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Can Holloway keep Crystal Palace in the big time?

The Eagles are now back in the Premier League, but according to the bookies their party will come to an end come May. Palace gained promotion via the play offs after Kevin Phillips’ penalty was converted. The player who won the spot kick was their star Wilfried Zaha who was always looking to get a goal in the final. Zaha didn’t only win the penalty that gave his club the opportunity to play in the best league in the country, he also scored two goals to get them to the final.

It was a goalless draw in the first leg at Selhurst Park, and at the Amex it was all to play for. It was a tight game and the only difference between the two sides was the young winger who was so influential throughout the season. There is definitely some people who will say that Holloway’s side wouldn’t have been promoted if they didn’t have Zaha.

I certainly believe that in some games last season they relied on Zaha to grab the win. He was a bit like Bale was to Spurs. He and Phillips were the stars last season for the club, and there were fears from fans that the veteran wouldn’t sign a new deal. I know how good the England international is but I still think that if he had stayed at Old Trafford in the last half of the season Crystal Palace would have struggled to gain promotion.

However, this season they could have a new young star that could be so influential in their bid to survive. Their new record signing Dwight Gayle has received the number 16 shirt which could be a sign that they signed him to do a similar job to ‘Wilf’, but Gayle plays in a more central role in attack.

People that knew him at his previous club Peterborough described him as a hard working and talented striker. Also some people that worked with him at Dagenham and Redbridge said that they would be surprised if he didn’t get an England call up for the World Cup next year. So obviously there is a lot of pressure on the young shoulders of Gayle but can he make it in the Premier League?

For a start he is older than Zaha but does that necessarily make a difference, look what Lambert has done in his career. Along with Zaha, the Crystal Palace forward is expected to win the lot wherever he moves to in the future.

Gayle has proven that in the lower leagues he knows where the goal is. He has nearly averaged one goal in two games for every club, so he has a good record. There were some doubts over the fact if Holt or Lambert could score in the top division and they both did, and in some style. I don’t expect him to earn an England call up now, but I do think he has what it takes to score plenty of goals in the Premier League.

The reason why I don’t expect him to be on the plane to Brazil is simply because there are too many strikers in front of him in Hodgson’s eyes. Just think Grant Holt was expected to earn a place in the Euro 2012 squad because he scored 15 goals in his first Premier League season. Rickie Lambert did receive his call up after becoming the Englishman who scored the most goals in the top tier, but it was a friendly. I know a game against Scotland is competitive but there there was no points up for grabs in a qualifier or a major tournament.

I think a realistic target for the youngster is to score between 10 and 15 goals in the league and about 20 overall. That is if they are going to stay up and have a decent run in the cup.

Their gaffer Ian Holloway has had experience in the PL with Blackpool, who unfortunately finished nineteenth to go straight back down. His Blackpool side played an entertaining style of football because it was all about attack, it didn’t matter what the result was as long as the team scored and caused the defence problems.

In that season the Tangerines scored a total of 55 goals in the league, which was the same amount as Tottenham scored who finished fifth. This is what people expect this Palace team to be like, only they feel they won’t score as many goals.

However, maybe just Holloway’s experience can give his squad that advantage. Pundits think that the London club will go down because they will be too open at the back just like Blackpool were a couple of seasons ago. They also don’t see that they have got a replacement for Zaha, however they have signed two wingers so far. They are former Albion player Jerome Thomas and Jason Puncheon who is on loan from Southampton.

I know that they won’t score as many goals as the English international or have the same amount of quality. However they are creative wingers who can score a few goals when needed and they both have Premier League experience.

Thomas has had successful experience with WBA and I believe that certainly in our first season back, that he was one of our best players. Thomas likes to play on the left and cut inside to get a cross or a shot away but he can use his left if necessary. He can play on the right, but that is where Puncheon would play.

I don’t know a lot about Puncheon, but he did play for Blackpool under Holloway in the Premier League. I think that at Bloomfield Road he had a successful spell because you could tell he enjoyed the style of play and that is why he wanted to move to Selhurst Park.

Already in their squad, they have got Dobbie who can play out wide or just behind the forward. They also have Garvan who is an exciting player. From my point of view, they can get the goals from Phillips, Chamakh, Wilbraham and Murray. All of the strikers are fit apart from their top scorer last season Glenn Murray who is probably out until Christmas, but he is a proven goal scorer who has the potential to score plenty in the Premier League.

They also have former Arsenal and West Ham forward Chamakh so that brings experience. The Moroccan doesn’t score many goals but he can bring quality. He had an unsuccessful time at the Emirates because he had plenty of strikers in front of him, most notably ‘RVP’ when he was there. Chamakh did start well at the Gunners with a few goals but after a couple of months, he lost his form and his place in the match day squad let alone the starting eleven.

I think this could be a big season for young Welshman Williams. He is an attacking midfielder who can also play out wide if needed, despite this he rarely scores. He started to break into the Welsh national team last season, and I think if he gets more of a chance for his club he could become a key component in the national side. Chris Coleman likes the youngster, and I believe he has more chance if Coleman stays on as Wales boss.

If Williams gets a fair crack in the league, he could be pursued by bigger clubs next summer. In conclusion, I believe that they can stay up if they keep Murray fit and Speroni proves he is Premier League quality. It will be a long hard season for all the newly promoted sides, and I don’t think all of them will stay up. I will make my final league predictions when the transfer window is closed but for now anything can happen in the final few days.

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