"Football is a cruel mistress."
It is a phrase that one of my best friends uses regularly when we discuss Palace, and one that has proven to be more than accurate over the past week. Football can change in the blink of an eye, dragging you from the depths of despair into huge highs, or pulling the rug out from under you when all seems well. The emotional rollercoaster that is Palace has more twists and turns than anything I have ever known, and this week it has been no different. So what is the point of this article? If I am honest, it is simply to just get things off my chest a little.
Last Saturday, around 1:30pm, I was walking towards Selhurst Park in good spirits, with almost a spring in our step. Two big away wins had given us a real boost, as well as seven goals and six crucial points. It had taken us onto 33 points, 8 points clear of the relegation zone, with those below us playing tough opponents while we were about to entertain bitter rivals Brighton. For me, I was looking at what could be a great week. Beat Brighton and not only would we get the bragging rights, but we would move six points clear of them, and onto 36 points, virtually safe from relegation. Then, a week later, I would be travelling to Vicarage Road to hopefully watch us stick one to Watford, and book a return to Wembley in an FA Cup Final I so desperately wanted. What a week it could be, one that could really set an up and down season alight. Little did I know during that walk, that instead of that joyous hope, we would end up totally killing our season in those eight days.
This is where I am now torn, how much detail do I go into over two performances that just weren't good enough? Part of me just wants to skip it, because I am fed up of reliving them in my mind. However, given the serious amount of backlash there has been since, I also feel I need to share my opinion. The Brighton performance was poor. Do I think it was spineless, or that we were pathetic? No. Were we good enough though? No. Brighton came for a draw, with the hope of nicking something. They played the perfect game plan that has frustratingly seen too many poor teams leave Selhurst with either a share of, or all the spoils. Both of their goals had luck to them, the wind taking the ball away from Tomkins for their first, and their second a ripper from a guy who should have been sent off in the first minute. However, as we have seen too many times, our players looked clueless as to how to break them down, and so we created very little scoring opportunities, which in turn means we aren't going to win games such as this one. So, with so much expectation, we had to trudge out of the ground listening to Brighton fans celebrating doing the double over us, and it hurt.
Social Media last weekend became a nightmare. Abuse aimed at
Roy, aimed at the players, it was at an all time high. You would have thought
our players had been cheating on our fans with their partners, the way some of
it was going on. While everyone around me was losing it though, I was holding
it together. Partially because I wasn't surprised by the loss. It was due. In a
season when we ended our baron run in Manchester, it felt kind of inevitable
that Brighton would beat us at Selhurst for the first time in my life time. The
other reason though, was that we had an FA Cup Quarter Final to put things
right. That was the key match for me. If I had to chose one of the games to win
between the two last week, it would have been the cup match(yes, I said it). As
much as I always want us to stuff Brighton, God I wanted a cup semi final. Not
only that, but in recent years, I feel far more animosity towards Watford
because of recent events. So, I managed to survive the Brighton loss, living
with the hope that Wembley was calling.
Sadly, it wasn't. In the final days before the game, the animosity upped a notch. Having already been deprived of extra seats, the news broke that the drum, flags, banners, balloons etc would not be permitted in our end. This came out on the same day that Watford announced they were doing a big display. Now I just wanted to stick it to them more. Saturday arrived, and with it came the depressing news that Zaha was out of the game with injury. Not a great start to such an important day. The atmosphere we generated as a fan base at the game was unbelievable. While I have my own opinions regarding the statement put out by the HF on the Friday, they totally excelled in their main strength at the game. With kick off edging closer, we were sitting there ready and waiting, when suddenly the drum broke through the silence, and had us all on our feet and in full voice within moments. It was a fantastic entrance that set the tone for the game, at least within the stands. On the pitch, however, it was a different matter.
Now, I have since seen huge criticism of our performance, and while some of it is justified, I do think some of it is wildly inaccurate. For the first twenty minutes, we had most of the ball, and seemed to be in control of it. The problem was, with Wilf missing, we lacked any form of cutting edge around the box. So, as we have seen too many times at home, our possession led to very little outcome. Then came their succession of corners(which should not have happened as the ball went out for a throw before the first one, but was ignored), and of course with it came their goal. This brought about the first bit of noise from their fans, and with it put us under pressure for a while. Still, we came into it again before half time. The problem was, by the time the half time whistle went, a weak volley from Meyer that just floated into Gomes' hands was the only effort on goal we had to show from the half. It was hard to see how on earth we would find a goal. The second half was different. We came out stronger, and quite frankly dominated. We seemed to find more space, and had a bit more urgency with our play. Still though, it was leading to very little on goal, until Michy capitalised on their error and finished superbly to send us into raptures. Until this point, we had controlled the game, and continued to do so. Now here is where my opinion differs from others. I have seen many say that we should have made a change. They say we should have made a sub and that it cost us. I disagree. We were in control of the ball, they were struggling and none of our players looked tired. Not only that, but there wasn't really anything on the bench that would provide oomph. If we had another Michy type, or maybe even Sako, then yes, but we didn't, and at this point everyone was performing fine. Their goal was a sucker punch, coming off the back of an error. The ball was played long to Deolefeu and for some reason, pretty much all our defenders went towards him. This meant when he got the ball, with one pass, he eliminated almost everyone. Gray got goal side of his man, which again was poor defending, and that was us done. Crazy thing is, even then we should have equalised. With the last kick of the game, AWB had the perfect chance to force extra time, but put it wide. This summed up our season, errors at the back, missed chances up top.
After the game, social media was just as poisonous as last
week, perhaps even more so. For me, the resistance I had found to falling apart
after the Brighton game, had well and truly gone. The coach journey back was a
tough one, spent with great frustration and anguish. This defeat had broken me,
and now I was feeling not only the grief of this loss, but also the anger of
the loss to Brighton that I had managed to keep at bay for the past week.
Normally, the International Break can be quite frustrating, but on this
occasion, I find myself so thankful for it, because right now, I am just done
with this season. This past week has just killed it. Losing to our bitter
rivals, while everyone below us won, and then getting knocked out of the cup,
while the likes of Watford and Brighton get to go to Wembley, has just enhanced
what has been a season I want to forget. There has been so much negative drama,
so much anger, so much infighting, so much abuse and backlash, I am honestly
sick of it. In too many ways, we have let ourselves down in the board room, on
the pitch, in the dugout, in the stands and online. We need to press the
refresh button, to roll our sleeves up and start again. What is really
frustrating, is that we can't even do that, because we are not safe yet. With 8
games to go, we are only 5 points above the drop zone, and with our struggles
at home, even though 6 points should bring safety, that is no guarantee.
So where do we go from here? What happens now? Well, firstly, the players need to put the shambles of this week behind them, dust themselves off and get the job finished in regards to survival. In fact, not to just survive, but finish as strongly and as high as possible. Then will come the summer, and if survival is achieved, big changes need to happen. Now, I can't believe I am saying these words, but Roy needs to retire. Before people rejoice at me saying this, it isn't because I want him gone, but because I think that for too many, it has gone beyond breaking point. There have been those after Roy's execution all season long, and that disgruntlement has only grown as the months have passed. This last week has only served to heighten their distaste, and fuel others. I am fed up of seeing it, fed up of having to battle haters every week because I see that the blame does not lie solely with Roy. I also feel the man deserves more respect than some of the abuse I keep on seeing being aimed his way. There is supposed to be money in the bank for the summer, and his efforts with us when we have had none, have earned him the chance to enjoy some decent spending at last. However, too many people are done with him now, and won't accept anything he does. All season long, when we perform well and get a good result, the praise is on the players, yet when we lose, it's all Roy's fault. That makes no sense to me, but it serves agendas, so that's how it goes. There comes a time when it reaches a point with a manager, where there is just no coming back, and sadly I feel that point has been reached with Roy. If we are going to start fresh this summer, then I feel it will need to be with a new man at the helm. Sean Dyche would be my choice, but that is a detailed article for another day.
The squad needs an overhaul too. I keep seeing people say
that this is the best squad we have ever had, and that Roy is underachieving
with it. I actually disagree with that, from a certain angle. Yes, compared to
the squad's of the previous five seasons, it is a better squad, but to be
honest, that isn't hard given the lack of quality in depth of those squads.
However, in reality, we have some quality players, but the squad still has big
issues. We have three left backs, but all three are questionable defensively.
We do not have a central midfielder with the creative flare and brain to unlock
a tight defence. Wilf was out yesterday, and we have no winger to replace him. Then
we have upfront. In Michy, we have the striker we have been craving for so
long. Works hard, chases down and harasses defenders, puts them under pressure and
knows how to finish. However, the man does not jump. He wins almost no aerial
battles, so when you need to play long, he loses the ball. In Benteke we have
the shell of the player in our first season, let alone the player we saw at
Villa. No goals, no confidence with his feet. He can win headers, but every
time we bring him on, no one crosses the ball to him in the box. Ayew, well, he
isn't a striker. He works hard, puts in a shift, but doesn't feel like a goal
threat, and can't really beat a man like Wilf or Andros. As for Connor, sadly I
think injuries have done for him, and can see him ending up leaving and in
early retirement. Jimmy has been found out this season, and his performances
have dropped. Our set pieces are terrible, and we just don't seem to know how
to challenge in the opposition box. We have all these issues, yet Roy gets
blamed for everything. Sure, some of it I get, such as positional play, but a
lot of it is simply not having the tools.
People keep saying we should be doing more, but honestly, I think it's getting a bit carried away. From what I have heard, Roy has been told to stay up this year, get us to the new FFP reset still in the league, then we can squad build with money. As it stands, Roy is achieving just that. I think Roy is more than aware of our frailties, I think it is why he can be so negative. I think Parish is too, and so I don't think the thought of sacking Roy has even come into his mind. I also think that most of us fans realise it. In fact, I know we do, because before deadline day a few months ago, we were about to riot regarding our squad until Michy joined. Just this season alone, many of our players have been heavily criticised by fans, including Wilf just a few months ago. The problem is, everything is now an agenda. Players are the issue, until you want to rant about Roy, then those same players suddenly become great to suit the argument. Just look at yesterday. All those saying that at 1-1, Roy should have made a sub. Well, what sub? Benteke has been the brunt of abuse from many fans for over a year, and is seen by a lot of people as not good enough, or useless. Ayew has been slated by almost all corners, and everyone wants him to go back to Swansea. So why are these two players, not rated week after week, suddenly the answer yesterday? The reason, because it suited the moan about Roy. As for Wickham, he didn't even look fit in the warm up, I don't think he was ever going to play.
Our home form has been poor for years. This year
it has sucked again. It is hard enough going and watch us lose, it makes it
even harder to then have to go through the meltdowns and abusive rants on
social media. These past eight days have just pushed that over the edge. Two
big losses have been a damn kick in the balls, with our season almost dead in
the water, yet relegation still a possibility. The constant negativity that has
surrounded them from our fans, all season long, but turned up tenfold this
week, has simply finished me off. On top of that, season ticket prices have
gone up again, when in reality, our performances at home just don't justify it!
In two weeks time, I will be at Selhurst desperate for us to beat Huddersfield.
Right now though, I am so damn glad we have no game for two weeks, just to have