The Stoke View
Q. The last time we met, Palace won convincingly at Selhurst Park. Perhaps you could share your thoughts on the game?
Oh dear, I’d rather not. That was simply one of the worst performances we’ve ever turned out in the Premier League. A real mix of terrible defending, terrible forward play and terrible tactics. Your early goals shot us to pieces and we never recovered. A lot of people called for ‘Hughes Out’ after that one. He seemed to not know what on earth he was doing – including playing Bruno Martins Indi at left back for no reason.
Q. How has the season gone for you since then?
Okay I suppose. it was hard to get any worse than that 4-1 defeat. The biggest disappointment for me is how easily we left the cup competitions – losing at home to Hull City and Wolverhampton Wanderers. We’ve shown patches of being okay but these have generally been against the league’s poorest sides. We’re yet to really click as a team. There’s no standout results like the Manchester United and Manchester City games were for us last season. Yet, top half in the Premier League isn’t all that much to complain about in the grand scheme of things I suppose.
Q. Is Mark Hughes still the man to take the club forward?
That’s the million dollar question. I’d say he has the fans’ backing, but the discontent is growing. This season feels like a regression on last season, and last season felt like something of a regression on the season before (although we finished in the same position). We’ve gone from a fluid style that incorporated the best of Bojan, Arnautovic and Shaqiri to a more ‘back to basics’ style using the likes of Adam and Crouch – which to be honest we thought we’d seen the last of. He’s spent a lot of money but doesn’t have a lot of faith in his marquee signings at times. Add to that his tactical inconsistencies, and you do worry. That said, I wouldn’t know – short of a the really big names – who I’d replace him with.
Q. How do you feel the club did in the January transfer window and were all needs addressed?
Well, they broke my heart by letting Bojan leave on loan. I still think that’s a mistake, despite him not hitting any heights this season. He’s got more quality than any of our players and would still offer us something – however he wanted to start matches and Hughes couldn’t guarantee that. So that was a big negative, but other than that the window was good. Lee Grant was tied down to a permanent deal, and Saido Berahino is a bit of a gamble but if it works out well it could be a fantastic signing. I’d say we’re really short of cover at the back though – I’d have preferred us to sign a defender.
Q. Do you think the standard of refereeing is getting worse and if so, how can it be improved?
To be honest, not really. I haven’t noticed any difference in the standard, from say 2008, when we were promoted. As much as I often give referees pelters at games, they are doing their best and guys like Mark Clattenberg are of a much higher standard than the rest of Europe, it seems to me.
Q. Who is your choice to win the Premier League this season and three teams to go down?
You can’t really look past Chelsea, unfortunately. I’d like them to have a wobble and make it more of a contest but Antonio Conte has drilled them superbly and they look like winning every game they play. N’Golo Kante has made a huge impact too and would be my choice for Player of the Season.
Going down? Well I think the time has finally come for Sunderland – I know they’ve been in this situation before but I don’t think they’ve got the fight for it this time. Hull will probably go too, although I think this new manager will make it more of a contest than people are expecting. The third team is anybody’s guess – I think Paul Clement will do okay at Swansea and although Leicester are in freefall I don’t think they’ll actually go down. Watford could but they’re good at picking up points here and there. I think you guys will be alright too, because it’s what Big Sam does! Is there anyone left? Middlesbrough! Yeah, I’ll say Boro because of their lack of experience at this level.
Q. What is your view on the decision to appoint Sam Allardyce as the new Palace manager?
I can’t think of a better guy for the situation, really. If you’re struggling towards the bottom of the Premier League you’d want him first and Pulis second. He hasn’t set the world on fire yet, but he doesn’t need to. He’ll have you well organised and if he could get the best out of Christian Benteke you’ll be comfortable. I actually wish he was still England manager, to be honest.
Q. Name one player from each team that the opposition should be concerned about?
I’m worried about Benteke. We’re terrible at defending crosses and set pieces, so if we don’t mark him it could be another disaster. For you guys, Peter Crouch? He’s in form at the moment and still picking up goals so I wouldn’t underestimate him.
You always beat us, and I’m sick of it. You’ll win 1-0 through a last minute own goal.
Q. And finally, the floor is yours to promote any projects that you are currently working on.
Well, The Wizards of Drivel Podcast is a weekly podcast looking at all things Stoke, so we’ll have a podcast looking back at the Palace game out a day or so after the match if you fancy giving us a sub on iTunes or Soundcloud. Keep an eye on our Twitter account as we try (and more than often fail) to be funny on there. Speaking of the podcast actually, we plan to have an interview with your former player Leon Cort out soon – so give that a listen when it comes out.