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Neil Danns – An Unfair Scapegoat

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.

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  1. Peter k

    16 January, 2011 at 22:26

    Neil Danns and Julian Speroni have both committed themselves to the club when they could have taken the easy way out and no one would have blamed them
    We have a mixed squad that are very talented but just not firing as a unified unit but I am sure, as many of you must be, that we are very close to giving someone a pasting
    It’s a team game and no one player is able to deliver all
    ND is a totally committed individual and very skilful and has a footballing brain which I am sure will continue to play a major role in our survival.
    DF has made 1 signing since taking the managers role and in the very short time that JE was on the pitch he looked mobile and capable. He was the only threat we had
    With DA back and a couple of experienced heads or three plus a run of injury free weeks I am sure it will all come good
    The young heads will be looking to people like ND for leadership and will not want to hear sections of the crowd getting on anyones back
    So let’s stick with them and I am sure we will begin to enjoy the talent we have at the Palace

  2. eeeeeeeeeaaagles!!

    17 January, 2011 at 02:49

    Danns was told to sit in a weak midfield behind Garvan and Dorman who are powder puff players who don’t contribute much. He did what he was told to do but his game is to push forward and link up with the attack. Too many times this role has been given to Dorman who is never in a million years a Championship player and Danns has had to sit deeper or play out wide.

    Danns can tackle but it’s not his game to sit in midfield and you could see he was frustrated but still did his job. I think the Doug got it totally wrong against Swansea and he need to fix it fast and how to get the best from his players and use them effectively.

    Danns’ music is great – he does some really good indie, guitar based stuff, not just R&B

  3. rob shepherd

    17 January, 2011 at 14:00

    I agree with most of your article – not having heard Neil Danns’ music I can’t comment on that.

    I was disappointed by a few goals he missed – but with a weak midfield around him, particularly the lack of (a fully fit) Ambrose to share the pressure, it is pretty stupid to point the finger at someone who consistantly gets into positions that give him and other people the opportunity to score goals.

    Yes there are weak links in the team (DF bringing on the hardworking but consistently ineffective Calvin into 2 of the 3 games he has managed is a particular worry) but Neil Danns will be absolutely crucial to melding a the team into an effective unit.

    We know Palace is punching well below its weight … unsettling Mr Danns can only make things worse – with the current form and fitness of the other players – the contribution of Danns, Zaha and Speroni is crucial.

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