Ah and so the first month of the season is confined to the history books already as the first, thorny weeks of a taxing and demanding Football League season fade away, brushed under the rug in some cases, or just being outrightly ignored in favour of an attitude suited towards focusing on the next game. We are beginning to tell which teams will battle it out for 6 positions at the top and that 21st spot; sadly none can be reserved. However, it remains difficult to see where Crystal Palace will be come the 8th May 2011…
With new manager George Burley slowly adjusting to his new seat in the dugout, we sit in the lower reaches of the league after a convincing win against Portsmouth on Tuesday. But how can we be so ineptly located following a 4-1 hammering? Did we not record a triumphant and hard fought victory against Leicester on the opening day? Well that, readers, appeared to be a false dawn.
Sat atop the league at half time on the 7th August, a confident feeling inside all Palace fans was dented by the awkwardness of a late Leicester fightback that day and the further awkwardness of watching the team scrape past lowly Yeovil Town in the Carling Cup the next Tuesday with a scrappy last minute winner. And if a handful of fans still fancied ourselves to attain a respectable finish this year with a limited troop in the dressing room, then a dismal 1-0 away defeat to Barnsley painfully provided a flat-palmed strike to the face that many of us required, welcoming back ruthless reality.
‘It’s just inconsistency!’ ‘That’s the Championship for ya!’ cried the phone-ins. Obviously not. But it certainly brought me down to Earth and evidently Mr Burley. So he paid a couple of visits to the loan market and brought in what he could in the shape of Pablo Couñago, Edgar Davids, Jonathan Obika, Alex Marrow… Wait! Edgar Davids!?
Yes, the former Dutch legend, goggle wearing psychopath of a midfielder, Edgar Davids, had agreed to join the ranks. It seems that Burley had pulled off the coup of the season, with the 37-year-old on a pay-as-you-play deal. This was perfect on paper; a creative, vibrant attacking force, playing the stylish football Burley demands, with the steel and brute force of a winner. He was introduced to the crowd before the 2-1 loss to Ipswich.
No, it isn’t photoshopped (for once)!
The way football goes sometimes is cruel. The excitement and anticipation carried over from the summer had been crushed and then reappeared. Remember, several fans don’t take what they see for granted following the epic series of events in June which nearly saw the extinction of our beloved club. To them the future seemed bright. Unfortunately, they must have been looking through Edgar’s glasses as a midweek cup exit to a Portsmouth team in disarray booted us out of the cup after a drab 1-1 draw and a loss on penalties. Worse still as our goal was courtesy of Pompey and shoddy defending cost us dear, opening up our backline problems. Granted, defender Claude Davis had been sent off for a harsh but nevertheless clumsy challenge against Ipswich, but we went and made it worse with young hotshot, Wilf Zaha getting his own marching orders in the cup for an off-the-ball incident, an act someone half his age would be ashamed of.
Our defense had problems, but at least the goals were coming. With 2 goals already this season, Alan Lee was in great form! So it made perfect sense to sell him to Huddersfield!? Our main target man had gone and with the bone-idle Couñago upfront, we no longer looked dangerous combined with Ambrose now out injured! If we thought it would get better, we were abruptly denied.
I watched the scores come in on BBC World on my last day in Tunisia, eagerly awaiting my first football coverage in days. It was sickening. Scunthorpe 3 Palace 0. No disrespect to Scunny, but we should not be trounced by them for the second season in a row, however, we were abysmal. Was Davids not playing? He was. At left back, confusingly.
Plotting his next loan signing perhaps?
Anthony Gardner and James Vaughan joined on loan. They should steady the already uneasy ship with plenty of time to gel and re-organise following an international break. An away trip to Reading would naturally excite more fans without Millwall in the division, but still they travelled with some form of hope. Yet again, it was quashed. 2 penalties highlighted, underlined and most certainly wrote clear in capitals for the manager to see that our defensive situation had not improved. 3-0 was the final score but it was just another blow to the face. Hovering above the bottom three on merit this time, it felt as if the trapped Chilean miners could form a better team at the minute. Burley had used 23 players in roughly 6 games, a high for the division, and still not found the right winning formula.
Moving swiftly on and thankfully Palace outplayed a woeful Pompey side on Tuesday night with sizzling passing and a new wing duo of Cadogan and Djilali causing havoc. The 4-1 scoreline reflected awesome finishing from young Vaughan who grabbed a home debut hat-trick and were it not for some minor celebrity’s X-mas DVD worthy defending from Gardner, it would have been more comfortable. Hopefully that will instill some confidence into the team as Burley looks to mastermind a way to stop Burnley tomorrow, then for the rest of the season as fans pray that the bumpy start is not a reflection of things to come, especially with Millwall soon!