It’s not often that I play football anymore, you know, things to do, people to see and all that; but the other week I was asked to join my mates’ five-a-side team and help them out.
I rocked up Whyteleafe’s ground where the pitches were and was told to stay back and defend.
Now, defending is all well and good but it’s not where the action is; the enjoyment is in the glory of scoring. I gave that up to the benefit of the team; except I did manage to find the net on one occasion. What a goal it was too. With my back to goal, I received the ball to feet, turned one way and then the other before dummying two men and firing through the ‘keeper’s legs. Not bad for a defender really.
Speaking of great goals, Dwight Gayle notched a few during the week at Tooting and Mitcham’s KNK stadium for the u21 side as they (probably) narrowly missed out on a spot in the end of season play-offs. At the time of writing, QPR and Bristol City both need a victory to leapfrog Palace in the table to second spot.
Anyway, the former Peterborough man grabbed an impressive FIVE, yes five, goals against Brentford u21s, playing as the lone striker with Glenn Murray in behind. One goal in particular stood out as he was surrounded by three defenders before somehow firing a shot into the bottom corner in an impressive display of finishing.
At the start of the season I wrote about Gayle’s story of rags to riches; his release from Arsenal to scoring goals for Stansted and then Dagenham and Redbridge before rising to relative fame at Peterborough and finally completing his fairytale journey by joining Palace in the Premier League for a rather hefty fee.
I noted that if he was given the opportunity then he would score goals and nothing I have seen since has dissuaded me from that opinion; in fact, his stunner at Aston Villa – another one on Saturday please, Dwight – and all round performance as well as five goals against Brentford u21s in midweek have only served to reinforce my belief in him.
So then, I’m calling for him to play versus Villa on Saturday am I? No, surprisingly not. I’ve been criticised of late for my comments regarding Tony Pulis and the impact he will have on the club. I have nothing to hide away from or retract; the football we played under Pulis for a period of time was turgid and I believe, wasteful. However, since deciding to take a more attacking approach against Newcastle, where Palace countered efficiently and with style, results have picked up. Victory against Chelsea was wonderfully orchestrated by a clearly talented manager; likewise victory at Cardiff and previously at home to West Brom.
Superstitious is my middle name – actually it’s clumsy but that’s by the by – yet I find myself convinced that Palace are safe from relegation. Although Pulis has been the driving force behind that, I still am to be convinced that in the long term he will seek to give opportunities to youngsters, or indeed continue with a more progressive, attacking style of football. Yes, football is about results, but constantly putting eleven men behind the ball won’t win you matches; counter attacking as we did against West Brom and Chelsea, will win you matches.
The Premier League has caused Palace to enter an identity crisis. The idea of South London and Proud with academy product’s faces plastered over South London has gradually disappeared, and Palace are being forced to move away from their identity as a community, family club ever so gradually because of the money that the Premier League and BSKYB have flashed in their faces. It’s not intentional, it’s not desirable, but it’s happening. Whether it will continue to happen is another matter; no other club has directors and four co-owners as dedicated to maintaining a positive image of a football club as Palace.
In short, it seems that Palace are a club in transition; a regeneration project that no-one seems to know the result of. I hope and believe that it will be a positive regeneration; as after all that is the entire point of regeneration, but history and identity must still be retained to some extent.
If you disagree with me, then feel free to say; but I hope my loyalty, passion and commitment to supporting Palace will not be questioned.