Palace give cause for cautious optimism
Crystal Palace’s year couldn’t have started in a worse fashion, the embarassing 3-0 defeat to local rivals Millwall closely followed by George Burley’s sacking.
But new manager Dougie Freedman has made a positive start, finally giving Eagles fans reason to smile.
Fans couldn’t be blamed for fearing the worst after the dreadful performance at the New Den confirmed Burley’s departure but, since then, Palace have moved out of the relegation zone and results on the pitch have been improved.
Last week, the Eagles were also handed a huge boost off the pitch with the news that West Ham will take over the Olympic Stadium.
With Selhurst Park clearly ageing, Palace desperately need a new home to kick-start the new era under Steve Parish and Martin Long.
Tottenham Hotspur’s plan for the Olympic Stadium involved keeping Crystal Palace National Sports Centre for athletics, but Palace’s co-chairmen were clear that they would not want a running track in their new stadium.
However, with West Ham given the clear to take over the stadium, it finally means Palace return to the home where the club was originated in 1905.
Before Saturday’s 2-1 defeat at Coventry City, things had improved on the pitch too with Freedman’s men going unbeaten in four games.
The return of former captain Tony Popovic, as Dougie Freedman’s first-team coach, is also good news.
The Palace legend returns from five years at Sydney FC where he was both a player and assistant manager.
Selhurst Park has become a fortress of late, with an eight-match unbeaten run featuring seven clean sheets.
Although that run started under Burley, it is clear that Freedman has made some positive changes highlighted by the defensive partnership of Gardner and McCarthy.
Freedman has also taken a risk in dropping Owen Garvan, a virtual ever-present under Burley. The performances of David Wright in the holding role, with Alex Marrow just in front, have worked out well of late.
A clear problem that needed to be addressed was Palace’s poor away form. The Ricoh Arena reverse means they have just one win and two draws from 15 outings.
The previous week’s 1-1 draw at Watford was a hard-fought result, but it is too early to determine whether Palace’s away form will improve under Freedman.
The fact Burley was sacked so early in the transfer window and Freedman was confirmed as new manager on January 11 gave the former Southend striker just over twoo weeks to make his mark on the transfer market. And make his mark he did.
The addition of James Vaughan on loan until the end of the season ended weeks of rumours and confirmed the club’s ambition and the Birmingham-born hitman has already scored twice since his return.
He also brought in striker Jermaine Easter from MK Dons, while Dean Moxey, brought in from Derby County on deadline day, made a pleasing debut at left-back in the 1-0 win over Middlesbrough.
Although Freedman his still looking to bring temporary players in during the loan window, he has tended to use the same tactics and a regular squad is something that Palace have always lacked.
With the news that Palace may be closer than expected to relocating and performances on the pitch improving, Palace fans have finally been given something to cheer.
But optimism at times has been misplaced this season and Palace need to keep their feet firmly on the floor if they are avoid a repeat of last season’s nailbiting finale.
In this section
- Palace sitting comfortably
- Eagles still in period of transition
- Palace blog: Positivity the key for Eagles
- Dougie can prevent a repeat of last year's nervous finish
- Clyne shows what might have been for Bostock
- Freedman should follow Warnock's lead in dealing with Zaha
- A Spurs Olympic win would be a disaster for Crystal Palace
- Stadium move will benefit Palace
- Is Freedman the right man for Palace?
- Time for Palace to turn over a new leaf