As an ardent Palace fan for the last twenty five years, I have learnt many things. We will never win the Premiership, we will never be in the Champions League, we will probably never win the FA or League Cups, therefore marginalising any potential trophies to the odd play-off win, or lower league title. I am very fine and comfortable with this, and all of the other Palace fans I know and love feel exactly the same as me.
Why is this? I hear you ask. Well, I will tell you. We know, and realise that we don’t really belong at the top table of English football – we may harbour dreams of belonging to the elite, particularly in those draining, long, dull seasons of Championship mediocrity, but when (every few years) we actually achieve ‘the golden ticket’ of a place in the big time, the Premiership, we moan, and desire to be average again. Well, this particular fan does anyway.
Winning at Brighton last May during the play off semi-final second leg was incredible, and epitomised everything that I love and feel proud of about Palace. Backs to the wall, beating our biggest rival in a massive game, having been given not a hope in hell (according to all respected pundits), we go and upset the odds and score two fantastic Wilfried Zaha goals, defeating Brighton on their own patch to boot. Watching it with my Palace supporting sister at home was awesome, and we both danced around my living room when the game ended. Palace were going to the new Wembley for the very first time. Tingles down my spine, this was a massively good night on the ‘Palace roller coaster’.
We all know what followed on that sunny day at Wembley, and it meant an incredible amount to me to be able to be there that day. Witnessing the pride in the faces of our lads, the togetherness of the red and blue army, the constant singing, it was all a fantastic experience. This is what being a Palace fan is about!
But, in very typical Palace fashion, it was all about to go wrong. Irresponsible investment, too many player acquisitions, wrong tactics or just a lack of self belief, that glorious day out at Wembley was merely the prelude to the mess my beloved Palace currently find themselves in.
Adverse times are what we thrive on though in SE25, we all enjoy a bit of drama, a nice annual change of management, two administrations, the sale of a star player at JUST the wrong time, this is what feeds the Palace love for me, and thousands others. Which is why I prefer the Championship. Don’t get me wrong – there is a certain buzz around the place that accompanies Premiership football, and “big name” opponents, but having visited Selhurst Park for the recent Arsenal game, there is just something that doesn’t feel right about it.
Perhaps it’s Selhurst Park itself. A wonderfully rustic, traditional football venue, our fans made the old place rock against the Gooners, but this intense passion of course had very little outcome on the actual game itself. Selhurst is not a plastic stadium, it doesn’t smell nice and it’s not pretty. I can only surmise that we are clearly out of our depth, out of our comfort zone, and destined for a speedy return to the Championship, which I really don’t mind to be unambitious, and brutally honest. At least the Championship gives you midweek home games, local derbies, and more importantly, opponents that you have at least a fifty per cent chance of victory against! And fans who sing back at you, creating an un-corporate/glory hunter-style atmosphere.
Perhaps my beloved Eagles will buck their ideas up, appoint a manager, and do the unthinkable and win a few games at this level, to make things more interesting. Or perhaps, and probably not, we won’t. Personally, I don’t mind either way. I am Palace, proud and I will always go along, sing my heart out and support the beloved Red and Blue army.