Spending other people’s money is always fun, especially when you don’t have much of your own; but thankfully for most Palace fans the closest I come to being involved in spending the club’s money is on Football Manager.
Anyway, as January came to a close, so did the transfer window; and Palace made some shrewd acquisitions on deadline day. Cut it a bit fine, mind you.
When I read in the press that we were being linked with Jonathan Walters and were talking about a £5m asking price only days after the new season ticket prices had been increased; I found myself at odds with Palace’s hierarchy of Tony Pulis, Steve Parish, Iain Moody and Tim Coe.
No disrespect to Walters, who is a solid Premier League professional who can do a job in certain teams with certain styles, but I wasn’t keen on seeing an outlay equal to that which was paid for Shefki Kuqi (although another swan dive celebration would be a laugh) on an ageing forward whose record was far from exemplary.
Those who regularly read my ramblings and musings either in my column or on the BBS will note that I rate Sullay KaiKai highly.
You see, the trouble with signing someone like Walters is that it prioritises short term gain over longer term planning and represents a swift change in transfer policy to one which prioritises staying in the Premier League over anything else. This discussion is now a hypothetical one as Palace reportedly refused to double their bid for the Stoke man.
Nonetheless, there are important questions posed about the direction of the club in the immediate future.
Where is the club heading? What sort of players is it looking to bring in?
The signing of Tom Ince is one which many fans have lauded, a young, exciting English winger who can score goals.
What’s not to like? Well, the rumoured £1m loan fee might be considered hefty for 3 months work but even then, Ince is the sort of player who is looking to prove himself in the league he considers the best in the world, has the ability to change games and could potentially be available to sign on a permanent contract in the summer for a relatively small fee.
It’s a superb signing and could well be one to retain Palace’s Premier League status.
Young, hungry, talented. Those words ring true of some of Palace’s youth players; particularly of late Sullay KaiKai. Not one youth player has debuted under Tony Pulis and it is clear that the club is looking to move away from their long term plan of promoting youth players and developing their own talent. Looking to move away from the most sustainable form of running a football club in order to run a sustainable football club.
That sentence might appear to be contradictory; but the club is looking at short term fixes to give it the greatest opportunity to stay up and increase its income dramatically in order to redevelop the stadium and allow for increased revenue. The cost of that is that the chances of finding another Moses, Zaha or Clyne decrease because players are not being given the opportunity to develop their game.
The compromise to this would appear to be loaning players out to gain valuable first team experience. Gary Issott confirmed on Monday night that there have been enquiries for some of the under-21 players, after the Eagles’ U21 side fell to a narrow defeat at Brighton.
It’s a difficult balancing act, but until players are given the opportunity to develop their skills in the first team at their club, they will not progress suitably to enhance their talent and nurture that raw ability.
On the other hand, the club may benefit more from the signing of more experienced, more developed players and should they retain the Premier League status then the club can progress further off the field and reap the rewards on the field. However, there comes a point where a player must be given a chance to shine.
Looking back at the signings of Wayne Hennessey, Scott Dann and Joe Ledley; Palace have arguably had their most successful transfer window in a long time. Quality over quantity was the theme. Hennessey is young for a goalkeeper and not so long ago Arsenal were taking a keen interest in the Welshman.
Providing quality competition for Palace legend Julian Speroni must surely be a positive, whereas Scott Dann provides cover as well as competition for the central defensive pairing of Gabbidon and Delaney. At 26-years-old, the signing from Blackburn has captained three sides and brings excellent leadership qualities to the side. Ledley brings with him Champions League experience in the centre of midfield and will compete with KG for a place alongside Mile Jedinak; but also has an air of authority about him.
Palace have brought in leaders and quality. Tom Ince’s signing was a masterstroke by all involved, and signals the intent that the club has to remain in the Premier League; just as it did last January to attempt to gain promotion. That gamble succeeded, this lesser gamble could, whisper it quietly, do the same.
Of all the positive aspects to those signings keeping Palace up, one of them will not be a trip to the Emirates Stadium next season. A dull, uninspiring stadium with no character summed up by the home support sat in near silence throughout the match, whilst Palace’s fans were excellent once again in their travelling support of the team.
If Palace ever redevelop a stadium or build a stadium that resembles the Emirates then I’m done with football; because football is about so much more than 22 men kicking a ball around a field. It is a community, a social event; it is about the people and the atmosphere that those people generate.
That’s what Palace brings to a person. Gary Issott summed it up well when he claimed that “there is no greater motivation in life than love, and when you play for this club you end up loving it.”
Change play for support and that is Palace in a nutshell.