Start As We Don’t Mean To Go On
I was at Selhurst Park yesterday. It was my first visit in nearly three years. It was my Dad’s in nearly four.
This summer we decided to purchase our first ever season tickets. Block Y of the Arthur, where we always sit. It was a dream come true when they came through the post last week. We dreamed in red and blue, of the wonderful home wins and the magnificent goals we would score. We were SO excited, leaving home a whole hour earlier than usual to soak in the atmosphere. Saturday should have been a truly special day.
Except it wasn’t.
Crystal Palace Football Club, as an entity, seems to have this remarkable ability to change my mood. From the thrill of anticipation for the start of the league, to complete and utter contempt and misery. This was a dream fixture against recently promoted Huddersfield Town, who did not finish too strongly last season. A test, yes, but a winnable fixture to kick off our season in winning fashion.
However, we looked weak and frail, like an old lady perched at her creaking zimmer frame. Our lack of positivity right from kick off left us playing a desperately dangerous game while Huddersfield looked sharp.
I’ve been looking forward to start of Premier League for months, like a kid at Christmas. Today Palace have been the Grinch.
— Fosu Year Plan 🦅 (@FYPFanzine) August 12, 2017
It’s fair to say Frank de Boer’s defensive record as a manager is questionable, we all knew it was a risk playing three at the back. The unfamiliarity showed, the first goal was sloppy and avoidable. Wayne Hennessey came for it, his arms flailing like a baby bird taking flight for the first time. As usual, it was missed by everyone, and was left to be poked into the back of the net by Joel Ward, who incidentally, had a terrible game.
The second and third were classic Palace. Defensive errors, poor communication and an inevitable defeat loomed before the 25,000 or so strong crowd who had travelled to watch the game. The worst aspect of this shambolic debacle, was that Huddersfield weren’t even that good, we were just comically bad. Laughably terrible. Hilariously inept.
Whenever Palace tried to attempt a move, a pass would whizz across the crisp green turf to an opposition player, a hesitation would cost us possession, a long ball out into the void of the touchline. I saw fans leaving with twenty minutes left to play, that’s almost as shameful as the performance on the pitch!
Words fail me, but yet, as Palace fans, we know this is the way it must be, because to make it easy for ourselves is never the Palace way, I’ve come round to the fact that we are never going to be consistent, but it’s a worry that, if we’re made to look like fools against a mediocre Huddersfield, what lies around the corner for the rest of the season. It could be another nine months, staring into the abyss once again.
The key to success for teams like ours is defence, the central midfielders and attacking players gain confidence from a resolute defence, whereas ours today was as shaky as a drunk lady wearing stilettos. There was no communication from the stopper, an unnaturally high defensive line, leaving us vulnerable to attack at any moment, and decision making that makes the re-opening of Jurassic Park for another movie look sane.
For me, we were bereft of ideas and effort, with no answer to anything Huddersfield asked of us and with the work ethic of a university student on a hangover. No doubt we’ll sit back and laugh about this game once the season is over and we’re perfectly safe, but right here, right now, it feels pretty bad. It feels like the moment [spoiler alert!] Glenn died in The Walking Dead. It feels wrong.
A key target for us this summer was Mamadou Sakho. The rock who single handedly saved our season last time out. Thirty million pounds is a lot of money, even for him, but if he keeps us up, the money we earn makes it all worth it. We need him. We also need a new goalkeeper, because Wayne ‘flying without wings’ Hennessey is just not capable enough to play at this level. He was desperately nervous and it showed. His handling, kicking and catching were all way off the pace, the pace being miserably slow anyway.
I feel this could all be totally trivial, what with world events currently pointing to nuclear war as a deluded orange con-artist and an overweight tyrannical maniac wage a war of words, hands hovering over their respective big red buttons, ready to end it all. What’s the point of being upset about one loss, when we might not even be here next season to enjoy our relegation? Who knows, but what I can say is that until our first win comes, the end of the world doesn’t seem like it could be all that bad.
Perhaps the radiation from such a monumental nuclear fallout might trigger the growth of a backbone in our team, one that does more than just help us to ‘survive’, because if this is to be a successful season, we need to thrive. If we can do that, I’ll be a very happy person.
Right now though, I just wish Trump would push that button and pray my untimely end is quick and painless.