Friday, 1 February 2013

The Copper's Helmet

Ahead of the local derby with Charlton we have recruited a fan who has crossed enemy lines to give us his excellent views and recollections ...

The Copper's Helmet
You may think I would open a blog on a Palace website with some kind of derisory insult. After all, fans of our respective clubs do not always share the same views.

However, personally I always feel there is a great deal of similarity between our clubs than either of us share with say, Brighton or Millwall. Amongst other things, over the past few years we have each experienced the tapping up of our best players, namely Scott Parker (okay, this was 2004) and Wilf Zaha. I see big similarities with how each team has coped with these transfers. Now, whilst I think the transfer of Zaha is financially a good piece of business for Palace, there is no doubt the furore surrounding his transfer has impacted Palace’s performances on the field of play.

I’m a firm believer that once a player has set his sights on a transfer it causes a distraction in both his mind and that of his fellow team-mates. Even before the deal to Manchester United was announced, the national newspapers seemed to almost daily be fuelling Zaha’s forthcoming move. At almost exactly this time, Palace’s form began to slip. Now, some will say that Palace have overachieved so far this season. But I disagree. I think there are five or six very good players in the current Palace side and I do not think the current run of form is down to them not being good enough. No, my view is that the transfer has done some damage to the focus of the team.

Scott Parker signed for Chelsea
In our case, when Scott Parker was transferred to Chelsea we did not get the option to re-loan him back. In the few weeks after his head had been turned and before the transfer was finalised, our form dipped. Effectively the transfer, whilst financially good, meant that we did not qualify for Europe. From sitting in fourth place and playing very well, within three weeks we began slipping away…..the momentum had gone and we ended up in seventh. And I think this is what has happened with Palace.

And whilst loaning Zaha back remains, on the face of it, good business, the questions will remain until the end of the season. Will he still have the same desire as before? Will he bottle out of the 50-50 challenges he previously did not shirk from? When about to be clattered by a huge defender (or our 5ft 3 inch Chris Solly) will he be able to zip past the challenge as he would have done in October?

Wilf Zaha on England duty
My thoughts are that, regardless of how long he has played for Palace and whether they are “in his blood”, he may not quite be able to reproduce the pre-transfer form that flung him into the England squad. Once your mind has been turned elsewhere it is very tricky to re-focus again.

On a slightly lighter note, whenever we play Palace at Selhurst my mind goes back to a moment of great comedy from a league cup match between our sides in the early 90s. Palace, at that time with Chris Armstrong providing a potent attack, were awarded and scored from a debatable indirect free-kick. Anyway, a bit of trouble flared up between our lot in the old E3 terrace and the Palace fans in E2. During this relatively brief episode the Police came down to separate the two set of fans. However, one Charlton fan decided in his wisdom to pinch one of the Copper’s helmets. What then followed would have not looked out of place in a Benny Hill sketch. The Policeman chased the now helmet-wearing fan down to the bottom of the terrace, along the front, back up to the top and then eventually back to where they started from. The funniest thing about this whole episode was the sight of the Policeman’s fellow colleagues, all standing around laughing and not helping their now tired and understandably upset friend.

For us Charlton fans, those days were about all we had to enjoy during such matches. You usually beat us back then, until roles were reversed in the Millennium.

So, good luck on Saturday, though I hope Zaha’s mind is at Old Trafford, that Chris Solly provides a last ditch saving tackle, and that of course the game provides some entertainment……preferably not involving a Policeman and his helmet, of course!”

Author: Simon Holmes (ex-child actor and long suffering Charlton fan)

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