Palace In Perspective

In Praise Of Dean Moxey

Saturday saw a really good performance and result against a club we have a great deal of respect for. As the woulda coulda shoulda reviews of the game subside, we’re okay with a point against a top side.  And a performance epitomised by the commitment of Dean Moxey, who suffered a nasty injury in time added on.

And so I write in praise of Dean Moxey. Someone I’m not convinced is the best left back in the club. But while Johnny Parr recovers from injury, and Matt Parsons, for all his undoubted potential, is probably too inexperienced for the Premier league, I’ve no problem with his selection.

And here’s the thing.  While he is not as good as Ashley Cole or Leighton Baines, he is a really, really good footballer. He is better at football than pretty much all the people in the crowd, all the people who criticise his performance, and the social media commentators who have the time and space and 140 characters to dissect his talent.

Allow me a digression for a moment.

When I was 9 I wasn’t a bad player, albeit in the context of playing on a tarmacked playground with a tennis ball. I was a goal hanger, and there was no offside rule to expose the fundamental limitation in my game.

I could argue that I was one of the best in school. Maybe not the best player, but the best forward. Then this guy a couple of years younger came along.  You don’t publically admit these things when you are 9, but me and the rest of my year knew it was true.  This younger kid was a bit special.

We move on a few years. We go to different schools for different reasons.  I stopped playing football but kept going to Selhurst Park. The young kid went to a different school and I forgot all about him. Until his name appeared in the Croydon Advertiser as part of Palace’s youth team. And then he got a professional contract, and only a few in each youth team get a full time contract.

He is in the squad photo in 1988/89 alongside some great great players (Wright, Bright, Salako, Thomas, Pardew, Southgate and Claridge).  Geoff Thomas tweeted the squad photo a few weeks back (via the BBS) and Adam Locke is there, near one end of the middle row, stood next to Alan Smith.

Sadly never secured a first team place at Palace.  Instead he became a first team player at Southend and Luton for several seasons.  Not bad for a kid from a small village school.

And I see Dean Moxey in a similar mode.  I bet as he grew up he was the best player for miles around, blessed with pace, a physical presence and the ability to hit the ball so sweetly with that left foot.

And if you are Dean Moxey, what is the extent of your ambition?  Were you sought out by agents when you were 16 looking to get you a fantastic contract with Arsenal, Spurs or Chelsea?  No.  You sign for your humble local side Exeter, but were good enough to make your debut at a young age, establish yourself in the first team, score the odd goal, and stand out so that you are spotted and make the jump to a higher level when Derby signed you.

He joined Palace and made an immediate impact… His positive attitude, commitment and sweet left foot made him an early crowd favourite.  I was reminded of Dean Gordon in terms of his style of play.  Perhaps not quite as good as Gordon, but remember that Gordon played at a pretty high level for many seasons between Palace and Middlesborough.

So, why the scapegoating now? Do we expect an Ashley Cole or Leighton Baines at left back now that we are in the Premiership? The faults I see as a supporter – poor distribution, panicking in possession, naivety in defensive marking – are ones that could be levelled across most of the team, including players with much more Championship and Premiership experience.  The team as a whole hasn’t quite been good enough (yet!), but not for the want of trying .

I think we got good value for what we paid Derby £500,000.  A committed and talented footballer.  Not an international but equally not someone who should become a scapegoat for a whole team and club that is struggling.

I can’t speak for Adam Locke. But he made me realise at a pretty young age that my ceiling as a footballer lay well below the level of any ambition I may have had.  And if Adam Locke didn’t quite make it as a Championship or Premiership player, that tells me how good you have to be.

And I bet Adam Locke would have loved to be Dean Moxey right now.

Article written by Neil Carter


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