The Ghost Of Palace Past, Present And Future
The past, the present and the future at Crystal Palace has never been as prominent all at once as they are now.
As we enter the twilight of another vastly successful season by Palace terms, the collective sense of appreciation from the Palace contingent at just how astronomically far the club has come in the five odd years since it was staring into the abyss is evident.
This is probably why, at the moment, I find it increasingly difficult to gauge whether I find myself gripped with trepidation or excitement as Palace lean on the cusp of what many are deeming a potential new era. My sense from social media is that many others are struggling with the same conflicted inner views.
Football is the modern king of the lauded ‘new era‘. David Moyes at Manchester United heralded a new era, before the masses felt they were not happy with his brand of era, and sought out a new continentally infused era in their supposed Dutch saviour with his arrogant aura.
The game also subjects us to such hyperbole around change (Mourinho Era part II, Rodgers Era, The Pulis Revolution) that when change is afoot, the media and supporters alike are quick to look towards new dawns, new starts, new beginnings, with a tainted view, for the large part, of the period of tripe that preceded it.
The glee from Palace fans at their developing status as a genuine Premier League mid-table powerhouse was emphasised in financial terms as profits of over £23 million were announced during the week, highlighting the rapid and plentiful riches that this league can offer clubs. It was a welcome good news story following years of misery, gloom and financial mismanagement pre-2010.
Fitting too, that this now hugely resourceful Palace of ours was seen to be among the healthiest of clubs in the league when it came to debt levels and spend on wages, when compared to shambolic operations at the increasingly doomed looking Queens Park Rangers and Leicester City. The recent financial revelations (the good type, for a change) have done much to strike ease and assurance into the hearts of a supporter base that is and will likely be wary of any excessive spend.
With organisational competency and on the pitch success, though, come the vultures, and much of the reason that the club’s past, present and future are mixing it together in such an intimate way at the moment is in part down to these factors as an American takeover looks imminent. This in itself puts a number of different ‘eras‘ old, new and yet to exist in the spotlight.
The potential Harris era brings with it conflicts and torn viewpoints that make it difficult to justify or deny. On the one hand, we have a plucky club who have pulled themselves back from oblivion thanks to good leadership, players and appointments, and now find the toilet roll in the corporate areas of Selhurst Park replaced with streams of £50 notes.
It is like a fairy tale rags to riches story. Hardly believable but irresistibly romantic. Do we want that romance to die? Do we want the beauty of this independent and organic story put in the hands of big American business, to tweak, remodel and repackage for a new audience?
Some would say yes, but I have seen enough dodgy American remakes of great British and European television shows to know that it does not all end well.
Most Palace fans will worry that Harris comes with dollar signs on his pupils, seeing Crystal Palace as a cash cow to complement a growing portfolio of sport franchises. Note that our current owners have reinvested money into the club, and not lined their pockets to the extent the likes of Karl Oyston has at Blackpool, or the extent that Harris just might.
Another developing side story to this, which is perhaps the one that I fear most about, is the playing squad itself. There is no doubting that with Pardew and the pool of players at his disposal, Palace are finally developing a squad to the strength of the one that was here 25 years ago.
It may seem like an exaggeration given the wild levels of nearly success the side of the late eighties and early nineties enjoyed, but when you weigh up the sheer financial might of six or seven of the ten clubs currently ahead of Palace in the league, it is truly remarkable.
It has been mentioned earlier about the correlation between footballing success and vultures, and with or without the arrival of Harris you have to worry about this particular team and its potential breakup. What effect would that have on supporter morale and on the pitch morale if we were to start seeing our better performers snapped up by clubs higher up the table? What happens if new money brings new players, pushing our beloved old guard out?
Perhaps comparisons cannot be drawn too similarly with the path that much of that celebrated squad took. Much of Palace’s success in those days not only owed to the guidance of Steve Coppell, but to the brilliance of the likes of Ian Wright, Mark Bright and Eddie McGoldrick whose departures from that particular squad across a couple of years owed to their great form and important part of that recent success.
What shape would Palace be in if in the summer moves were made for Scott Dann, Jason Puncheon, Yannick Bolasie, James McArthur, Joe Ledley et al that lead to the quality backbone in this current Palace side being stripped? If Palace dip in form slightly next season, will some of these player naturally look to find a club higher up in the table?
It is a pessimistic outlook that forecasts impossibilities in terms of player happiness, interest from other clubs and so on, but the potential arrival of Harris heightens that fear. With power comes responsibility, but in football money sometimes does not breed responsibility.
Do Palace fans want to blow £14 million on a striker that represents a risk? Probably in that department, but the player recruitment policy for the most part do far has been bang on the head. It is just that niggling fear of past eras and spending that make me and no doubt others wary of a future era of the same, albeit in a playground comprised entirely of money.
Fear of the unknown is a mystifying thing. In my time as a Palace fan, this is the best it has been as I was too young to remember the Cup Final heyday.
I am enjoying the present so much, that I am terrified of losing it, terrified of losing it to the past, by embracing an unknown future. My terrors extend to the fear of losing some of those players responsible for this upturn to other clubs, or see them fall victim to a money driven overhaul of the playing squad that leaves them maligned.
I am torn through the ages at present. Maybe it is because of the international break. Can we bring the football back now so I can stop thinking myself into a bottomless pit of pessimism?