Loss Fails To Dampen Palace Spirits
This morning is not quite the comedown that most had anticipated.
Following the heroics against Chelsea two weeks ago, and the period of calm during a rather dull international break, many had expected Palace to come crashing down to earth with a bang against a marauding Manchester City. This being the currently unbeaten Manchester City side that many are calling ‘Champions Elect’ already.
It was not so much a bang as it was a minor glitch. Much like the old Tango adverts. Before Palace knew it yesterday they had been met with a cheap happy slap at the death allowing the perpetrator to trot off victoriously giving the victim little or no time to formulate a coherent response.
The defeat at home to Manuel Pelligrini’s side certainly felt like a robbery, given the blistering start Palace had enjoyed and the many chances they created throughout the contest, noted for a few fiery challenges on both sides.
It was yet another increasingly encouraging display from Crystal Palace, a side not short on superlatives given the fantastic form Pardew has overseen throughout 2015. Indeed it was the performance yesterday that made the defeat all that harder to stomach.
While it would be churlish to appropriate blame at anyone for the goal that grabbed City the three points, questions perhaps of how quickly the centre back pairing reacted to the initial Alex McCarthy save might linger somewhere in Palace fans heads this morning.
There is perhaps too, a sense of irony in the fact that a young, untested striker by the name of Kelechi Iheanacho was to finish the tie off in favour of the expensively assembled guests.
This week, Dominic Fifield conducted a fantastic interview with Steve Parish in the Guardian, which touched on a number of areas surrounding the past, present and future at the club. At the core of discussion, inevitably with a Premier League club, was finance and how pivotal strong financial management can be in cementing Crystal Palace as a Premier League force for years to come. At the heart of that, according to Parish, was the importance of investing in the academy and the continuing development of players that the club has been noted for in recent years.
The dangers facing the Crystal Palace youth setup is something that can be overlooked. In an excellent piece on TEB before the season kicked off, Matt Woosnam discussed in detail just how crucial this is, and importantly, how lacking in more recent years the club has been in providing a route for academy players to break through. While Palace are not short of a talented crop of youngsters, it was heart wrenching to again see Jonny Williams loaned out to Forest this week, his chances of getting a bite at the Premier League cherry even further away given the arrival of Yohan Cabaye and the form of others.
While in the face of a potential striker crisis, Manchester City had the match winner, as well as Patrick Roberts on the bench ready to call upon and give their chance. Granted, Roberts proved an expensive purchase from Fulham but it is alarming to think that in the last three years, Palace have not progressed some youngsters as they perhaps should have. Instead, 34 year old Brede Hangeland was called upon to replace 34 year old Damien Delaney. Meanwhile, one of our brightest defensive prospects in recent times, Mandela Egbo, deemed Gladbach a better opportunity to develop to the next level than Palace. On the evidence of recent development, would you blame him?
That is not to have a go at Delaney or Hangeland. We all know the importance of Delaney to this Palace side. The point is that while the euphoria of a strong start and the pride in a good performance yesterday is all well and good, the comments by Parish during the week should indeed be something to worry about in that the renovation of the training ground has come at the expense of the academy, banished to a rented site, almost as an afterthought.
Palace are fourth, have had a great start to the season, were beaten by the best side in the league courtesy of a late winner and things have never looked better. However, a little scratch at the surface is showing cracks in player development.
If the club becomes increasingly dependent on securing long term financial prosperity to allow for growth, it is hard to see where youth comes into it. I fear that we may never see Jonny Williams don a Palace shirt in the Premier League. The fear is that many more players who may or may not be capable may never do so either.
Selhurst Park saw an eighteen year old grab the headlines yesterday. It is just a shame he was not in red and blue.
(c) Featured image courtesy of Michael Hulf Photography. Twitter @hulfie.