As a disappointed Palace fan, I am now in a position to not only talk about last night’s game, but to actually accept and digest the massacre I witnessed on my TV last night.
On that balmy May Bank Holiday Monday, I, along with many thousands of Palace fans witnessed something incredibly special, and something that will live within our hearts forever, promotion to the Premier League, at Wembley Stadium. We have been promoted there before, but this was extra special, coming on the back of years of struggle, turmoil and very nearly liquidation, Palace had risen again, like a Phoenix from the flames.
Little did we all know (or want to consider then) on that joyful day, that this victory would lead us all down such a difficult path, of mass squad transition and then an early run of very difficult fixtures – including away days at Liverpool and Man Utd, plus that tricky opener against Tottenham.
The harsh reality that stares us Palace fans in the face is this though – we thought we could beat Fulham on the weekend, we really did. There was a huge optimism in and around Selhurst Park, and the atmosphere and incredible noise our fans generated, suggested that we could not only live with Fulham, but beat them. The early header from Adrian Mariappa only compounded our belief that victory would be ours last night. The rot would be stopped. But we were all wrong, very wrong.
In my opinion, that was the best I had personally seen Palace open a game this season. I sadly missed the Sunderland game, but the high tempo, aggression and vitality that we played at from the beginning of the game last night was a joy to watch. It took me straight back to last season, which felt nice. Yannick Bolasie, back and match fit, teasing defenders with his speed and skills, reminding us all of the consistent qualities he regularly blessed us with last season on either wing.
But despite having fourteen shots on target to Fulham’s nine, we were unable to capitalise on any more of our offensive play. Now I really admire Ian Holloway’s approach, I really like Ian Holloway, and his positivity. His Blackpool team of a few years ago in the Premiership were a joy to watch, and rightly became everybody’s second favourite team. Football is, of course classed as being in the entertainment industry, and being brutally honest, I think we would all rather watch a 4-4 than a 0-0.
But perhaps there is a time and a place for this style. Maybe football has moved on now, maybe the Premiership has better defenders, or maybe it’s as simple as this – the current Crystal Palace team are not good enough, and we are just out of our depth. Losing at home 4-1 to one of your supposed relegation rivals is a hammer blow – there is no getting away from this unfortunately. Fulham’s first two goals were incredible. There is no escaping this, they were of the highest quality and pretty un-saveable from Julian Speroni’s point of view.
The free kick that led to Fulham’s second goal seemed questionable to me, but Steve Sidwell’s shot was a rocket, and the writing was then on the wall for me. The other two Fulham goals were preventable though, and work must be done on Palace’s defending if we are to have any chance of surviving this season. We have conceded far too many goals, and far too many “soft” goals.
As Ollie has already stated in his gloomy post match interview, there is no time for the Palace players to feel sorry for themselves, and no time to dwell on this pasting. We have Arsenal at Selhurst Park on Saturday, and we won’t be able to match them for quality, but we must learn to dig in, battle hard and “not roll over”, as we seem to be doing now. It’s all about damage limitation this Saturday, and some pride needs to be restored at Palace.
Personally, I am exceptionally proud of how far our club has come – Steve Parish and the CPFC 2010 Consortium have done wonders for Palace, and have put us on a very sound footing financially, they don’t seek constant attention through the media, and by and large are running Crystal Palace in a sensible, and prudent fashion – which is something we haven’t had much of down the years.
I only hope (and expect) though that they give Ian Holloway the time however he left by mutual consent. It’s near the end of October, and Palace have thirty “cup finals” to come yet – plenty of time to put this right, with the right tools, and a dose of calmness. It upset me greatly to read on one of our fans’ websites of the verbal abuse Ian Holloway received from a section of Palace “fans” on the weekend. People pay their money, and are entitled to their own opinion, but verbal abuse is disgusting, and surely Ollie deserves better than that.