Sunday, 12 April 2015

Peaks And Troughs, Crystal Palace Style

Although the Daily Mail is not a newspaper I admire, I found this quote from the delightful Rebecca Lowe, NBC'S football (soccer) presenter and Crystal Palace fan, amusing:

Lowe herself is a lifelong Crystal Palace fan, and had one eye on their stunning 4-1 win at Sunderland. As she told the LA Times recently, tongue in cheek, her support of Palace is not a sign that she can’t recognise good football.
'I hope that people look at me and say she actually knows football because to be a Crystal Palace fan, you have to really want to be in football,’ she said. ‘It’s not easy being a Crystal Palace fan. I could pick United or City or Chelsea or Arsenal and I probably would have had a much happier childhood.’
In typical Daily Mail style, they didn't publish the entire quote which continued in the LA Times article with:
But it wouldn't have had the color, the peaks and the troughs that I've enjoyed as a Crystal Palace fan. It just gives you a better perspective on success and failure.
Regular readers will know that Crystal Palace have been my club since 1967 when neighbour Bernard Ingham (now a Sir) took me to see them play Birmingham City, and what Rebecca Lowe says about perspective is very true. Not to get too flowery about it, but life isn't usually one long story of success (or failure) and to fully appreciate the better moments in life, you need to have experienced some disappointments.

It's the same with football. For supporters of the bigger teams, failing to win trophies is failure. For supporters of clubs like Crystal Palace, success is finishing 17th or higher. The manner in which Palace have progressed since the dark days of 2010 is nothing short of remarkable. 

Four Palace supporting co-owners rescue the club, and admittedly with a little good fortune perhaps, find the club qualifying for the play-offs in 2013. Beating rivals Brighton and Hove Albion on the way to the Premier League was a nice touch, and while it was a great day out at Wembley for the final versus Watford, promotion felt a little lucky, and the stay in the Premier League likely to be brief, as Palace's visits had always been up to that time.

Some great decisions from Steve Parish and the board on managerial changes have been crucial. When Dougie Freedman chose to head towards the wealth of Bolton Wanderers (how times change) there was no panic. Ian Holloway's appointment was perfect at the time, and when things didn't work out in the Premier League for him, he [Ian Holloway] held up his hands and walked, and deserves a lot of credit for doing so early enough in the season for a new manager to have the opportunity to turn things around.  He did.

Tony Pulis's appointment was again perfect at the time, but so was the Chairman's decision not to give in to Pulis's demands and jeopardise the club's future on the eve of this season. 

We'll overlook Neil Warnock's appointment. When a manager departs less than 48 hours before a new season, it's not easy to find the right man. Warnock was a former Palace manager, but the move didn't work out. Decisions don't always work out on life. Today we have another former Palace man - the legendary Alan 'Super Al' Pardew - taking the club from strength to strength. 
The Elite
When you have lived through the unfulfilled hopes of  being the 'Team of the Eighties', and seen the promise of the early 90s evaporate with a couple of decades of yo-yoing and relative mediocrity, it's easy to stay grounded, but it's getting harder. 

The club is being very well run, with the owners building a solid foundation and not being reckless with the riches of the Premier League and the success (relative, we've yet to win anything), is all the more delicious when considered along with the sour taste of previous disappointments.

Some of my best memories have come from following Palace. Promotion to Division One in 1969, FA Cup run to the semi-final  as a Third Division side in 1975-76, a 4:2 win at Wrexham in 1977 with two injury time goals and a third-choice keeper making his debut, promotions galore (often soon followed by relegation), crammed in to the main stand with 50,000+ other fans for the promotion game v Burnley in 1979, the Cup Semi-Final 4:3 win versus Liverpool in 1990 (25 years ago this week), winning the Zenith Data Systems Cup in 1991 at Wembley, plus play-off successes and big wins along the way. 

The disappointments fade faster from the memory, but they are still there, part of the rich tapestry of life and all part of supporting a real team like Crystal Palace.

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