation is also drafted in a fairly broad and vague manner with no suggestion as to the level of criticism, disparagement or belittlement required to breach the regulation.
The third alleged breach, of Rule B.17, relates to the disclosure or use of confidential information relating to another club or the Premier League. The BBC report suggests that the most serious allegation is the purported breach of Rule B.17. However, it would be surprising were the Premier League’s board to find that text messages relating to a club’s likely line-up for an upcoming match amounted to confidential information for the purposes of this particular regulation. In fact, B17 specifically mentions business and financial information of clubs and the League, rather than anything relating to sporting matters. While the regulation is incredibly non-specific and could catch a variety of information, it seems a stretch to infer that it applies to the type of information involved in this dispute. This allegation also raises the question of whether, on Cardiff’s analysis that the team line-up amounted to confidential information for the purposes of B.17, the Bluebirds are themselves in breach by disclosing the line-up in the first place.
Rules B.15-B.17 are drafted fairly widely, it would seem, in order to catch various behaviours which relate to the relationship between the League and its member clubs. It seems unlikely that the League, when drawing up its Rules, would have envisaged these particular regulations applying to the type of situation in which Palace now find themselves. My reading of the Rules is that they were drafted to prevent clubs acting in a manner which is contrary to the interests of the League as a whole and to prevent the disclosure of confidential matters relating to the League which may be sensitive, such as EPPP and the previously proposed 39th game. It would seem strange if they were intended to apply to undefined actions which attempt to gain a competitive advantage over other clubs that are not expressly forbidden in the Rules, particularly given that certain types of grave behaviour which are to the detriment of other clubs (such as tapping up) are expressly prohibited.
In terms of the League’s investigatory powers, matters are first investigated by the Premier League Board. The Board can compel Palace or Iain Moody or Cardiff to offer up any documents or to provide further information as necessary, should they believe there may be a breach of the Rules. The Board has jurisdiction to decide whether there is a case to answer and to impose sanctions upon clubs where they are already prescribed in the Rules. So if, for example, a fine for a specific breach is provided for in the Premier League Handbook, the Board is able to impose such a sanction. The Board can also impose a fine of up to £25,000 or refer the matter onto a Premier League Disciplinary Commission. A Commission has a broad set of discretionary sanctions it may impose including points deductions, the replaying of matches or unlimited fines in the most extreme of circumstances.
That said, even in the unlikely event that the Premier League believes that Palace and Iain Moody’s alleged behaviour amounts to a breach of its Rules, the imposition of a points deduction would be completely unprecedented. The Premier League has only ever imposed a points deduction upon a Premier League club once, when Portsmouth appointed an administrator in 2009. The League’s rules impose a fixed points deduction as a penalty for clubs who enter administration, so this was a fairly straightforward decision for the League. In all other instances where the League has had discretion as to the sanctions imposed on clubs for breaches of its Rules, it has avoided deducting points. So even the highly controversial Tevez saga, which was a serious breach across many matches and which had a material impact on the final Premier League table, did not result in a points deduction. It seems unlikely that the Premier League would radically depart from that approach and impose draconian sanctions upon Palace, even if it was satisfied that a breach had occurred.
Moreover, given the extent of Palace’s rights to appeal of any decision of a Premier League Disciplinary Commission, it seems unlikely the League would risk taking such an approach. Under the Premier League’s Rules, clubs can appeal firstly to a Premier League Appeal Board if not satisfied with a decision, and can then enter an independent arbitration against the League itself. The West Ham situation, and the recent decision relating to Sunderland's Ki, proved that the League is reticent to intervene by affecting the outcome of individual matches or the final league table. I would expect that trend to be continued in this instance."
A mature display from Corie Andrews up front on his own helped Palace u18s cruise to a 5-0 victory over Cardiff City on a breezy Spring afternoon at Copers Cope Road, as the striker notched two goals and two assists.
New boss Ken Gillard has instilled belief and discipline on the ball for the youngsters as u18 manager since replacing Des Bulpin who left to join Millwall in January. The Irishman has overseen an impressive transformation in results and performance in his short time at the helm of the u18s, having moved up from u16 manager.
Indeed it showed as Palace looked comfortable on the ball throughout the match, but Cardiff did not threaten despite a few early scares. An impeccably observed minute’s silence on the 25th anniversary of the Hillsborough disaster brought a quiet mood to the game, but as the match progressed both sides became more vociferous in their desire for the ball and complaints at decisions which were not going their way.
Palace lined up much in the same way as is practiced in the first team, a variation of a 4-5-1 formation with Corie Andrews as the lone striker, Elijah Gabsi in an advanced midfield position, with Jacob Berkeley-Agyepong and Elliot List on the left and right side of midfield respectively.
The young Eagles began the game well, keeping possession with some neat interplay and looking for the clever through ball, but often finding that the pass had too much weight on it. They had the first attack of the game as List chased the ball from deep and attempted to loft it over the last man, only to find his touch to be too heavy and Cardiff were able to clear. Soon after, Andrews ran down the Cardiff defender and appeared to have taken the ball before being barged over in the box but the referee gave nothing, and the lack of appeal from the Palace players suggested that the tackle was a fair one.
Cardiff began to pressure the Palace defence as they sought to run at the Eagles, but some resolute defending, wasteful passing and shooting ensured that the scores remained goalless. Andrews, Palace’s main focal point throughout, was again involved as Berkeley-Agyepong attempted to send him away but the 16-year-old was muscled off the ball. Nonetheless, he showed his quality on the halfway line as he brought down a long ball with an accomplished touch, before dragging it back through his legs to draw a foul from the Cardiff defender.
Either side of Andrews’ involvement the Bluebirds thought they had taken the lead as a through ball split open the Palace defence and the striker lofted the ball over Tom King and into the net, but his joy was short lived as he wheeled away to see the linesman’s flag raised for offside.
Palace learned from their let off and Berkeley-Agyepong burst down the left to cross for List whose miskick fell kindly to Andrews but his effort was straight at the ‘keeper from a narrow angle, before Kiye Martin blasted over. However, it was not long before the Eagles took the lead as an Elijah Gabsi through ball sent Andrews in on goal to run on and fire past the ‘keeper.
Soon after and Palace doubled their lead from the penalty spot after Andrews robbed Cardiff’s defender following a poor backpass, rounded the ‘keeper only to be fouled by the defender who received his marching orders. Mandela Egbo stepped up and confidently dispatched the penalty on the stroke of half-time.
Manager Ken Gillard told his side that the next goal was crucial and despite the Cardiff striker scuffing his shot from close range, and Tom King being let off after recovering from a poor decision to come out and claim the ball, Palace heeded their boss’ words and made it 3-0. The forwards linked well once again and Berkeley-Ageypong chested the ball down, beat his man, and as he was felled slid the ball under the ‘keeper.
It should have been four when Kyle Spence turned the left-back in exquisite fashion and centred for Will Hoare, but the midfielder aimed his shot straight at the ‘keeper. If he had aimed it anywhere else then Palace would have added another goal to their tally. Nonetheless, the Eagles did make it four soon after as good work again from Andrews helped Sonny Black on his way to notch his first of the game.
Just as in the first half, Palace scored again just before the whistle called time on the half, and in this case, the match. It was that man again, Corie Andrews who worked a good position and blasted a rasping drive into the top of the net to cap a magnificent performance for a first year scholar playing up front by himself despite not holding much weight.
It was an easy victory for Palace, and the resurgence under Ken Gillard continued as they bounced back from a 4-2 defeat at Crewe last weekend.
Elliot List nearly joined in the goalscoring fun as his far post shot was somehow cleared off the line by a Cardiff defender.
Speaking after the Eagles' u18 side managed by Ken Gillard had just recorded an impressive 5-0 victory at home to Cardiff City, Crystal Palace's academy manager Gary Issott confirmed that professional contracts had been given to Elijah Gabsi, Sonny Black, Reise Allassani, Hiram Boateng and Jake Gray, but unfortunately Douglas Wright and Kiran Kindha-John have been released by the club.
It came as something of a surprise that the club had decided to release centre-back Kiran Kindha-John after some impressive performances towards the back end of the season, but evidently the tall defender was deemed to be surplus to requirements. The imposing defender had joined Palace after his release from Chelsea at u16 level. The decision to release former Scotland youth international Douglas Wright does not come as such a surprise after the right-back suffered a torrid time with two horrendous injuries which ruled him out for two seasons of his fledgling career. It is perhaps unlikely that he will find a new club given the nature of the injuries, although after Lee Hills suffered problems with his knees he found himself with a career in the lower leagues, so there is some hope for Wright.
What of the players who have been rewarded with professional contracts? There is little surprise there as only Elijah Gabsi and Sonny Black were given their deals recently, with the other players having already proven their talent at a younger age.
Gabsi, an excellent receiver and distributor of the ball, plays a central-midfield role and has been at Palace from a young age. The 18-year-old has been a regular in the u18 side for the past two seasons and recently stepped up to make his u21 debut for the club.
Sonny Black is another central midfielder who suffered a cruciate injury in pre-season last year and so did not make as many appearances as he would have liked for the u18s, but he has been a regular in the side this season.
Hiram Boateng is yet another centre midfielder, but he plays a defensive role, with his primary ability being to break up the play and shield the back four. Nonetheless, his passing is excellent and his vision is also an impressive part of his game. Having only turned 18 in January the well built Wandsworth born youngster still has plenty of time to impress, despite already having made his debut for the club in the FA Cup third round in consecutive years.
Another player to have earned a professional contract before his scholarship was up is Reise Allassani. A week younger than Boateng, Allassani is a tricky winger who was given the best contract ever given to a youth player at the club, when Dougie Freedman was in charge. Indeed, Allassani played alongside the former Palace striker in a pre-season match at Dulwich, where the two linked up brilliantly. Having been on the periphery of the first team, he has had to settle for an occasional spot in the u21 side following illness and injury; but scored an excellent goal in the final match of the season against Brentford.
It was announced on Christmas Eve 2012 that both Jake Gray and Sullay KaiKai had been given two-and-a-half year professional contracts with the club. KaiKai has subsequently been rewarded for an outstanding season in the u21 side where he took his goal tally into double figures with a ratio of more than one a game at one point, with a long term contract at the club. A dead ball specialist, a number of those goals were superb free-kicks to win matches. A loan spell at League One side Crawley will have aided his development.
What more can I say about Jake Gray? The winger has arguably developed the most out of any player this season, being a regular in the u21 side despite his season being disrupted after a stress fracture to his toe early in the campaign. Although KaiKai has been superb, he was in excellent form the season before too, whereas Gray was settling into the club having been snapped up on a free transfer following Wycombe's decision to close their academy.
Technically superb, Gray has a stunning eye for a pass and the ability to exercise it, whilst he also finds himself amongst the goals on a regular basis with a brilliant finishing technique. With a year left on his current deal, and Palace rating the 18-year-old highly, it will hopefully not be long before he is rewarded with a long term deal; and another season of excelling at u21 level may see him go further than simply make the first team squad as he did at Wigan in the FA Cup this season and actually make a first team appearance.
One of the best players Palace have had come through the side, Gray has regularly been praised by Issott, who thinks he could go on to be the best signing at youth level the club has made.
Crystal Palace's academy manager Gary Issott revealed the list of players who have been released by the club and those who have gone on to earn professional contracts from the u18 side; with decisions on those in the u21 side to be made in the next week. However, he also called for more to be done to support the youngsters who are released by professional academies, in the long term.
Issott explained that two second year scholars had come to the end of their deals and would not be offered professional contracts with the club, and he described how difficult it is to tell a youngster that they will be let go, whilst claiming that not enough support is provided for youngsters when they are released from academies.
"It's tough [to tell a player they no longer have a career at Crystal Palace] but I think the hardest one is telling the u16s where you're almost stopping them having the opportunity and the dream really. There's an exit route where we can give them a route into foreign clubs, into education and also into the world of employment.
The harsh reality is that probably football doesn't do enough for those who get released. In most jobs if you leave, you can go and get another one, in football there's no guarantees you can do that. In football you lose your self-esteem, you lose that status of being a pro and you lose a lot of friends and it's a bit of rejection. It generally takes about two years to get it out of your system (being released) and some lads don't come back from the disappointment. I think football needs to do more and maybe there should be a charity set up to help these players.
The LFE [League Football Education] and the PFA [Professional Footballers' Association] have done some good work but there's still not enough in football as a whole to help these young players. You help them as much as you can with those exit routes but then come the next batch of players that need all your attention and then the next batch... You could employ regional people who could look after a cluster of clubs. It goes on for two years and they probably need ongoing support for a long time after they leave."
Ultimately, there is little support in place for young players whose dreams have been shattered. The introduction of the Elite Player Performance Plan (EPPP) has ensured that clubs school their youngsters and educate them to a level that ensures they are capable of maintaining a career outside of football should they fail to make the grade. Palace currently work alongside the Oasis Academy to bring through young scholars and help minimise the disruption to their schooling. Issott is right in calling for more support for youngsters who have grown up with one main goal in life only to have it taken away from them; but it is questionable as to whether any changes will actually be implemented.
Wednesday April 16th, 2014. Kick-off 7.45pm. Goodison Park, Merseyside.
This is the re-arranged trip to Goodison Park after February's game was called off just half an hour before kick-off due to a little bit of wind. Ok, it was actually a LOT of wind but Palace fans who travelled up for the game were mightily peeved! And rightly so! Anyway, the re-arranged game now sees both teams in different positions; Everton are fighting for a Champions League place no less why Palace's top flight status is al but assured *touches wood*.
Palace have a near -fully fit squad, although Kagisho Dikgacoi was withdrawn early on at the weekend. The midfielder's hamstring has been deemed "not too serious" after a scan on Tuesday.
As a result Ledley could drop back into a deeper role and Marouane Chamakh - back to full fitness - could resume his attacking midfield position.
Roberto Martinez has been full of praise for Palace: ""Those home games start on Wednesday against Crystal Palace. You look at Palace and in my eyes they are the best defensive set-up in this league, especially when Tony Pulis arrived at the club.
"They don't concede many goals, if any, and they are on their best run of the year with three consecutive wins. So we're well aware at Everton that we need to create a special atmosphere under the floodlights and help the players face a very difficult fixture."
Phil Jagielka (hamstring) is nearing a return for the hosts but may not be quite ready in time for Wednesday's match, and trio Steven Pienaar, Darron Gibson and Arouna Kone (all knee), defender Bryan Oviedo (broken leg) and loanee Lacina Troare (hamstring) will miss out.
By Jack Pierce
Merseyside’s renaissance this season does not stop and start with the red side because Everton are riding the crest of their own blue wave too.
In the midst of a seven game winning streak and on the cusp of breaking into the top four for the first in nearly a decade; Roberto Martinez’ first season in charge at Goodson Park has gone pretty well to put it mildly.
The Spanish manager inherited a very good squad of players, added quality in vital areas and has offered the likes of Ross Barkley and John Stones the chance to cement themselves as first team regulars for seasons to come. One criticism that Martinez has faced in recent weeks has been over his use of the loan market. Gareth Barry, Gerard Deulofeu and Romelu Lukaku are all very important to this Everton side but none of them are Everton players once this season has finished and some people, Arsene Wenger included, have started to voice their ‘concerns’.
The problem with Wenger deciding to air his opinion at this stage of the season is that it looks a direct response to the fact that Everton have gone ahead of Arsenal in the race for the last Champions League spot. Had Everton been in 7th or 8th, there is not a chance that Wenger would have taken it upon himself to get involved in this particular debate.
The whole issue of whether Everton should be allowed to loan players of the quality of Barry, Deulofeu and Lukaku seems redundant to me.
Why should the like of Barry and Lukaku sit on the bench for their parent club because said parent club has so much money that they can stack and rack masses of players? If Manchester City and Chelsea do not have a problem with not having Barry and Lukaku to call upon, then why should Arsene Wenger?
As for the argument as to how Everton will cope without the aforementioned loan players, then that is an issue that Martinez will address when he needs to. If the influence of Barry, Deulofeu and Lukaku earns Everton a shot at the Champions League, then the likelihood is Everton will not be so reliant on the loan market from in the future. It is a clever use of the transfer market, offers a club in Everton’s financial position to challenge further up the table and if allowed, why should it be ignored?
Debating Everton’s use of the loan market aside, plenty of Everton players signed to the club permanently have also had a great influence on the club’s fortunes. The experience of Leighton Baines, Sylvain Distin, Tim Howard, Phil Jagielka and Leon Osman has offered the foundations for the younger members of the Everton squad to show their class. The likes of Seamus Coleman and James McCarthy have been so consistent, it is expected that both will earn new, much improved contracts this summer. Coleman’s six goals from right back are not to sniffed, particularly when you consider Everton only paid Sligo Rovers £60,000 his services. He also forms part of a very good defensive unit that Martinez inherited when he replaced David Moyes, which has again proved vital in Everton’s great season.
Another obvious highlight of Everton’s season has been the form of Ross Barkley. Sent out on loan last season by Moyes, Roberto Martinez has asked Barkley to do just one thing this season – go and play his natural game. The Everton youth product has been compared to many midfielders of the past (Ballack and Gascoigne most notably) but such comparisons always seem unfair to me. It creates an air of pressure on the teenager to perform week in, week out and it is very rare that a player of such inexperience can reach such levels so consistently. Instances such as his solo goal against Newcastle last month are wonderful for Everton and England fans to see and get excited about but the realities are that Barkey will not be able to do that every time he steps out a pitch. However, because of his willingness to run at defenders centrally and his ability to go either side such is his confidence using both feet, football fans will get excited every time Barkley plays and in Martinez, the Everton midfielder currently has a manager who will not mind if he does make mistakes.
For all of the hype surrounding Barkley, he is not the only young English Evertonian currently in form. In John Stones, Everton have an absolute gem. Still only 19, the young defender’s displays during the last six week have been something special to watch to the extent that once Phil Jagielka returns to fitness, there are no guarantees he will slot straight back into the first team. Stones’ ability to start attacks by moving into midfield with the ball and natural defensive positional sense are qualities that clubs fork out big money for. Everton paid Barnsley just £3 million for Stones which already looks a steal.
Given the improvements he has made under Roberto Martinez, who knows how far Stones could go? Do not be surprised if he wears the Everton and England armband in years to come and if Roy Hodgson is picking players in form to go to Brazil this summer then he should definitely have a look at Stones before the season is out.
Everton’s run in is not particularly favourable but given their current form, they will not care who they play. Seven league wins in a row was never achieved under David Moyes and the sense of optimism in and around the club at the moment is something for Evertonians to cherish. If they do manage to secure fourth and a place in next season’s Champons League qualifiers then they will have fully deserved it.
The squad’s adapting to a new manager’s ways following on from David Moyes’ 11 year tenure has been nothing short of sensational and in breaking the club’s best ever Premier League points total with five games of the season still to play, this set of players will be desperate to make the most of it and secure Champions League football at Goodison next season.
This is a massive test for Palace and had this fixture been played when it was scheduled for in February, the chances of taking anything away from Goodison Park were far greater than us doing so on Wednesday given The Toffee’s current form.
That said, Everton are not the only team who will take to the pitch on Wednesday wanting to increase a winning streak, are they?
Provided by FootballFanCast.com
Everton have won three and lost none of the last five meetings with Crystal Palace in all competitions.
The Eagles have failed to find the net in five of their last seven away games in the Barclays Premier League.
A close game is expected here, with Palace in confident mood. Expect the Eagles to score but also to spend large periods of the game under pressure. We're going to go for 1-1.