Thursday, 30 May 2013

The Impossible Dream

I still have to pinch myself just to make sure that it is not all a dream. I travelled back from Wembley in quite a daze. Even witnessing the events of that bank holiday Monday afternoon, it is still so hard to comprehend. Even watching the re-runs and highlights several times. Perhaps fans of other clubs may think it is ridiculous thing to say but we all know, as Palace fans, what we have been through to get to this very point.

This fairy tale ending began as a complete nightmare. Having been through one administration already, we found ourselves in another in 2010 with an even bleaker outlook than before. It was almost three years to the day this play off final took place. Going back to a day when the club was in real danger of ceasing to exist. Withing twenty four hours to be precise. But the saviours were four unnamed businessmen who formed the CPFC2010 consortium. And how much must they be feeling right now? To make a decision that perhaps was more heart over head and mixing business with pleasure. This must be tasting oh so sweet. More so than it does for us fans I am certain.

It has been far from plain sailing since they took over the club though and they could have been forgiven for wondering what they have got themselves into. Their decision to install George Burley to lead the new regime on the pitch was perhaps viewed as naive but he was gone within six months. Step forward Dougie Freedman who took over with Lennie Lawrence as his assistant. But teasing with the relegation zone ended with a final day relegation play off game with Sheffield Wednesday which matched that at Stockport years before. Thankfully we did enough to secure our Championship status.

This season we were 150/1 for promotion and one of the favourites for relegation. A poor start culminated in one of worst performances for years away to Bristol City. But from that point we went on a fantastic run which put us in the play off places and looking higher following a few additions to the playing staff before the transfer deadline.

Everything was chugging along nicely, hovering outside the automatic play off positions when Bolton decided to sack their manager and appoint Dougie Freedman as boss. It was hard to take for a lot of fans, considering the position we were in. But I was more interested in who was about to take over. I'm sure lots of managers would love to take over a club in such a position but it could also be deemed as a poisoned chalice. Lose a game and the fans could be straight on your back. 

Step forward Ian Holloway. Perhaps a brave sole but a challenge that he reslished. Taking over a team that was not his other than a few additions in the transfer window, 'his' players he knew could do a job. But the run from that moment on had us hanging on to our great earlier run of form. But we were not alone in faultering, lots of clubs were doing the same other than Cardiff at the top. A class apart for the majority of the season and worthy champions.

It seemed as if we were losing our chance and it was causing much reaction amonst Palace fans with the most part being directed at Holloway. But the team stuck to the task at hand and what seemed a close knit unit just crawled over the line with a final day win at home against Peterborough, sending the visitors down. Could this be the boost that the lads needed? Most definately, as it proved.

Perhaps the biggest games against Brighton were upon us but Palace were the outsiders. A tag that we thrive on and a 0-0 draw at home only supported the bookies. A visit to the south coast on a weeknight had been done before with wonderful results. Could we expect the same? We hoped and dreamed but if we are being honest we didn't expect it. But doesn't that make a result all the sweeter? A 2-0 win much to be thankful to Wilf for but an immense team performance set up that Wembley game which they even bettered to match the occassion it was.

So the gamble that Ian Holloway took. May not have been so in his eyes. But promotion to the Premier League looked so far away. And again makes the realisation all the sweeter. To Ian Holloway. To the four owners. To each and every player that took the field at Wembley. To Wilf Zaha on his last hurrah. To every player that has contributed to the season. A season that has been quite bizarre, tough at times. But this just goes to prove that fairy tales do come true.

The full set of emotions were experienced at Wembley. I was not alone in shedding a tear at the final whistle. Of pure happiness. The chants of 'Red & Blue Army', 'We Love You' and 'Glad All Over' are still ringing in my head. We said that we would take over Wembley. And we did. In more ways than one.

Bring on the Premier League and all that it throws at us. I have confidence in our owners and Ian Holloway. We won't spend a fortune but we will give it our best shot. But for now, we want to enjoy the moment.

Article for The Eagles Beak by Jason Crame (JayTheEagle)

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