I think you have to say Crystal Palace have had a mixed season. Losing Tony Pulis, their saviour, on the eve of the opening day of the season had many wondering whether Palace could survive the second-season syndrome or drop back into the Championship. These thoughts were backed up by the appointment of Neil Warnock and the direction in which he was taking the team. Following a run of one win in 11 games, Warnock was sacked after the boxing day defeat to Southampton, leaving Palace 18th and looking to be in real trouble. In that run they were still scoring a handful of goals but defensively they were in shambles. You wouldn’t have recognised the well-oiled machine Pulis had implemented just six months previously.
Less than a week later, the Palace owners managed to convince Alan Pardew to leave the turmoil in Newcastle for a venture at Selhurst Park. Having previously played for the Eagles, it was a popular appointment amongst the fans and after the way the Newcastle fans treated him, it was no surprise that he jumped ship when he did.
Pardew immediately spent £10million and it proved to be massively worth it. Winning eight of their 14 games under the new man, Palace drove up away from the relegation zones and were eyeing up the first top half finish in the club’s history. A final day beating of Swansea secured exactly this as Palace finished comfortably in 10th place and will be looking for a similar finish after some investment this summer. If the season had started on the 1st of January, Palace would rank 6th. That highlights just how good a job Pardew has done.
Key Player – Scott Dann
A definite surprise talent in the Palace ranks this season, Scott Dann has been a rock at the back for Pardew’s side. Dann featured in 34 of Palace’s league games this campaign and was arguably their best defender.
When you compare Dann to the rest of the Palace defenders, he is by far the stand out man and led the back four magnificently. He’s not the slowest of defenders, so playing alongside Delaney or Hangeland, Dann was often used to cover if those two big men missed the headers. At 28, Dann appears to be coming into his prime and under Pardew, he could form the base of a solid defence for a few years to come at Selhurst Park.
Most Improved Player – Glenn Murray
It’s hard to ignore Yannick Bolasie from any of these awards but it was also hard to leave Glenn Murray out as the most improved player. Having started the season off on loan at Championship side Reading, Murray, age 31, seemed to have had his chances in the Premier League drawn to a close. I’m sure even the Palace fans thought it was the end of the man who was so influential in getting them into the Premier League, but how wrong would we all be proven?
Once again, with the influence of Pardew came the resurrection of Murray. Murray was thrown into Pardew’s Palace debut away at Dover and looked like a real physical presence. Seven goals and four assists from the end of February until the end of the season shows just how influential Murray was and how much he progressed in the second half of the season.
Murray’s physical presence up front provided a real contract with the pace and trickery from Zaha and Bolasie out wide. With those two on the wings and Murray in the middle, Pardew found a winning tactic. It now remains to be seen if Palace will stick with Murray or be in the market for a new striker who could progress them further, potentially into a European position.
Fans’ View – Ashley Gambrill (Editor of One Hand on the Cup)
It’s fair to say that Crystal Palace have had a season of two halves. On the negative side Neil Warnock seemed to make a relatively simple job look extremely awkward, as rather than keeping Palace stable he seemed to be taking the Eagles in the wrong direction. Simply put, too many goals were being conceded at one end and not enough were being scored at the other. This was on show on countless occasions earlier on in the season when Palace were managing to dominate games, but still get undone from a lack of quality at both ends. No doubt Steve Parish was forced into the decision of terminating Warnock’s contract.
Nevertheless the fortunes for the club representing South London seemed to change almost immediately after a certain “super Alan Pardew” rolled up from Newcastle. At the time of his arrival Palace were in the bottom three, but seemingly the London-born manager sprinkled a bit of magic on the Eagles dressing room and in turn made us look a totally different outfit.
In Pardew’s first league game at Selhurst Park against Tottenham, Palace were already showing signs of a new mental toughness, as even after Spurs’ in-form striker Harry Kane bagged an opening goal it didn’t put the team in red and blue off and they rallied back to grab a well-deserved 2-1 victory. Pardew’s effect certainly didn’t lose steam after his first result as Palace started to climb up the table immediately; it only took around ten games for Pardew to be in charge before Palace were all but safe and the Eagles pushing into the top ten on the final day only sweetened what has been a wonderful season for Crystal Palace.
Now onto the managers: Neil Warnock was brought in to create stability and in turn managed to fulfill the complete opposite and eventually lost the dressing room from November until his inevitable departure in December – 3/10
Alan Pardew, came in as a legend and finished the season as an even bigger legend. To say that this man has met his targets is an understatement, not only has he resurrected Palace from the threat of relegation, but he has also sparked a sense of optimism into the stomach of every Crystal Palace fan going into next season. Who knows what the Eagles can achieve with this man at the helm? – 10/10
All in all it’s been a very special year to be a Crystal Palace supporter.