Two years after being saved from liquidation, Crystal Palace are slowly progressing under former Forest forward Dougie Freedman. James Daly from the Five Year Plan Fanzine tells us what to expect from the home side.
What are expectations for the season — pushing up the league or content with survival?
Survival first and foremost. Despite a brilliant start last year that led to Palace being third in October our form after Christmas was dire and that of relegation candidates. And our first five games of this campaign were even worse. We are still a work in progress and the Championship is such a crazy league that you should never assume anything, especially survival. But I’m confident we will stay up and finish around 15th, which would still signal progress (albeit slow) under Freedman.
Is Dougie Freedman still the ‘saviour’?
In my eyes yes. He’s saved the club twice almost single handed – once as a player in 2001 when he scored lots of goals towards the end of the season, including the decisive strike at Stockport that kept us in this division, and as a manager in 2011 when he took over from the hapless George Burley and steered us to safety. He was also Paul Hart’s assistant when we somehow stayed up in 2012 despite having a 10-point deduction for being broke as hell. He loves the club as much as we do and wants to succeed. Plus his wife and kids wear my ‘I Belong To Dougie’ t-shirts that I made so for that reason alone he is my hero.
Have there been many changes since last season?
Quite a few: star right-back Nathaniel Clyne has gone, as have Darren Ambrose and Sean Scannell as well as Anthony Gardner who refused a new deal and went to Sheffield Wednesday. We miss him the most. As do we miss Tony Popovic who was assistant manager and defensive coach, who left to take over at West Sydney Wanderers. Our back four have been a mess since, and we’ve shipped goals left, right and centre. There have been plenty of new faces too, and some have taken longer to settle than others, but Darcy Blake and Brazilian playmaker Andre Moritz look like they will be great additions.
What can we expect tactically?
The 2-1 win over Sheffield Wednesday was the first time Freedman had set up an attacking formation since he became manager, and even then it was more of a 4-5-1 with Glenn Murray up top on his own. I expect he will do something similar, with Yannick Bolasie and Wilf Zaha on the wings and Andre Moritz playing in front of the defensive midfielders. Freedman is not that adventurous tactically and seems to get very nervous when it looks like a point of three is in the offing, setting up his team to protect what they have rather than going for the kill. Against a good side like Forest that will almost certainly be how he’ll approach it. Having said that, the win against Wednesday showed that maybe he is learning from past mistakes (bringing on defensive midfielder David Wright with 15 minutes to go against Watford at 2-1 up only to see Palace invite pressure and lose 3-2). Against Wednesday we went for it and won with a late goal.
Who are the key players to watch out for?
The aforementioned Moritz looks like he could be a game changer and, on his day, Glenn Murray is very difficult to play against but he seems to lack confidence on occasions. That’s what you get for playing for Brighton I guess. Mile Jedinak in the middle of midfield wins a lot of headers and was our best player last season, but can’t pass a ball five yards.
What’s going to happen on Tuesday?
Palace will go one up early on, fail to score a second and come out in the second-half looking nervous. Forest will capitalise and equalise and Palace will suddenly sense they should in fact go for a win, roared on by the home crowd, but will run out of time to get a winner and it will finish 1-1.
Image: ChristalPalace (CC-BY-SA-2.0), via Wikimedia Commons