In part 1 and part 2, Jon looked at the impact on us all of the actions of Palace’s owners, plans for the ‘Palace Project’. Now, he continues trying to work out what happened with Wilfried Zaha, the future and the perennial question: Is the Palace up for sale?
THE ISSUE: Replacing Wilf will be tough. Wilf would crank up the electricity in Selhurst like very few others could. In 35 years, I’ve only seen Ian Wright with his general play and Dougie Freedman and Andrew Johnson with their goals who could light up and lift Selhurst like Wilf.
His passion for the Palace, his personality, his ball carrying, his match winning goals, his unlocking of opposition defences, his trickery bamboozling opponents or winning free kicks, his tackling back, and his everyday testing and stretching of our young full backs in training – yes, he will be much missed. Wilf can – and does – change the course of games. We all knew he could. So did his opponents. Wilf will be greatly missed.
Could Steve have said anything to Wilf to make him stay? To watch Steve face to face making Wilf substantive promises like big player budget, world class coach incoming, etc, wow! Palace fans would have happily stumped up cash for a Pay Per View to watch that happen on Palace TV!
But all Steve could offer was, at best, another pop at the top half, maybe in the next year or two. Stacking up that offer against Galatasaray, who can give Wilf Champions League this Wednesday, which way would you advise Wilf to go? No contest!
THE BACKGROUND: Steve probably knew long ago that Wilf would not stay, simply because it wasn’t ever the money that Wilf was prioritising. According to his new club’s website, Wilf has taken a 3-year contract in Turkey that’s worth about 13.25million quid over 3 years. At Palace, Wilf had reportedly been offered a 4-year contract worth about 40m quid over 4 years. Perhaps this is why stories started to emerge that Wilf would stay – his friends and colleagues probably concluded that he would put tens of millions ahead of testing himself at much higher levels.
WORRY RATING: High. I don’t imagine Wilf hid his views for one minute, so Steve may well have been very clear on Wilf’s decision for a long time. The club must have had time to prepare. Perhaps this explains reports of the recent pursuit of a previously little-known 19-year-old Brazilian, Matheus Franca. Will he be Wilf’s replacement?
THE ISSUE: It’s important we’re in good shape as we arrive at the end of this coming season, because Palace face major turmoil again next summer.
THE BACKGROUND: Roy’s contract ends in 11 months so we already know we will need a new manager. The word is that Paddy McCarthy will be groomed by Roy, which sounds great. But the Premier League with global attention is a hell of a place to have your first job in total control. If we don’t go with Paddy, we must hope that the next 12 months have produced a special new Manager for Palace to recruit.
On the playing side, Parish must be concerned that – as well as the manager – ten of the 25-man playing squad will see their contracts expire in June 2024. Hughes, Guaita, Riedewald, Tomkins, Matthews, Ward, Clyne, Schlupp, Ayew and Ferguson will all be expected to move on. They will take a lot of replacing, especially if we haven’t sold anyone beforehand (selling would put funds in place and create room for buying under FFP rules).
The big hope appears to be the club’s Academy. We have 9 loan players returning to the club this summer. Jesurun Rak Sakyi had a super loan season at Charlton, while Ozoh looks to have a big future in midfield. It’s encouraging that Rak-Sakyi, O’Brien and Gordon are all with the senior players on the pre-season USA trip.
It seems to be an annual event for Palace to need to renew many contracts, especially for players over 30 under the club’s new policy of one-year contracts for over-30’s (except Wilf). While this obviously jeopardises continuity, it does at least give the Board the financial freedom to make swift payroll cuts if Palace are relegated.
THE WORRY RATING: High.
THE ISSUE: Is our club up for sale?
THE BACKGROUND: When it comes to new investors, Selhurst is tight-lipped like the Kremlin. Fans only tend to find out after the event. Sometimes, it takes years for truths to emerge. For example, fans are only just learning now that, as recently as 2020, Palace were working towards a 185million quid sale of the club.
As the purchase moved towards fruition, the would-be buyer was given access in 2019 to Palace’s accounts and senior directors. He turns out to be Benjamin Leigh Hunt, whose crypto-currency firm, the London Football Exchange, later folded.
The only reason this is being exposed to us now is that an adviser to the purchasing group was Rupinder Bains and the FA opened an investigation into Bains in February this year after it was revealed that, although she was an FA Councillor at the time, she did not tell the FA she was involved in the potential sale as a private lawyer.
Regarding the bid itself, according to the Daily Mail, the Palace Directors changed their minds before it was too late: “A Palace source said that after due diligence, it was decided the proposed buyers were not suitable custodians of the club.”
WORRY RATING: Low. Steve Parish has (and is) the safe hands that saved Crystal Palace and have helped it to prosper through to today. He’s not about to let the club fall into the wrong hands.