So, 2019 is drawing to a close.
I have to admit, the last two months, my output for Back Of The Nest has not been up to the volume standard I set for myself. I have a legitimate reason for it, that is the fact that I am a self-published author. Forgive me for the self promotion here, but having released a book two years ago, I hit the back end of book two hard in September and October, enabling me to finish it. November has seen me successfully take on NaNoWriMo(National Novel Writing Month), and I hit the 50,000 word target on Monday. To do these Amazon available pieces, it has made producing articles difficult. Hopefully though, I can get back into a better flow now.
So, where do I begin? Well, my Twitter timeline has been flooded with different people's Team Of The Decade, and Manager of the Decade, and that seems like a pretty good place to start for me! Now, the interesting thing here, is how you approach the choices. You could do it on their ability, you could do it on impact for the club. You could look at both. I have seen a lot of players selected several times, understandably, and then I have also seen a few variations. Some of my choices, won't sit with everyone, but that's the fun of it, isn't it? Football is full of varied opinions, which is why we are able to debate it so much! So, let's get started.
Oh, and for the record, in true Mike Bassett style, I'm
playing four, four f'n two!!
GOALKEEPER: JULIAN SPERONI
Was this ever in doubt? Jules owned the starting gloves for the majority of the decade. They belong to Guaita now, who himself is class, and have belonged to Hennessey, who I personally don't rate. For team of the decade though, Jules owns this spot. He has made so many high quality saves over the years to keep us up, and get us up. In the early part of the decade, there were games where it felt like he was the only one playing! When Wayne was signed, Jules could have seen it as a negative, but instead he upped his game and became even better. Even in his twilight seasons, he proved his quality when called upon. His save at 0-0 away to Brighton in the Play-Off Semi Final, just amazing. The save in the final, when he palmed the ball away from Deeney who was about to tap it in, just pure class! In the Premier League, there have been a load of top notch saves, including a great penalty save against Burnley. Jules has simply been fantastic, and for his final appearance to be a win and a clean sheet, was the perfect ending for a true legend and icon.
RIGHT BACK: JOEL WARD
This was the first choice where I could have looked at different aspects. AWB has been picked by some, and I can understand why. His quality is just unbelievable, he was fantastic for us, and if you go on pure quality and potential, he is ahead of Joel. However, for me that isn't enough. We beat a lot of teams, including the likes of Leeds, to signing Joel from Portsmouth. He was highly sought after, and his signing was a coup. He showed straight away, just why he was so highly rated, and made the right back spot his for many years. He was exactly what we needed, and has been incredibly consistent. He helped give us a solid base to build on, which is vital. Joel has been shoved into centre back, left back and midfield during his time here, and always got on with it efficiently. He got told in preseason by Frank De Boer that he wasn't wanted, and left out of all our friendlies, bar one half, yet then played out of position at Right Wing Back on opening day, and just got on with it. He has spent the last 18 months as second choice, yet was called upon to be a starter this season, and has just got on with it solidly. He has given a lot for this club, and deserves this spot.
CENTRE BACK: SCOTT DANN
Ok, so this spot was full of options. Going into this season, James Tomkins, in my opinion, was the best centre back at the club. You also have Sakho, who alongside Tomkins, formed our best pairing I have ever seen. Sakho could have been in for this, had he not been injured so much. The thing is, I have gone for impact and not just quality. Don't get me wrong. Sakho's arrival was much needed, however at the time of his arrival, so were several others. Scott joined us under Tony Pulis. At a time when our defence was ok, but a little weak in our first season back in the Prem, it needed something extra. Scott Dann joined us, for a bargain price, and changed everything. In Scott, we had a rock at the back, that enhanced those around him. Damo was quality, but Dann was the next level and they worked well together. Dann led our defence as its focal point for several seasons, and chipped in with goals too. He is one of the key reasons why survival was possible back in 2014.
CENTRE BACK: DAMIEN DELANEY
I have already covered Sakho and Tomkins above. Damo, was a warrior. After being dumped by Ipswich, he was ready to give up on the game, when we signed him on a short term deal in our promotion season. At the time he came in, our defence was a mess. We were getting turned over by everyone, and had lost our opening four games in all competitions. Delaney was exactly what we needed, a beast at the back who knew how to defend. He did for us that season, what Dann did the following. He helped turn our defence into a unit, and it was no surprise when we extended his deal. Damo is what I view as a true Palace player, because we did as much for him, as he did for us. We gave him a way back, an extension to his career that he had written off. I will never forget seeing him crying on the steps of Wembley at the Play-Off final, and when he then threw himself in front of the team for the celebration picture! As age caught up with him, Damo still gave us some great years in the Prem, and we will always rejoice about the day at Stamford Bridge where he kept Costa in his pocket. He deserves to be in this team.
LEFT BACK: PATRICK VAN AANHOLT
This one, a lot of people won't agree with me on. At first, it was a toss-up between Zeki Fryers and Florian Marange, but I had to let them go eventually!!! We had the period where the club deemed we needed no left backs, and both Kelly and Ward got to play there!! Of course, Pape Souare was an option, but injuries took him before he could truly get going, and I did question him defensively at times. Johnny Parr was a serious candidate. He was solid at the back, had some good moments going forward and even the odd cracker of a goal. The Premier League though, was a step too far for him. PVA for me, edges him out. Now, don't get me wrong, defensively, PVA's game can be very questionable. The mad thing is, these days, that is very common in full backs. They are seen as extra attacking width, more than defenders, by a lot of people. I think he is suffering from having no competition for his spot. If he knew there was another quality left back breathing down his neck, I think he would up his defensive focus. Sadly, we don't have that. Going forward though, he is quality, and one of our best finishers. He gets this, because he has had good defensive performances, and because he has scored some big, important goals for us. He has relegated three teams, and scored a winner at Old Trafford!
RIGHT MIDFIELD: DARREN AMBROSE
Ok, so he moved more centrally for us as time went on, but there is no way he can be left out of the team of the decade, given he was our star for two years of it, and this is how he gets in. Darren was just fantastic, a real shinning light in what was three rather dreary seasons(in total). Injuries hampered him, but the man was unplayable at times, and we relied on him heavily. He deserved more from his time with us, but even though we did very little, he holds the club fondly in his heart. With 37 goals in 124 games for us, he was fantastic. Plus, of course, THAT goal at Old Trafford.
CENTRAL MIDFIELD: YOHAN CABAYE
Ok, so this was a really tough call. This spot could have belonged to two other people. Jason Puncheon was one of them. He provided some amazing moments for us, without a doubt. He also had a large spell where he really shouldn't have started anymore, but continued to do so. James McArthur was the other possible. He has played above and beyond what any of us could ever have expected, and I truly can't fault him for that. For me though, Cabaye just pips it. The thing that probably shone negatively on Yohan, aside from his terrible corners, was that we thought he was going to be the number 10 that could unlock a defence, and he wasn't. We signed him in his twilight years, where he was adapting his style to match his body's ability. 10 goals in 106 appearances highlights how he didn't quite bring that offensive style with him. However, his quality was there to be seen. There were so many occasions, where his vision was exquisite, but the rest of the team just weren't on that quality wavelength. His defensive game though, was on point. He became the player who quietly went about stopping the opposition, breaking up play with tough tackles and key interceptions. The Sunderland 0-4 shambles at Selhurst highlighted his importance. We were doing fine, then he got injured and went off. Moments later we crumbled and conceded 4 quick goals. I don't care what anyone says, his departure was a huge blow, and our midfield massively lacked his presence. He made Luka better, he gave Luka the freedom to express himself. Cabaye was a luxury, and a pleasure to watch. Plus, his goal in the 3-0 against Arsenal....ooh la la!
CENTRAL MIDFIELD: MILE JEDINAK(C)
Come on now, anyone who follows my articles, will not be surprised one bit by this! A warrior, a beast, a commander, a leader, the guy just bled red and blue. I love Luka, he is the closest thing we have had to Mile, but he isn't Mile. Jedi owned our midfield. He wore his heart on his sleeve, he battled for everything, and left it all on the pitch. He was an inspiration who truly knew how to be a Captain, hence why he would be in this team. As well as being great for us, he led Australia to glory in the Asian Cup, as well as being competitive in the World Cup. he deserved to lift the FA Cup in 2016, not standing crying on Keith Millen's shoulder in front of us. He deserved better than how Alan Pardew treated him. He was just great, I love him, and he, like Jules, was simply nailed on for this team.
LEFT MIDFIELD: WILFRED ZAHA
Do I even need to explain this? Yes, he would be better on the right, but I wanted Ambrose in the team, and so Wilf is on the left. Ignore the summer, the guy is pure class and has been a true star for us. The club has given him a lot, and he has given it all back. On his day, Wilf is just mesmerising and he is an absolutely massive reason why we have been in the Premier League for seven seasons straight. He is Palace, I don't care what anyone says. His time with us is sadly running out, but what a run we have had together! Goals, assists, passion, pride, skills, he really has had it all. A true star.
STRIKER: GLENN MURRAY
Self explanatory for sure. 31 goals in our promotion season, we missed him massively in our first season in the Premier League. He would have been a dream for Tony Pulis. He came back from injury, and showed us exactly what we were missing, getting back on the goal trail and leading the line. We should have had so many more magic moments and goals from him, but Ego Pardew forced him out, and Brighton got to enjoy it instead. Just to really rub it in, he keeps scoring against us. We have had other strikers of course, like Dwight Gayle, Michy Batshuayi, Connor Wickham, Christian Benteke and Jordan Ayew, but none compare to what Murray gave us. He walks into this team.
STRIKER: MAROUANE CHAMAKH
For me, he has to be in the team. Chamakh was pure class. When we signed him, I really thought he was going to be a waste of money with a big player bad attitude, and awful performances. Arsenal and West Ham fans could not speak any more badly of him. I expected a lightweight player who was afraid to get his fancy hair messy. Chamakh was none of these things. He loved a header, loved a tackle. He caused more fouls than anyone else in the league, because he wasn't afraid to get stuck in. He didn't score loads, but he got some vital goals, and created some too. He was so unselfish, he would always look for the pass. His footwork was sublime at times, and his quality on the ball was great. Could you imagine a fit Chamakh linking up with a fit Cabaye? Mouth-watering. I would have him playing just off Glenn, in a dream pairing.
SUBS: VICENTE GUAITA, AARON WAN-BISSAKA, MAMADOU SAKHO, JAMES MCARTHUR, YANNICK BOLASIE, MICHY BATSHUAYI
That would be my bench. It was close between Yannick and Andros, but man, in his early seasons, Yannick was so exciting, and a huge part of promotion, he has to get the nod. Michy gets in too, despite being here for just five months, because in that short space of time, he showed us the striker that we have desperately needed ever since promotion.
So, finally, who manages this bunch?
MANAGER: TONY PULIS
Ok, so a controversial choice here, but the right one I think. If we look over the ten years, the most consistent manager we have had, in terms of on the pitch growth, has been Roy Hodgson. His haters will not want to see that, and likely disagree, but it is the truth. Roy inherited a mess, and has made us a solid mid table team. However, I have not picked him. Big Sam was decent when he was here, with a couple of really good results, such as Arsenal 3-0. We also had some stinkers though, like Sunderland at home, West Ham away and Man United's kids on the final day. I think we could have built something solid under Sam, but he decided to walk away, so we will never know. I have seen some champion Alan Pardew, and I do kind of get it. His first calendar year was great, and he got us to an FA Cup Final, and those were great moments. However, his ego forced Murray and Jedinak out, he dropped Puncheon for the final, and then proceeded to destroy the team. His attack and not defend tactics, coupled with the fact we ended up having no fitness, saw us plummet down the table and in a real mess, that Big Sam was only just able to scrape us out of, temporarily. Roy even inherited some of Pardew's mess. Because of those, I can't pick him. Dougie was average, then as he got good, he left for more money. That's him done for me! Pulis, has to get it. Don't get me wrong, I can't stand the bloke. An absolute piece of trash, who I don't think ever wanted to be here, and lied to steal his bonus illegally, and ran away days before the season started(not before giving his mates the heads up so they could make a few bob in the bookies). However, under Holloway, we were only heading one way, and that was back to the Championship. Pulis came in, and immediately steadied the ship. We started to graft performances, grind out results. We became tough to beat. After the January transfer window, with some decent additions, we became a threat going forward too. Pulis took a Championship team, dragged it out of the relegation zone, and did the unthinkable. He did something no other manager had managed before. He kept us in the Premier League. Never before had we been in back to back Premier League seasons, and he made it possible. Not only that, but we actually finished eleventh, and it earned him the Manager of the Year award. To me, he is a disgrace of a human being, BUT, he is our manager of the decade for what he did here.
So, there you have it. Those are my choices, what about yours?