Having really had very little to get excited about for the past two years as a Palace supporter, lo and behold Steve Parish and Dougie Freedman has now delivered excitement by the bucket load.
A new coach and new management team, new young signings, a new co-owner, a new style of play and no wins and no goals.
The Palace roller coaster is well and truly up and running!
Once Palace and Roy decided that it was time to bring a close to his reign as Palace manager, a period of turmoil was almost inevitable, regardless of who the new manager was given the turnover in playing personnel and the long mooted change in playing style. As supporters we have to face up to what is likely to be a challenging season, put on our tin hats and hold our nerve for a bumpy ride.
For those that have read my previous pieces it is no secret that I was a huge fan of Roy Hodgson. Over four years he found a way to keep us in the division with relative comfort with virtually no new signings and an ageing and consequentially injury prone squad. Roy never complained (well not much and it was always understated when he did) and I always felt that he was a classy representative of Crystal Palace Football Club. As far as I can tell, despite the huge age gap between him and the players he was well respected and held in real affection by the vast majority of them. In brief I was proud to have him being the public face of Palace.
Notwithstanding my hero worship for Roy, I was (and still am) supportive of the changes which have happened since May 2021. If we had carried on as we had for the past four years (virtually no new players, same manager, same messages) I think we would have been in real trouble this season. Like everyone I have been really excited by the new signings who have all already added an upgrade in quality when they have played. Although a Premier League novice, Patrick Vieira knows the league and has had enough management experience to know what he is doing. The coaches who he has surrounded himself with equally excite me. Osian Roberts in particular seems to be a clever, knowledgeable and well respected coach who will help Patrick steer the ship and get the most out of our squad.
However (there was always going to be a “however”) anyone who genuinely thought there was going to be a smooth and easy transition to a comfortable mid table (or higher) position this season was extremely optimistic. Our early season fixtures have made sure there was going to be a down before we, hopefully, hit the upward rollercoaster trajectory. There has simply been too much change in too short a time period to expect everything to slot into place seamlessly.
Three matches in it is clear that whilst the playing style is changing, some squad members are still adjusting to all the change and it is clear that the lack of forward options (due in part to the injuries to Eze and Olise but also the failure to replace Wickham and Batshuayi) is hampering our ability to score goals. Of course neither Wickham or Batshuayi ended up contributing many goals but it is the lack of potential goal scorers which is really hurting us. Having done so much business early, unusually for Palace, things have gone a little quiet on the transfer front but hopefully we will have one or two more additions before the close of the window.
Other than the evident quality of our new signings, the main highlight for me, based on having attended all of our matches so far this season, has been the positivity shown by the Palace supporters to the team and the manager. The support at Stamford Bridge was vociferous despite the score line and the rousing rendition of “We Love You” at the end of the match was impressive. Likewise despite the lack of goals, the home support was great against Brentford with the chant of “Vieira’s Red and Blue Army” coming earlier than I can recall for any new Palace manger previously. Likewise the support during the Watford EFL Cup match drowned out the feeble Watford support until the end when we were hit by the proverbial sucker punch goal.
The fantastic goodwill and positivity toward Vieira and the team on the pitch needs to be maintained during these difficult early days. I am sorry to say there were a smattering of boos at the end of the Watford match but I am hopeful that either is a one-off or it remains the reaction of a tiny minority of what so far has been great support for the “new” Crystal Palace.
The club have invested a significant amount of money and care and attention into our new direction and we all need to be brave enough to weather these early storms. So far the supporters have done their bit in the stands to reflect this positivity. Given our next four or five fixtures there is likely to be more stormy weather so everyone will need to buckle up, put on the tin hat and hold our nerve until things start to settle down.
I am confident with Vieira, his management team and the player recruitment we will get there in the end. For this season “there” may end up being 17th but I will take that right now and hope for better later!