You’re obviously a very busy man, so first I must say: thank you, thank you, thank you. In 100 days, you’ve taken the club I love from experts in snoozeball to a team playing football that you can’t take your eyes off.
This change has been surprising and exciting. I used to doze through games of low blocks and low goal threat. Now I’m scared to miss even a few seconds because now that’s all it takes to go from defending to scoring.
Say it out loud: Palace are fun to watch. Even the TV Gary’s are saying it. And it only took you 100 days.
Dreams and bonus schemes now include more than just surviving. The media told us that Roy’s target (and the trigger for his bonus) was Premier League survival. While media goss is often tosh, we all know Roy managed (and the men in red and blue played) like it was all true.
Now, Patrick, you and your coaches have delivered the hurricane of fresh air we were all dying and crying for. In 100 days you’ve worked so hard to blow out of our minds a team and a manager dogged by old age and old ideas.
But, in my dazzledom, have I been blinded to reality? After all, last season we finished 14th. And now we’re, erm, 14th. 8 games have brought us 8 points. So am I painting lipstick on the pig that’s Palace?
I don’t think so, and here’s why. As my Dad used to say, we’ve not had the run of the ball. Luck has not been our side. True, against Arsenal, a real home ref might have red carded Macca for that “tackle” and also disallowed one or both of our goals for the challenges that took the ball from dithering defenders. Additionally, Tierney almost broke the bar for no goal while Edouard hit the same spot and the ball went in. So, at Arsenal, perhaps we were a tad lucky.
But the other four draws could, with the merest smidgeon of good fortune, have ended in the win column. Gallagher and Edouard both smashed the ball into the woodwork with keepers nowhere, so luck might easily have seen draws with Brentford and Leicester deliver four more points. Guehi’s injury time header at West ham should have been a “two more points” goal instead of an unfortunate near miss and gosh, when he matures, what a player he will be. And the full time faces of Brighton players and fans told how lucky they felt to bag a point. We were all deflated, but never forget they were elated to get a draw at Slurst!!! Arsenal reactions at the final whistle told a similar tale. That’s what you’ve already done for us, Patrick.
Eight points from eight games could easily have been 14, 16 or even 18. And there’s so much more to come!
I’m sure you picture a very near future where you pick a team that can involve all of Eze, Zaha, Edouard, Olise, Gallagher and Benteke. With the speed, variety and excitement of Palace going forward, I hope the Board invests in a few defibrillators around the ground.
Your vision also most likely includes Palace scoring goals before half time. Of 11 goals so far, only one was scored before the break, and that was in time added on.
This team has already proved it can chase games successfully, but – as you well know – getting ahead and staying there is vital to the DNA of a top team, and you learned while leading the experts (1-0 to the Arsenal). Replacing an attacker with a defender for the last 10 minutes is not how to do it and, Patrick, you know that. Playing the first half the way we’ve been playing the second is surely now only a small step. We trust you will lead us forward!
A final word on small steps. If ever Luka had the touch for a decent corner or free kick, he doesn’t have it now. Change the taker! Meanwhile, defending a set piece is of course basic to teamwork. So far this season, Palace have proved a soft touch in the immediate aftermath of opposition corners and free kicks. With your deep knowledge, your leadership and man management, you will, I’m sure, give us fans the certainty to know we won’t concede – and your players the confidence to turn draws into wins.
Now for Newcastle. An opportunity for a win. Their form is poor, their squad is weak, their fans will be wearing tea towels on their heads and the former clown Shelvey made it plain he’d rather sit this one out. Once they start waving their excessive wad, the Magpies may never look so inviting again.
In your first 100 days, Patrick, you have made giant strides. The Board must be glad all over you came. And we don’t forget the essential contributions have come because of the Board’s money and The Doog’s talent for spotting real talent available on a deal. And because of you.
Before your first year as Palace boss comes to an end, several older players will be out of contract and Stage 2 of this rebuild will be upon you. It’s evident you’re all well capable of taking our club forward.
Congratulations, Patrick! And thank you, thank you, thank you!