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Palace: opposition opinion
by Tony Dudley, of The Crystal Palace Web Pages

How will Palace do next season?
For the first time in several years no-one really knows. The Palace camp is full of optimists and pessimists like any other group of supporters, although all honestly believe that something seriously ironic will happen during the course of the season - because it always does.

Almost everyone predicted that Palace would struggle last season, and they were right. The odd one or two had hopes of the play-offs just after New Year, but that was probably because the Eagles beat a couple of poor teams and got to fourteenth place for five minutes. Luckily the light in the tunnel proved to be nothing and faded back to reality when results began to reflect performances. I say luckily because getting to the play-offs and even gaining promotion in Palace's financial condition would have made things even worse.

That said, team spirit in the face of the survival crisis was always going to be a positive factor on the field and on the terraces. Plus the fact that there were always three teams worse than us in the division anyway. The supporters were brilliant though. How many struggling First Division sides would get nearly 20,000 fans in for a home match with Port Vale or Stockport at the bottom end of the table and the wrong end of the season?

Two main questions have to be answered before any realistic appraisal of Palace's chances of success this season. The squad is still boys and a few men, and can't have improved as much as is required to keep up with the other teams in the division. If that is true, then how can they equal the last two seasons when the need to survive was paramount? In effect there won't be such a strong motivation for many of the players despite their loyalty and desire to succeed.

How to strengthen the squad is the other question. The first two signings have been young midfield players, joining what will be a young midfield if Foster can't get back in to the country and Fullarton spends another season injured. (Simon Rodger is of course forever young). First thoughts then are that Coppell intends to build on his ex-youth team and isn't expecting miracles this season. Plus, he may not have the money to pay the wages of experienced players other than those he currently has. A more detailed analysis of Palace's chances needs more room than we have here, but my guess is on the pessimistic side - a season of struggle - succesfully - with either Mullins or Morrison - and even one of the new signings - possibly Black, all being sold before transfer deadline day. At least I won't be disappointed if I'm right.

Mid-table for certain, play-offs if the youngsters spark.

What do you/Palace think of Watford?
Most Palace fans don't actually like other 'London' clubs, the only exception being Fulham (this is a matter of record). However, most are also bright enough to realise that there has been a lot of similar history over the last fifteen years under Graham Taylor, who no-one can deny is a top manager. Probably the only reason I could find to dislike Watford would be that you sold us Kevin Miller. Not the worst keeper Palace have ever had but not in the tradition of loyal and highly-rated keepers Palace have had over the last fifty years. My first Palace-Watford match was a 0-0 draw in the FA Cup at the end of 1960 - in the pouring rain. I remember being impressed with Watford's strip (very flashy for 1960, compared to a claret and blue hoop!), and disappointed that Palace failed to win after dominating the game. (Watford won the replay 1-0). I always remember Vicarage Road being a bit bleak and windswept, not even a crowd to keep warm in. I think the worst thing Palace fans would say about Watford is that they don't wish them any harm.

What is the most beautiful thing about Palace?
The most beautiful thing about Palace is its fans. Fickle like any other club's fans can be, of course, but my feeling is that a higher proportion of Palace supporters truly love their club than any other club can boast. Last season in dire straits, they had over 8,000 season tickets sold on an average home gate of 14,000. That is one of the largest proportions outside the 'big clubs', who really can't gauge these things. I don't need to tell you that the big or successful clubs don't really know how many genuine fans they have, because of the attraction to clubs that are either winning or glamorous. You only find out who your friends are when you're in trouble - and Palace just did.

What is the ugliest thing about Palace?
The ugly thing about Palace is the indifference of the local council and even local business environment to the vast potential of the club. Palace supporters have being saying this since the 1950's of course, but it's true. Most other fans would suggest Selhurst Park is the ugliest thing!

Which pundit do Palace fans hate the most and please think of something creative to do to him/her?
You've got to know that David Mellor is probably the most disliked (hated isn't really the right word, but it's the closes thing to it), person or pundit to have spoken about Palace. Any other team's supporter saying rotten things about Palace we could understand; but Mellor stuck the knife into the club's SUPPORTERS just when they were trying to save the club and he continues to do so. Even worse he purports to support Chelsea, who had their share of financial difficulties in the past. Given that Palace fans have supported other hard-up and crisis clubs' fans - even (spit) Brighton - the spectre of Mellor lording it over others is puke-producing.

His punishment should be realistic. Make him Lord Mayor of Barrow-on-Furness. Nothing against the place, but it's far enough away from London to be anonymous and their football club has the kind of financial problems that would make him realise that you can't live off the fat of the land everywher in Britain and moralise to everyone else if you don't actually care about anything. There's no multi-millionaire waiting in the wings to buy Barrow FC.

Can you recommend a friendly pub near Selhurst Park?
I can't actually say that any pubs around Selhurst Park are unfriendly. Obviously the closer you get to the ground the less room there will be for visiting fans anyway, but it really isn't an issue. I think the Selhurst environment compares well with Tranmere - generally accepted as the friendliest ground in the first division. However, The Goat House, on SunnyBank, at the junction of South Norwood High Street and Penge Road, is welcoming to away fans. Usually the Palace contingent are the more intellectual of Palace supporters - defined as educated beyond their beer allowance. It's only twenty minutes walk from the ground and has a reasonable car park.

Where's the best place to park near Selhurst Park?
Most visiting fans know that parking near Selhurst is a nightmare. Strangely enough if you haven't got the sort of car that takes a criminal's fancy and you arrive early enough, there is plenty of on-street parking in the streets off the bottom of Holmesdale Road, near Selhurst Station.

What's the nearest railway station to Selhurst and how far is it ?
There are three stations near the ground - see the web pages. All are about the same distance. However, Norwood Junction is the biggest and there are shops, pubs, food etc on South Norwood High Street. It's only ten to fifteen minutes walk from the ground.