The Swans come back from the Mestalla dreamworld pretty quickly with a trip to Selhurst Park on Sunday! Here, Sam Hesketh from the Flying High website gives his view on Palace in General and Sunday’s game
Firstly, can you introduce yourself and your website, how long have you been a Palace fan?
I’m Sam, co-editor of the Palace fanzine Flying High, which is both in print and online at www.flyinghighmag.com. I’ve been a Palace fan since I was a kid and have been going for the past 24 years, which may explain my constant negativity!
Tell us more about what to expect from Crystal Palace, what type of football are you playing at the moment?
Even though the season is still young we’ve seen two parts to our game this year – against Spurs and Man United, we’ve shown we’re capable of keeping it tight but we have problems with creating chances if we’re playing that way. Against Stoke and Sunderland we’ve looked very good at pushing forward, we have some pace back in the team with Puncheon and Gayle playing (and the likes of Kebe to come off the bench) so look for us to hit it to them and try to catch you on the break.
Our defence on the whole has been decent, but we’ve made a few mistakes that have been punished – twice against Stoke and one for the “penalty” up at Old Trafford.
Which player has impressed fans most this season?
Two stand-out candidates early on are Joel Ward, our right-back and Mile Jedinak, our captain. Ward is injured at the moment unfortunately, but he’s been a revelation since signing from Portsmouth last season – he never dives into a tackle, very rarely gets beaten for pace and is just as confident going forward.
Jedinak is the player that most moves start from with his ability to break up opposition play. He was our Player of the Season last year and has carried that form into this season, not looking over-awed by coming up against bigger and better players. His passing was poor at Old Trafford last week but we can forgive him that.
A quick mention must also go to Marouane Chamakh. When we signed him, Arsenal fans all said he was crap, but now he’s our number one striker, he looks confident, has a great touch and I think he’ll be an important player for us this year.
Which player has failed to live up to expectations?
This is a tough one because no regular has played horribly this season. I suppose the answer would have to be Stephen Dobbie, even though he only played against Spurs. He was looking good in pre-season and I had hopes that he’d provide some valuable goals this year, but he was dreadful against Tottenham on the first weekend of the season and has subsequently missed out on the 25-man squad. I suppose this is why he tends to do well in the Championship but then not make it when his team is playing in the top flight.
What’s the general fan view on Ian Holloway? Hit or miss?
I think if you’d asked this question when we were going through our (very) lean spell just before the end of last season, it would be 50/50. But the way he got us through the play-offs into the Premier League and the way we’ve played this season despite the defeats, I would say almost everyone is backing him.
It’s not easy to come up with a smallish squad and have to keep the team spirit going whilst bringing in a lot of new players but he’s doing it so far. A lot of people outside of Palace see him as a joker but he’s a good manager who wants to show his ability this season and he’ll have the backing of the Palace fans throughout.
Which ex Palace player would you love to see back playing for you and why?
If that player was in his prime, then Clinton Morrison. He’s my favourite ever Palace player, he is a South London boy, came through our Academy and had a great knock of scoring goals from inside the box. But if it’s a player now then I think an almost-realistic one would be Zaha – he was sensational for us last year but it seems David Moyes just doesn’t rate him and he’s been stuck on the bench for Man United. If we had him back in the team with his skill and pace, we’d definitely cause defences problems, he really is something special.
Who are the greatest players you have seen – or wish you’d seen – in Palace colours and who should have been allowed nowhere near them?
Attilio Lombardo is sure to be most Palace fans’ answer to this. When we were linked with him in the summer of 1997, I thought it was a joke, there’s no way someone as good as him would sign for Palace. But sign he did and though he was only with us for just over a year, with a period of injury in the middle, he was absolutely head and shoulders above anyone else in the squad. His vision and touch were sublime, he was a joy to watch.
As for players who were awful, we’ve had a lot of them. Quite a few have been strikers that couldn’t score for love nor money but the player I hated whilst he was at the club was Neil Ruddock. Fat, useless and an awful influence on a squad that needed some leadership, I couldn’t stand him then and still can’t now!
Do Palace fans understand why Dougie Freedman left? I bet you’re all laughing at him now!
This question still splits opinion. I’m in the unforgiving half of Palace fans. He was a Palace legend as a player (scored a goal with three minutes to go in 2001 that kept us up) and was given his first managerial job by the board who are all Palace fans. Some of the football we played under him was truly awful but because of his status as a legend, he always had the patience and support of the club.
We’d made a decent start to last season and when Bolton’s interest was rumoured, I thought it was a load of nonsense, why on earth would he leave Palace to go there? So when he left and made comments about how staying at Palace would have been the easy option, only days after he had said he wouldn’t leave the job half-finished here, he shattered that legendary status.
Obviously we went up and he’s now only being kept off the bottom of the Championship by Millwall (which we’re all enjoying) so I’m definitely happy with how things are right now. Whatever his reasons were for leaving, and I’m assuming they were money-related, he’s no longer a hero to me, which is a sad thing to type.
What are your realistic hopes for this season?
It’s a cliché but if we were to finish one place above relegation, that would be a huge achievement. The squad we finished last year with wasn’t brilliant on paper, though we were playing some very good football and we’ve really needed to bolster the squad, which we did on a frantic transfer deadline day but we don’t have huge amounts of Premier League experience. If we stay up, it’ll be great but I just want us to give it our all and if we go down, to go down fighting.
Which Swansea player do you fear the most and why?
I’m always worried about pacy wide-men so if Nathan Dyer plays, then he’ll be the player I’d be most worried, especially if our full-back Joel Ward (who has been superb this season) is still injured. If he doesn’t play then old-boy Routledge will probably take the spot and will worry me for the same reasons. You’ve got some very good players but tricky wingers always have me on edge.
What will the score be on Sunday?
Home form is going to be vital if we have any chance of staying up this year so we’re going to have to be positive and look to get a result. Your performance in the second half against Liverpool was good and if you carry that form on, I’d be happy with a point (I never predict Palace wins, ha!).
What are your thoughts and views on Swansea as a team and a Club?
Personally I like Swansea – you’ve gone about building your club the right way year on year and the season you beat us 3-0 home and away, you were one of the best teams I’ve seen at Selhurst in a long time. Unlike that mob in Red, you don’t seem to get cocky and think you’re the kings of the world which is why you’re bound to have more opposition fans enjoying the way you conduct yourselves on and off the field.
Any good pubs for away fans to go to before the game and any to avoid?
The Wetherspoons opposite Thornton Heath station is probably your best bet. Certainly avoid the Cherry Trees at Norwood Junction and The Clifton Arms on the Holmesdale Road as they are very much home fan pubs.
Any other advice for fans travelling to the game?
Despite lots of reports to the contrary, Selhurst Park isn’t that hard to get to. It’s probably easiest for away fans to go to Thornton Heath station and then walk the 10 minutes to the ground.