As we plummet into a self-induced chasm deep down in the dire reaches of the Championship, the blame game has begun. Ex-manager, George Burley, took the flack from fans for a long while before his sacking released him from the web of abuse written about his tenure, but now with club legend, Dougie Freedman, occupying his seat, it will take a fan with enormous chutzpah and minuscule intelligence to throw his views in Dougie’s direction. Instead, midfield supreme, Neil Danns, has found himself in the line of fire.
Sat alarmingly in 22nd position, devoid of any boardroom unrest this season, an external influence cannot be demonised by the Selhurst inhabitants. Instead, the players themselves have been called into question following a string of unworthy performances, especially away from home, as we broadcasted to the nation live from the Liberty Stadium yesterday.
A lack of effort has been cited as a main reason for this tragically poor form as well as low skill levels particularly in the middle of the park. Newbies such as Owen Garvan, Andrew Dorman and David Wright have been targeted as well as Calvin Andrew, Pablo Counago and now re-deployed in League 1, Jon Obika. Fans have witnessed shoddy performances from all of those mentioned as we find ourselves lucky somewhat not to be perched two spaces lower in the league standings. All except Andrew have exerted minimal endeavour for our cause. But alonside my lamentable list, Neil Danns falls into not one of the categories distinguished.
Fickle fans forget FA Cup attempt
Danns, one of those who remained with the Eagles this season following rumours over his future and a mass exodus, should have no need to be distressed by such comments that have flooded his Twitter page, regarding his effort. Rarely absent last season weighing in with some vital strikes, he, alongside Darren Ambrose, Shaun Derry, Julian Speroni, Alan Lee and Danny Butterfield ensured that Palace would compete against the likes of Cardiff, Hull and Portsmouth this season as we managed to ‘survive’ (literally in Danns’ case) in this league.
However, the 10/11 campaign has seen the side missing all but Speroni from that list and waning in confidence and vigour. As an influential figure, fans look to Danns to spur on the team, almost like a captain and while players such as McCarthy and Speroni have their own reasons for avoiding the blame (McCarthy needs a centre back partner full-time and Speroni is without a doubt world class and too good for us) you have to look deeper to discover why he has suffered a slight dip in form.
Without Derry to sit back and protect the back four, Danns has been reluctant to push forwards and look for goals. Missing Ambrose, who scored 20 goals last season, has heaped even more pressure onto his shoulders as Selhurst looks to him to provide and finish goals, as up until the beginning of 2011, we had only Andrew as a striker. Adding Alex Marrow and Garvan to the team has disturbed his natural game further as the side have been found guilty of sitting too deep on numerous occasions.
Aside from his performances on the pitch, Danns comes under more scrutiny off of it for a couple of reasons;
1) Having a Twitter account: Yes, like the millions on the social networking site (including me) Danns too has a page where he likes to answer questions raised by fans and keep in contact with friends and family. But unlike me, he has more than one person who is actually interested by anything he ‘tweets’. However, he bit back upon realising what fans were saying about him on a fans forum site recently. His outburst, not even on the sort of scale that Darren Bent occupies or anywhere near Ryan Babel proportions, merely stood up for himself by saying that there was some rubbish being thrown around about his performances. All clubs have them, the sort of idiots that make crazy accusations upon every loss. But by having an account, Danns has set himself up for more abuse as fans have criticised him through this medium. By becoming closer to the average fan, he has found not all supporters know what ‘supporting a football team’ entails.
2) He has a fledgling music career: ‘Survive’ was Danns’ first single which was released last year. A keen fan of R&B particularly, Danns has been inspired to try it out himself as a hobby alongside his footballing career. Like any footballer, a pass-time is crucial between training; golf being a popular choice of activity. But as the studio lights blared onto his weary face, it was a cheap punt to argue that this had anything to do with his commitment to Palace; that he cared more about himself and the extra cash from his single than fighting relegation. This is obviously complete nonsense and Danns is one of the few lucky enough to be able to combine his two passions in one life.
3) His poorer performances have been shown live on TV: It first began with that match versus West Brom. Danns received a red card for a petulant headbutt at Graham Dorrans. He would now miss the vital ‘winner-takes-all’ game against Sheffield Wednesday, when the pundits further made reference to his antics. This season, although he scored one against Sheffield United, the commentators wanted to create a talking point and so criticised Danns for diving to win that penalty. This was before a catastrophic decision to award United a penalty and reduce Palace to 10, meaning Danns’ attacking characteristics had to be quelled. Yesterday, after having defended well for 43 minutes, Palace capitulated and resulted in losing 3-0 to Swansea. Even Danns may say that he had a poor game and by his ultra-high standards it certainly wasn’t one for the scrapbook. But it has become fuel for the armchair fan seeking a culprit to blame for our lousy displays. Danns just cannot win.
Instead of blaming our top goalscorer, why can’t fans just get behind him? In times of crisis, Danns is often here and there, defending or attacking, unlike some currently in the side. With a new manager at the helm (someone we actually like) new passion could be breathed into the side. Or Dougie could just raid the transfer market and fill the midfield with some more capable bodies. The arrivals of Jermaine Easter and Steffen Iversen should signal that goals are coming and therefore less pressure will be dumped onto the creaking shoulders of our most influential and passionate player.