Picture the scene.
It is a bright Sunday morning and for the first time in what seems like an eternity, a little red and blue squirrel nonchalantly emerges from his protective cavern where he has locked himself away during the grim harshness of a football free summer.
There is an innocence in the way he glances around, trying to find morsels of familiarity to bring him back up to speed with his gradually changing surroundings. He stretches his stiff limbs, cracks a yawn, and surveys.
Our little squirrel has found himself in SE25. His eyes in the direction of Selhurst Park, he notes nothing of particular concern. A lick of paint here and there but still in its same place and state. A theatre with all the splendour of a wet Sunday morning yet the unbridled joy of a gleaming Saturday afternoon. This place has given him some pretty special memories.
He strolls further along towards the club shop, noticing the smiles of passers by seem to be wider than he remembers, but then the euphoria of a top ten finish had sent him into a two month long slumber with a broadened grin and a renewed sense of self-worth so it was understandable if not a little unusual.
More memories begin slowly returning, providing him with the sort of pinch yourself clarity about how the rollercoaster trajectory of the club he loved so much had been on a continuous upward curve with no sign of abating.
All of a sudden, this usually negative and pessimistic red and blue squirrel reverted to his pre-hibernation swagger. The tentativeness was gone. The 21st century Palace pessimism that had been so endemic was parked, like a successfully combated smoking habit cast to the doldrums. He wondered why he had even hibernated in the first place.
Yet all these glances were speculative, mere theoretical fluff at the end of a stick without a means of turning it into a melting mallow of delicious news. The hunger for a more detailed rundown of what he had missed grew stronger and his thoughts instantly dashed to his stash of nuts and provisions that was awaiting his return.
It was only then that panic set in. As his bounce dwindled slightly, and the trepidation slowly crept back, he began fearing that his pot of talent would be ransacked. Yannick Bolasie’s sparkling form last season was at the forefront of his thoughts, alongside the Jason Puncheon plaudits that had helped send him to sleep so chirpy.
Had his stash been raided? Would he return to find that, along with those two diamond gems, his provisions for the year ahead would also be shorn of the talents of James McArthur, Wilfried Zaha and Scott Dann?
What if, as he feared, his lovable Glenn Murray had gone past his sell by date and deemed surplus to requirements? How would he react? Our little squirrel can deal with a bit of mould around the edges, but knows too well the irrational intolerance of others to such a thing. He always suspected Pardew felt this way.
Then his heart began to race further. “Pardew!”, he whispered to himself. The messiah. The future England manager. The club icon. The legend. What if his summer had been an eventful one? So eventful that the man he entrusted to guard his provisions had himself departed, his head turned by potential suitors with an eye for a talented manager.
Thoughts of last season came flooding back, and the trauma he awoke to on the morning of the Arsenal opener. He began to calm himself down again, rejecting at the very least the fanciful notion that lightning would indeed strike twice.
The fear remained as he etched closer to his time capsule to await what he hoped would be a feast, but could well be a famine. In his head he began to brace himself for a “pot noodle with cold water and a side of naan bread” style comeuppance, as he cautiously cracked his capsule open.
Now picture the mixture of delight and awe that crept across the little squirrel’s face as the glow of what greeted him took full effect. His most cherished items were intact. There was no mould, nothing had been plundered by the larger friends north of the river and the preservatives had worked a delight. The squirrel had never known times like these so used was he to having to scrape around for scraps at the resumption of each year.
He was transfixed now on some of the wondrous new delights that had been added. As Yohan Cabaye moved towards him with a dashing French smile, he recoiled in coy embarrassment, blissfully unaware how to react in the presence of a French international star. “Permanent?”, the squirrel asked in amazement. “You mean to tell me you are our record signing…..?”.
The squirrel collapsed. Patrick Bamford helped him to his feet.
As the squirrel came to grips with his surroundings yet again, a serene calmness came over him and he pondered what he had taken in. His shock, awe and excitement passed and as he assessed the situation he realised that it was not all as shocking as he had initially made it out to be.
He flashed back to Steve Parish’s media appearances last season, continually stating the ambition the owners had for Crystal Palace, and the belief that they could make the sort of signings the Southampton’s and Swansea’s of this world had been making in recent years.
He pictured Alan Pardew. Reinforced, reinvigorated and reiterating his love for the club and the belief that they could continue to go on to better things. He recalled a group of players that continually spoke of the strong spirit and commitment that existed between them, and so the lack of a raid from other clubs should never have been a concern for him.
And then he thought of the future. Thinking of the incredible opportunity Crystal Palace now had to build a lasting legacy of top level football at the club. With Palace already being one of the most feared counter attacking sides in the division, what extra dimensions would the intelligence of Cabaye in midfield add?
Then he smiled, knowing it would not be an easy challenge given the riches that some of the other squirrels he knew also had at their disposal with their equally as bloated coffers. But then again, those squirrel’s did not seem to comprehend the euphoria and optimism that was engulfing Selhurst Park at the moment, so he was quietly confident in his assurances that his beloved Palace were cut from a different cloth.
As our squirrel tucked into his feast in a gluttonous fury of excitement, he realised that this was why he had gone into hibernation in the first place. The resumption of the football season in such heady days for Crystal Palace must be the best possible time to awake from his slumber.
Someone get this squirrel to Norwich quickly. He is struggling to contain his glee.