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Hopkin Looking To Curl One…

A regular blog dedicated to Crystal Palace Football Club through the eyes of a fanatical supporter, contemplating everything from results to the colour of Stuart O'Keefe's boot laces…

Archive for the month “March, 2012”

Captain Fantastic

No one would argue that Paddy McCarthy is a naturally positive character. He has been with the club through good times and bad, thrown himself into countless last ditch tackles, blocked hundreds of shots on goal and sadly, scored a disturbing number of own goals in his attempts to rescue us from various moments of oblivion, all the while, giving off the impression that he is a true leader of men.

It is with this in mind, that his comments in today’s Croydon Advertiser have made an impression on me. Whilst most fans have now given up any hope of the play-offs and instead, turned their thoughts to potential ins and outs over the summer, Paddy has taken it upon himself to let everyone know that, the squad are hopeful of sneaking in, no matter how unlikely it is:

“It’s a fantastic dressing room to be in at the moment and everybody at the club shares the same ambition – to take the club forward. The gym is always busy and the lads have to be told to leave the training pitch – it’s a great place to be. I know we lost to Derby, but we showed a real fighting spirit after going 3-0 down.

I have played in a lot of matches and to go 3-0 down at a place like Derby, it would have easy to throw in the towel. We have a fantastic spirit, which nearly got us something from the game. We have defended fantastically well as a team this season, but we made three mistakes and they scored three goals. I am sure it is a little blip and we will be working hard on the training ground to make sure we don’t make the same mistakes.

I am immensely proud to lead out the group of lads we have got at the club at the moment week in week out. I look around and see a group of players that want to improve constantly – we want to get in the play-off spots and challenge for promotion. I think if you had said at the start of the season that we would have an outside chance of getting in the play-offs then we would have taken that.

He (Freedman) is a young manager with fantastic ideas, backed up by his management team and coaching staff. He is the ultimate professional and that rubs off on the players and coaches. The club is in a good place at the moment, but what we want is to reach the promotion places and we won’t rest until we do that. That is everybody’s aim at the club.”

It’s no secret that Paddy can, at times be a little bit of a liability on the pitch, but as a captain there isn’t much more you could want out of him attitude wise. It’s clear to see that he feels a very real and deep affection for the club and as easy as it would be to put these words down to cliché, it does feel as though genuine success could well be just around the corner for this squad.

What is almost always present in any side that manages to claw their way out of the Championship is a genuine mixture of skill and grit. No team in my memory has stormed the league using just tricks and flicks, just as none have used blood and thunder as the sole aspect of a successful promotion push. With our team having the likes of Zaha, Williams and Scannell providing the flair and attacking drive, there is evidently a need for players in the mould of Paddy and Mile Jedinak to do the dirty work, allowing the aforementioned trio to operate in their natural roles.

For me, there is no doubt that he has improved dramatically in recent months thanks to his regular partnership with the ever reliable Anthony Gardner, both of whom offer the defence something completely different. Paddy’s full-on approach to defending used to occasionally get out of hand when left to run wild, but Gardner’s regular inclusion in the side has had a calming effect to say the least, minimising the mistakes that randomly occur and bringing out a measured side to the Irishman’s game which has been a pleasant surprise to all supporters.

If we are able to re-sign Gardner for next season, I see no reason why the two of them can’t continue to provide the solid backbone to the side which has been such a recognisable part of our play this season. Let’s just hope the flair players continue to do their bit as well.

Anthony Gardner's run in the side had brought out a more playful side to Paddy's character...

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Suffering A Severe Case Of Endofseasonitis

March isn’t usually a month that brings relaxation to Palace fans. In recent years it has been at this stage of the season that games have started to take on huge amounts of importance, with every defeat met by frantic debate as to whether or not we will have enough in the locker to retain our status as a Championship club for another term, it all gets rather stressful.

As it happens, this time around, endless staring at the league table searching for some sign of salvation isn’t required; we are, thanks to our fantastic early season run and numerous games unbeaten throughout the season, safe as houses, but rather than enjoying it for what it is, it appears a number of the natives are restless.

There have been multiple gripes and grumbles made audible in recent weeks, chief amongst them being the defensive tactics regularly implemented by Freedman. In the minds of many, the team under Dougie is too prone to grinding out results, too focussed on staying in games rather than going for broke and as a result, some have even been heard to say that they are intentionally staying away because they don’t feel motivated to go.

Whilst I can sympathise somewhat with those having minor issues over the cosmetic style of our general play, I would also argue that the people saying such things have perhaps been attracted to the club during recent seasons because of the thrills and spills brought about by financial and managerial uncertainty rather than the way the team has been playing.

The bonding together of supporters and players during any period of adversity is plain to see, and in the last couple of years, we’ve had more than our fair share of troubles. At times like that, the way the team play takes a back seat to results. No one really moans about the lack of invention in the middle of the pitch because, as long as you get the points that are needed, it doesn’t matter to anyone.

With our club now able to feasibly talk about financial woes in the past tense, the natural thought process of the majority is to expect to see progress stepped up a gear or two every few weeks, something which is incredibly difficult to keep on producing.

I don’t think anyone is in doubt that where we were at the start of the season is vastly different to where we find ourselves now, I won’t bore you by quoting statistics one after another, but anyone can see that the results and consistency have improved markedly in the last 12 months.

That being said, we have arguably become victims of our new found confidence. It’s not necessarily a bad thing, but there have been enough extreme high points in this season to suggest that we should be able to produce them on a more regular basis than we are right now.

When you’ve inflicted the first league defeat on your arch rivals in their new stadium, beaten United at Old Trafford in extra-time and reached the semi-finals of a domestic cup competition in the space of four months, there will inevitably be an expectation from supporters that the same team should be able to dispatch with a relegation threatened Doncaster side at home, sadly football is never that simple.

With Saturday’s defeat to Derby, most supporters gave up their hope of us sneaking into a play-off place, and with the team sitting very comfortably in mid-table the visit of Dean Saunders boys took on the look of an early summer kick-about in the sun, something we have not been accustomed to for many a year.

Consequently, the visceral atmosphere so often present inside Selhurst Park in recent seasons was replaced by one of general calm for many. Yes, the Holmesdale Fanatics made themselves heard throughout, but in the main, the majority of the crowd arrived hoping to be entertained to some degree.

Unfortunately, the chances of the team taking the game to Doncaster were dealt a significant blow when Paul McShane sustained an injury early on, only for his replacement, Anthony Gardner to suffer the same fate shortly after, leaving Freedman and the coaches to reorganise the defence with Clyne at left back, Paddy and Moxey in the centre and Stuart O’Keefe at right back, hardly ideal.

The standard of play wasn’t great, but midway through the 2nd half a bit of trickery from Wilf saw him nip in front of two defenders and cross into the six-yard-box where a grateful Jermaine Easter was on hand to prod the ball home.

Sadly, the lead wasn’t to last and through a touch of defensive slackness, Donny were able to get themselves back on level terms. It was a bit of a bubble burster, there’s no doubt about that, but there has been a real tendency in recent weeks to analyse everything instantly rather than giving it time to fully sink in.

In the summer the chances of us being in with a chance of a play-off place with 10 games to go would have been welcomed wholeheartedly, now the talk of teams “we really should be beating” has returned, as I said it’s no bad thing, but, for the time being at least, it’s not worth getting too worked up over when things don’t go exactly to plan.

Endofseasonitis is going to affect us for the next few weeks, there’s no getting around that, but as one particularly perceptive tweeter mentioned to me earlier today, it’s infinitely better than suffering from Checkresultsandbrickit Syndrome. Try and enjoy the rest of the season whilst you can, we’ll be boarding the rollercoaster again by August.

"Smile Wilf, we've got nothing to worry about for months..."

 

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