Was Our Season A Success?
So, a week or so after the season ended and I’m still not quite sure what to make of Palace’s year.
Even by our standards, this one seemed to be quite the rollercoaster, perhaps summed up by the most ridiculous game I’ve ever seen live – our 5-4 defeat to Swansea City in November.
That match most definitely finished in a defeat but I am still not sure if our season was positive or negative overall.
Part of me hates the fact that I’m even questioning this. Its our 6th best finish in 112 years of existence – behind 1980 (13th), 1991 (3rd), 1992 (10th), 2014 (11th) and 2015 (10th) and, as some fans hate to remember, its only seven short years since we nearly lost our beloved club for good.
First and foremost, we stayed up. For a club of our size, with our history, remaining in the Premier League has to be the primary aim each season. In fact, the longer we remain along England’s elite, the more devastating relegation would be for us. We’d lose our key men and be stuck with squad players like Jordon Mutch, Fraizer Campbell and Bakary Sako on over inflated wages.
Leicester City fans have taken a lot of stick this season for over-singing about their title (not from me I hasten to add – let them enjoy it!) but I think their most poignant chant last season as they marched to their ultimate triumph was “We are staying up!”
However, is staying up really something to celebrate?
In 2013/14, we lost ten of our first eleven games, and finished 11th. The following year, we were abysmal from August to January and somehow finished 10th. In 2015/16, we won just TWO games after Christmas and never really looked like going down. This year, we decided to take it up a notch and were pathetic from August through to March, yet still somehow ended up with SIX teams who were even worse than we were! …and a SEVEN point cushion from the dreaded drop zone.
To me, this reiterates that you have to be really rubbish to go down! Especially when you’ve spent roughly £100million pounds (based on estimates of Benteke £32m, Tomkins £13m, Townsend £14m, Mandanda £1.5m, Schlupp £13m, van Aanholt £14m, Luka £13m, Sakho £2m loan fee.)
Despite making six of our seven most expensive transfers this season, we’ve only moved up one place and attained one fewer point than last season. Is this success?
We also managed to lose 0-4 at home to Sunderland, whose 24 Premier League points this season has only been previously lowered by themselves (twice!), Derby and Aston Villa. Yup, that’s right, we lost 0-4 at home to the fifth worst top flight team in the last 25 years. We also gifted Burnley and Swansea six points each which effectively kept them up and managed to make West Ham United look like Brazil in the 1970s.
In fact, throughout January and February, as Sam Allardyce upped the training regime and the players mourned the departure of Alan Pardew, they seemed to totally give up and we saw some of the most spineless Palace performances I’ve ever seen.
Before the Middlesbrough match, Big Sam made some bizarre comments where he slated the players for not listening to him and looked a beaten man. Even as someone who’d been all for his appointment from the start, six weak defeats out of seven had made me question whether he had the fight left in him after the England debacle.
Yet, it turned out that his comments, alongside the equally unexpected dropping of Scott Dann and Jimmy Mac, were exactly what we needed. Admittedly, the additional strength and leadership of Luka and Mamadou played a huge part too. It only took eight performances, but that’s all we required to ensure a record breaking fifth straight season in the top flight.
Incredibly, during those eight games, we beat three of the Premier League’s top five. Three Palace matches that I will cherish as some of my favourite ever, and who’d have believed that these players could produce that in February?
As well as seeing some of my favourite ever games this season, there’s no doubting that in Zaha, Benteke, Cabaye and Sakho, I’ve seen four of the most talented men to ever wear red and blue for us. Also, we’ve probably seen one of our best ever managers in our history (briefly) in the hot seat, and whatever you may think of him, one of our most successful ones for the other half (our 2nd and 7th best ever seasons came under Pardew and an FA Cup Final).
So overall, yes, this season was a success. But what now? What would be a success next season for whoever comes in? Or whoever replaces him in December when it all goes tits up?
A line said in tongue and cheek but with an anxious amount of truth in it! Well, for me, we need to try and improve on 14th and have a season where we consistently look ‘okay’, rather than relying on hot and cold streaks. Oh, and we must beat Brighton, twice, while finishing above them.
Anyway, whatever happens over the summer, let’s look forward to next season and whatever highs, lows and memories it might bring!