A Brief History Of The Season
We have all seen them.
Those movies or television series that have a mouth wateringly explosive opening few sequences, only to dither away in time and transform into something competent, yet underwhelming.
Decent, but unspectacular. An opening period laden with explicit scandal, upheaval, shock, awe and heartbreak with a lashing of familiar but fading names in roles that were clearly beyond them.
“Palace in crisis as Pulis Walks”
It was impossible not to fear the worst when on the eve of the opener against Arsenal as details of Tony Pulis’ hasty departure came to light. In hindsight, hasty probably seems to be generous as in the months following his appointment Pulis never really seemed to be the long term stable fit that the good form suggested.
While details of the Pulis fallout are still somewhat cloudy, the circus kicked into full flow relatively quickly and as Palace seemed destined for another one of those famed turbulent seasons.
While the start of the season was not the cakewalk that perhaps some of the Palace faithful were expecting, the dodging of a significantly sized Malky Mackay-shaped bullet followed by the dispensing of an Iain Moody replica paved the way for a former darling to return to the throne.
“Return of the King Colin”
Neil Warnock’s appointment was greeted with foreboding resignation. Although it was clear from all angles that it was an appointment under exceptional circumstances given the mess that preceded the search, it did not instill confidence. Nor did it lead to results. Liverpool result withstanding, Warnock showed he was more than adept at incompetence, carefully navigating them to a place familiar to him in the Championship.
In truth, Warnock simply seemed happy if not a little surprised to find himself at the helm of a Premier League club again. The frustrations from the supporters at the poor showings throughout the first half of the season was a combination of dissatisfaction with the mismanagement of a clearly capable playing squad, and the lack of any post match analysis from Warnock that suggested anything was likely to change. “I thought the lads were fantastic today” was the typical drivel that flowed from Warnock following another disappointing defeat.
“The lowest ebb”
Never have a supporter base been both extremely deflated and at the same time relieved following a defeat. The capitulation at home to Southampton proved a defeat too much for Warnock who was subsequently relieved of his duties. While it would be an exaggeration to say that Palace fans were as pleased as Southampton fans that day, it would not be unrealistic to suggest that many were thankful that Steve Parish identified the importance of addressing the issue before it became too late to salvage the Premier League dream. Once you are at the lowest ebb, the only way is up from there.
“Al, Super Al”
There was only ever going to be one man for the job. The return of Alan Pardew coincided with the return of form and voice at Selhurst (or at the very least, away from Selhurst). Pardew masterminded a ferocious sequence of good results that had secured Premier League survival by March, and gave genuine cause for optimism for the years ahead.
Pardew brought imagination, dynamism and versatility to the job. Pardew dropped Jason Puncheon deeper, giving him the freedom to demonstrate his immense footballing ability. If Puncheon’s performances from January had been mirrored at the beginning of the season, Palace would likely have an England international in their ranks.
What set Pardew apart from his predecessor was his ability to make changes that positively impacted games. Moving quickly, for example, to address tactical errors against Burnley to overcome a two goal deficit and snatch three points. While highlights were plentiful in the second half of the season under Pardew’s tutelage, that Burnley result seemed like a significant barometer of just how transformed Palace were under Pardew.
The most simple and effective highlight has to be the appointment of Alan Pardew. He represents a club revitalised, going in an exciting direction for the future with a real connection with the golden years of the past. The position the club finds itself in now and the energy that permeates around Selhurst Park is reflective of good times on the horizon. The younger Palace fans have never known times like this, and there is a real sense that they are set to continue.
The victory at Turf Moor as mentioned seemed to confirm to everyone that Pardew would keep Palace up. Palace survived with ease last season by beating those around them. Where Warnock stumbled, Pardew strode gallantly and returned Palace to a position where they were putting struggling sides to the sword.
Doing the double over Liverpool was pretty spectacular, especially the nature of the 3-1 victory at Anfield that was akin to blowing out someone else’s candles at a birthday party. Although Palace’s electricity did not so much blow them out as sent a galforce through the kop that extinguished the final remnants of light in Liverpool’s season. Farewell Stevie G. Be safe and well knowing you will not have to face party spoiling Crystal Palace. Defeating Man City at Selhurst was pretty spectacular too.
From a player performance perspective, this authors first thoughts turn to Glenn Murray, and the huge role the great one played in easing Crystal Palace into a comfortable mid-table position. It points further to Neil Warnock’s cluelessness in that he did not see a future for Murray at the club. Granted, Murray seized his chance in January when the pecking order was depleted by injury but had Warnock been in the job much longer, Murray would very likely have moved to Reading permanently.
Scott Dann was named Player of the Year recently, but it would be hard to single out just one. Alongside him, Delaney again proved his worth. James McArthur in midfield never seemed to have a bad game, while the sparkling form of Jason Puncheon and Yannick Bolasie ensured that Palace were flying high by March.
The only lowlights would be the entire Warnock period, so let us just gloss over that miserable few months at the start of the year and pretend it never happened.
More of the same and then some. As TEB editor Jay Crame pointed out in his article earlier this week, let us enjoy the now. Let us enjoy the summer in the knowledge that whatever is thrown at Palace next year will be taken in the club’s stride.
We started the season chaotically, finished relaxed and look ahead optimistically. Another great season to be a Palace fan.