In a week where football has been dominated by massive games, namely the Play-Offs and the two major European Finals, there is a small bit of news that will have gone unnoticed by most. Former Palace forward Marouane Chamakh has retired.
When I saw the news midweek, I immediately knew that I wanted to write a brief piece on it. In just our six Premier League years, there have been several players who we couldn't wait to get rid, and have no care for what they do now(Jordon Mutch and Jimmy Kebe spring to mind). Chamakh though, in my opinion, is one of those players who does deserve our time, and who many of us still care about.
The first season up in the Premier League can often bring with it that big name signing, who often carries an element of risk. Over the years, we have seen many different clubs pay good money to bring in a player with experience, and a good reputation, and then pin their survival hopes upon that player. We have also seen many of those players turn out to be expensive flops, more interested in payday than the club itself. In 1997 our big name signing was Attilio Lombardo. He came with a huge reputation, and he most certainly delivered. Injuries robbed us of more of his game time, but when he played, he was pure quality and an absolute joy to watch. In 2013, we again went for a big name signing, hoping it would once again be a wise choice. That summer, Dwight Gayle was our big money signing, however, Marouane Chamakh from Arsenal was our big name signing.
When the deal was first announced, I must admit,
I was a little concerned, yet excited. I remembered his first season at
Arsenal, when he was on fire in front of goal, and it certainly encouraged
positive thoughts. Plus, making a signing from a big club like Arsenal is always
a buzz. However, I was also aware that the Chamakh we were signing, was the one
that then barely scored, and hardly played for Arsenal, and had been a flop on
loan at West Ham. Fans from both clubs had little to no positive comments about
him, and that certainly set off alarm bells. Going by the negative comments, I
expected a player who would never jump, through fear of spoiling his perfect
hair, and would be a complete pushover, both on the ball and if he ever
bothered to try and tackle. Oh boy was I wrong!
From his first game until his last in the red and blue of Palace, Marouane was a complete professional who gave his absolute all. Week after week, month after month, he took all those negative comments and shoved them where the sun doesn't shine on all those fans who disrespected him. What Marouane needed, was to be loved, to be wanted. He joined Arsenal and started because of an injury to Van Persie. He was needed, and he delivered. Yet despite his goal scoring run, the moment RVP was back, Marouane was dropped. He was quickly told his place in the pecking order, and was left to flounder. When he moved to West Ham, there was an expectation for instant delivery with no understanding, and it quickly turned sour. At Selhurst however, it was very different. We were riding the crest of an unexpected wave. We were just happy to be in the Premier League, and all we wanted was a team that cared about playing for the shirt. In Marouane, we found a player that fit the bill, and in us, he found a home.
Marouane was a sheer joy to watch, for many reasons. He jumped for every header, with maximum effort, determined to win the ball. He loved a tackle, and always went in full blooded. If you got the ball off him, he would bust a gut to get it back. The fact that he picked up plenty of yellow cards, and was highest every season for fouls, showed just how much effort and desire he put in to try and win the ball. On the ball, his skill and control was fantastic, and at times we were truly spoiled in getting to watch him play. In front of goal, he was not prolific, but no one really cared. He chipped in with some crucial goals, but more importantly, he was a team player. A lot of these big name signings at smaller clubs, they end up being selfish, greedy and a negative factor. Marouane was the total opposite. Maybe it was a lack of confidence in front of goal, but he was never selfish, always looking to set up a team mate when he could have easily taken the shot himself. I used to joke that if it wasn't a 100% guaranteed to be a goal, he wasn't interested. This came from the fact that at one point, his shot to goal ratio was pretty much perfect, albeit a low number.
The fact is, Chamakh made us a better team. When
he was on the pitch, you knew that he was playing, in a positive way. When he
was absent, that absence was felt by us all. He was loved in the stands, with
songs of his own, and I fully believe that he felt that love.
Over three seasons, Marouane made 66 appearances for us, scoring 10 goals. He became part of the foundation that built our current record breaking stint in the top flight, and was worth every penny that may have been spent on him. During those three seasons, and even since then, whenever I have spoken to West Ham and Arsenal fans about him, I have taken great joy in defending him, and highlighting that he was a great player, he just needed a great club to match him, and we were it!
I do miss him, and in his prime, I think he would have thrived in our current line up.
So from all of us, not just here at Back Of The Nest, but
all of us Palace fans, let me wish Marouane Chamakh the very best of luck in
the next step in his life. Oh, and for those three dedicated years, we say thank