Goodbye To A Season Of Stress, Torture And Triumph
The calm after an almighty storm of a season that was full of frustration, drama, stress and one almighty feeling of relief.
It seems such a long time ago when fans were looking forward to what was believed to be a new era under Frank de Boer.
That was all swiftly swept under the carpet with a much ridiculed decision to move on the Dutchman. At the time, it seemed a knee jerk reaction but looking back it was the right decision and at just the right time.
With de Boer being linked with the Swansea City job, it would certainly be interesting to see where he goes with his next job. If anything, the role at the Liberty Stadium could well be a decent fit. The Swans have gone down ta similar route in the past which has worked with the likes of Paulo Sousa and Michael Laudrup.
We have seen it all before when players have stopped supporting a manager but those at Palace cannot be accused of such while de Boer was in charge. Even though they struggled to adapt to the new ideas, the match at Turf Moor which the Eagles lost by a single goal proved that point. Palace had 23 shots in that game and forced 13 corners but it just was not to be, with a horrendous back pass by Chung-yong Lee leading to the only goal and summing up de Boer’s reign.
Foreign managers have come and gone in the Premier League, after all, it is one of the most challenging in the world and for every Arsene Wenger and Pep Guardiola, there are many more that fall by the way side without as much of whimper.
The remainder of the season for Palace is history and while we can breathe easily now and look forward to a summer of football, the exasperated stress levels and frustration remains a scar for the majority of us.
The sensible appointment of Roy Hodgson is arguably up there with those that have gone before. For the most part, the selection process for managers have worked out for Palace while being in the Premier League.
Few could argue that Hodgson and Palace would be the perfect partnership but there were not many out there in the media or fanbase that could have predicted quite how it would go.
Taking charge of the game at home to Southampton was too soon for the former England manager to have any impact and the run of losses was to continue with hefty defeats in Manchester on consecutive weekends. The new manager bounce is something that Palace fans have not experienced and perhaps we could be thankful that this would be a slow burner.
Not that slow, however, as the expected defeat in the eighth game of the season at home to Chelsea did not materialise. The win, the first of the season, was a real shot in the arm for Palace who were thankfully not yet cut adrift at the bottom of the table which said a lot for how the bottom half of the table would shape up.
That immediate hope was knocked considerably with back-to-back losses at Newcastle United at Bristol City in the cup but a last ditch equaliser by the brilliant Wilfried Zaha was arguably the turning point in the season, more so than the win against Chelsea. Despite a desperately narrow loss at Wembley against Spurs, Palace lost only once in a run of games which included a creditable draw against the then champions elect Manchester City to see out 2017. The highlight being a fantastic win at Leicester City.
The start of 2017 continued in similar fashion, with the only losses coming against Arsenal (again) and Brighton in the FA Cup, with the latter likely being a blessing in disguise however much we cannot stand losing to our rivals.
Relegation remained a distinct possibility heading into February with a continually miss-firing striker in the shape of Christian Benteke. While that did not get any better, Hodgson deployed the ‘no striker’ tactic, using Zaha and Andros Townsend as the front runners. There were a couple of occasions where it was found to be wanting a little but it was fruitful option all the while the front two were supported by a hard working midfield.
With only one point gained in February, the progress was stunted a little with sides in and around the bottom three picking up points, sending the online Palace contingent into a frenzy. The month of March was not much better, a run of games that include three of the top five was not expected to bring much reward but the performances deserved much better.
A huge win in the biting cold and snow fall at Huddersfield was the first six pointer of the season and those three points were a real signal of what was to come. With all the top six out of the way, it was six games left to play with all of them deemed winnable.
On the South Coast, a late late equaliser pegged the Eagles back when destined to return home with all three but the players made amends in the big derby game at Selhurst. Palace blitzed Brighton in a first half full of attacking prowess, yet defensives frailties which kept the visitors in the game. Thankfully, all the goals were scored in the first half and another big three points were secured by the Eagles.
Another point added to the total at Watford was followed by a demolition of Leicester City with all but allayed any fears of relegation. One of the best performances ever witnessed at aged old ground.
Palace ended the season in style, topping the Premier League form table by signing off with a win at Stoke City and ending it in front of a party atmosphere in South London, seeing off West Bromwich Albion in the process.
The enigmatic Wilfried Zaha was rightly awarded the player of the season award but he was run closer this year as Luka Milivojevic and James Tomkins both had very good seasons. Notable mentions go to loan signing Ruben Loftus-Cheek who has rightly got himself into the England World Cup squad, Aaron Wan-Bissaka for his breakthrough season and Andros Townsend.
In all honesty, it is harsh to be pinpointing some over others after what has been a season of blood, sweat and tears. Every single player that has pulled on a Palace shirt has contributed in one way or another in a stereotypical roller coaster of a season.
Bring on a sixth successive season in the Premier League for the mighty Eagles.