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 tag “Rudyard Kipling”

If You Can Dream And Not Make Dreams Your Master…

If you truly love a football club, the chances are, you’ll spend the vast majority of your time worrying about them. It’s the constant fretting over results, goal difference, injuries and upcoming fixtures that plays a vital role in ensuring you remain engrossed in the day-to-day goings of the team you follow. It’s an addiction and in many cases, it’s the ultimate example of hope over adversity, not that any of us would have it any other way.

In truth, Crystal Palace fans have done far more worrying than most over the last few years, from the mundane everyday business of avoiding relegation to nearly going out of business once or twice, the last 20 years of our history have been constantly stalked by impending mayhem. Just when we have looked as though we’re getting a level of stability on all fronts, a bombshell has been dropped. Steve Bruce leaving us high and dry for the bright lights of Birmingham, Iain Dowie taking the club to the top of a mad roller-coaster ride in 2004, only to send us back to earth with a bump when he ran off to the circus in 2006 and the disastrous conclusion of Simon Jordan’s spell in charge providing just a few examples of the incredible highs and lows we’ve encountered since Bob the Builder was topping the charts.

Even the arrival of four shrewd businessmen with the best interests of the club at heart has been tinged with elements of instability. From the notoriously weak-willed performances the team produced under George Burley to the abysmal run of form which spanned the end of last season and the beginning of this, acting as a catalyst for the first serious rumblings of discontent in the Dougie Freedman era, it’s seldom been plain sailing.

That being said, the beginning of September saw the figurative flicking of a switch in relation to our form. Sitting joint bottom of the table going into the month, with no points from three games, we took on a very confident Sheffield Wednesday side and won 2-1. This was followed by a win away at Charlton, a draw against Nottingham Forest and as of last night, three wins on the spin against Cardiff, Bolton and Wolves respectively, putting us at the very top of the form table for the last six games and up to 6th in the Championship, things really couldn’t be much better.

Whilst I can understand those supporters who are quick to preach caution in the aftermath of such rapid progress, I do also think it’s important to highlight the joy associated with allowing yourself to dream of success as and when you can. It’s what boys and girls around the world do when they first fall in love with the game, giving millions the opportunity of believing they can one day emulate their heroes, achieving all they have and more. It’s what grips this country every time we make it into the knockout stages of a World Cup or a European Championship and it’s what keeps supporters of clubs up and down the country unmercifully coming back for more.

We’ve certainly been put through the wringer in the last few years and as such, I’d say we’re more than entitled to allow our minds to wander to thoughts of greater triumphs in the weeks and months to come, if only for a little while. With the squad we now have in place, it’s clear to see that we’ve got quality in depth and the team spirit to take on anyone in the division, having beaten a number of very good teams already this term. It’s a very odd feeling but I am quite enjoying it, that’s for sure.

Which brings me back to the title of this piece, taken from the famous poem, “If” by Rudyard Kipling. Amongst its numerous fantastic musings lies this thought, which in my mind at least, perfectly sums up the way we should all look upon this fine upturn in form. There’s no shame in dreaming, as long you don’t allow them to completely engulf your every thought, it’s what being a football fan is all about, really.

Enjoy it whilst you can Palace fans, it may not stay the same for long.


Preston Beat Us, We Search For Answers…

It has only been seven days since I wrote a piece attempting to digest what had gone wrong in our 4-1 defeat at Ashton Gate, sadly, that score line has chosen to rear its ugly head once more.

Having got past Exeter in the 1st round of the Capital One Cup, we travelled to Preston with something bordering on optimism, the new signings were settling in and Dougie had spoken of his desire for us to try to emulate what we did last year in the competition, even Joniesta was given an unexpected starting role, but within 90 seconds it all began to unravel.

It started with Nicky Wroe and got worse after 18 minutes when Akpo Sodje fired home, we were given a brief glimmer of hope thanks to Aaron Wilbraham making it 2-1 on 37 minutes until Monakana restored a two goal cushion on 41 minutes and Wroe rounded off the night by scoring the home sides fourth after 63 minutes. All in all a relative horror show for our defence.

Unfortunately, we appear incapable of defending any crosses or set pieces, regardless of the standard of the opposition we are facing, a source for genuine concern on my part. Whilst I accept that Paddy McCarthy is a big part of our defensive set-up, I refuse to believe that his absence is the sole reason behind us leaking as many goals as we have so far this term. We still have, by our own reckoning, one of the best goalkeepers in the division and an international standard back-up choice, two extremely good left-backs, a centre-back we all know is good enough following his performances against us for Cardiff last season and a right-back everyone was desperate to see join in the summer, it’s not as if we’re being forced to use whoever we can find to fill in.

Instead, I have a feeling that the primary reason for our defensive weakness since the start of the campaign could well be down to coaching the players are getting. I have seen numerous people say that the link made between Tony Popovic’s departure and our defensive issues is being blown out of proportion but I for one am fully behind the theory for what I feel, are very good reasons. If you take last season, when Popovic was with the club from the first game to the last as an example, we conceded a grand total of 56 goals in 54 competitive fixtures, an average of 1.037 goals a game. So far this season, we have let 14 goals past us in just five games, an average of 2.8 per game, a striking difference I’m sure you’ll agree.

It’s not that I expect Dougie to excel in the organisation of the back four without the help of Popovic’s defensive awareness, it was no doubt one of the main reasons why he was so quick to offer Tony the role of assistant when he was first given the job full-time but it does seem that his expertise haven’t been replaced since he left for Australia in May. Moving away from our own issues, you only have to look at the difference the addition of Steve Bould to the Arsenal coaching staff this summer has made, transforming one of the Premier League’s most notoriously fragile defences into one that has comfortably kept two clean sheets in their opening league fixtures, even the best managers need help.

I fully expect another defender to come into the club in time to face Sheffield Wednesday on Saturday and hopefully we can work out whatever it is that’s going wrong in defence in time to produce a solid display in a game that already feels huge. I’m sure that the fans will give their full support to Dougie and players at the weekend, it’s only the odd isolated idiot who is suggesting we do anything other than get behind the team when they need our backing the most, but getting points on the board is also of vital importance. As is the way in football, a win, no matter how scrappy, would lift the spirits around the club hugely and take us into the televised game against Charlton with a completely different perspective, although it’s going to be a very tough ask against a Wednesday side that are unbeaten in their last 19 matches.

One thing worth remembering is that we have only played one of our five fixtures so far at Selhurst Park, a game which saw us come within three minutes of taking all the points and as I’m sure you’re all aware, we really can make a difference. I’m almost certain that every Palace fan was and still is desperate to see Dougie build something successful with us in the long-term, he bleeds Red and Blue, so much so that he cut short his playing career to help us out in our most desperate hour of need. So, for the time being, give him and the team all the support you possibly can, he’s earned that from us over the last 17 years.

IF you can keep your head when all about you
Are losing theirs and blaming it on you,
If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you,
But make allowance for their doubting too;
If you can wait and not be tired by waiting,
Or being lied about, don’t deal in lies,
Or being hated, don’t give way to hating,
And yet don’t look too good, nor talk too wise:

If you can dream – and not make dreams your master;
If you can think – and not make thoughts your aim;
If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster
And treat those two impostors just the same;
If you can bear to hear the truth you’ve spoken
Twisted by knaves to make a trap for fools,
Or watch the things you gave your life to, broken,
And stoop and build ’em up with worn-out tools:

If you can make one heap of all your winnings
And risk it on one turn of pitch-and-toss,
And lose, and start again at your beginnings
And never breathe a word about your loss;
If you can force your heart and nerve and sinew
To serve your turn long after they are gone,
And so hold on when there is nothing in you
Except the Will which says to them: ‘Hold on!’

If you can talk with crowds and keep your virtue,
‘ Or walk with Kings – nor lose the common touch,
if neither foes nor loving friends can hurt you,
If all men count with you, but none too much;
If you can fill the unforgiving minute
With sixty seconds’ worth of distance run,
Yours is the Earth and everything that’s in it,
And – which is more – you’ll be a Man, my son.

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