Sunday, 30 June 2013

Do Opposites Attract?

So, we are currently straddling the period between the end of the last fantastic season and eagerly looking forward to the new season with Palace in the English Premiership. Having reviewed this prospect over and over in conjunction with the feelings of optimism, hope, excitement and a healthy bit of fear, further consideration and thoughts then passed to what and who we have left behind in the Championship.

Where are we now? What lies ahead? Do we have any proper rivalries in the Premiership? Taking the last question, are there any rivalries based on the stature and gravitas of the ones we had last season? The clear answer to this question is NO, which in many ways “could” be a bit of a shame??

We obviously have some great fixtures and derbies ahead such as Tottenham on the first day of the season. We also have other London derbies against the likes of Arsenal, West Ham, Fulham and Chelsea.  We have games against teams that are in a similar position to us such as Hull and Cardiff and, let’s not forget games against teams that did not finish well last season such as Sunderland and Stoke to name just a few. Ultimately, we also have games against the top 6, teams that we have dreamed of playing and teams that we would love to do well against. Whatever happens, this is going to be a memorable and exciting season for us fans but, will the rivalry component be something that we miss next season with no obvious contenders?

To answer this question we need a bench-mark against the rivalries we have left behind to establish if we will miss these situations.  We are not talking about the kind of banter and rivalry you get against any team on match-day, we are talking about proper rivalry against our old foes; rivalries where we know that we have to play them at least twice a season; rivalries that promote huge amounts of Twitter traffic with team acronyms and #teamname trending all over the place for all to see; rivalries that play with your emotional state for weeks before, during and after the game and even more if you lose. Taking this into consideration, the obvious contenders that we had in South London were Millwall and Charlton.

With regards to Charlton, there is definitely a degree of rivalry in place.  However, this is a strange rivalry that has never really been fully embraced by Palace fans.  General opinion is that it’s the Charlton fans that appear to be much keener of stoking the flames and trying to promote this rivalry basically because they don’t have a proper one. This appears to result in a great deal of frustration on their part as it is not perhaps considered a true rivalry which, only adds to our fun. I have always just considered them to be an annoying neighbour.  One that you can ignore and avoid at your leisure for most of the year but have to put up with when they knock on your door twice a year for a cup of sugar dressed as a clown.

We now move onto Millwall. They actually have a true rival in West Ham and this has a great deal more focus than the rivalry that they have with us.  Our rivalry with them is mainly based on locality and again not really a strong and true rivalry in my opinion. We know that no-one likes them and they don’t care so, I think that in addition to the locality, it just comes down to wanting to put one over on them. Not a great deal more and not a great deal less, we just don’t like them like everybody else.

"Will I miss these two teams visiting Selhurst Park or the envious trips to either of their grounds? Not one single bit! Both of these teams just need to look up at the soaring Eagle in the Premiership and remember that South London is truly ours."

A few other minor rivalries were considered such as QPR and Watford.  Despite a bit of history with both sides, I could not really think of much to get too hot under the collar about. Watford emerged as a recent rival for obvious reasons but, this has mainly grown due to twitter traffic about their use of the Football League loan loop-holes and our recent encounter at Wembley.  All of this ultimately did not do them any good so, we move on with regards to Watford.

The consideration for QPR is again around a bit of history and because many of our players have ended up there in our darkest hours along with some of our ex-managers. Again, they have done themselves no favours with high spending and relegation from the Premiership so, again we move on.

"The only other team to consider as rivals are our friends down the A23 on the South Coast."  

Reading between the lines and from keyboard warriors on Twitter, this is a club that is on a massive low currently. This situation has been reflected over and over again since our Semi-Final win in their own back yard a couple of months ago. In the past couple of months, Brighton has managed to bestow more bad press on themselves, more than the most ardent Palace supporter could have ever managed in their lifetimes. For many Palace fans, this situation has been a true gift, beyond our wildest dreams and something that we could never have instigated ourselves. What we have seen (and revelled in) is self-harm on a club sized scale.

In many ways, the catalyst for this can be compared to the bad run that Palace encountered when we lost to them at the Amex which caused a poor run and a massive loss of confidence from some of our fans, our players and our management. Brighton not only lost and suffered the backlash, they then managed to far surpass our situation after that game and fully self-destruct both on and off the pitch. Please note that this includes “just” slightly off the pitch in the Palace dressing room on that glorious night.

Time for a bit of a recap……

Brighton had the bragging rights going into the first leg. They were in the in-form team, had beaten us on the last occasion, been unbeaten for a good run of games, they were full of confidence and they were a team with a bit of a swagger about them when they arrived at Selhurst. They were the team that “expected” to play either Watford or Leicester in the final at Wembley.
"Brighton left Selhurst Park after a 0-0 draw with many of the attributes above still intact and ready for the second leg at the Amex with all of the momentum swinging in their favour."

The period between the two games is when the wheel nuts started to come a bit loose on the GusBus. We saw cockiness and over confidence on a grand scale from their management, their fans, and their players.  It was in the bag, it was their destiny and they were obvious favourites – a sealed deal!  As we know, this level of confidence later came back to bite them on the arse big time.  This was over confidence with no lid on it, no professional respect and had no boundaries.

Palace then arrived at the Amex for the second leg after a conscious decision by one of their stewards to send our coach on a wild goose chase outside the stadium.  Once off the coach, Palace were greeted to the Amex to the sight of a turd in our dressing room.  An action that was then literally spread (like the aforementioned item) across the press and social media sites like wild-fire.  The shit really had hit the fan(s)!

“No team talk needed” said Holloway.  We at Palace have often been referred to as scum by the Brighton fans but, this action has turned the table with the World as a witness.  Anyway, not sure if you are aware but we went on to win 2-0 with both goals from the “over-rated” Zaha who shined like a yellow beacon on that night and sealed our place at Wembley. A media and Twitter explosion ensued with BHAFC fans almost wanting a public enquiry around what had gone so wrong.

On this night, we also saw the plastic clappers v “we’re Crystal Palace, we clap with our hands,” their fans crying into the clappers with jester hats on, words to their club songs on the big screen, Brighton players sporting poor quality club shop merchandise and a well a truly outsmarted and beaten Brighton team.

Further to this, we have seen the #Poogate emails / memos from Gus and we have seen the fallout of these actions with the club. We’ve witnessed the fallout of only having £10m to try and secure promotion when we managed it with a team worth £2.1m and then we have witnessed Gus’s subsequent suspension as a result.

During the suspension period we saw “We are the laughing stock of the Football League” tweets from Brighton club / fan sites and then we saw the chef put the cherry on the cake with the sacking of Poyet live on BBC TV after weeks of no news or updates from the club. This was an action witnessed by millions of people as he attempted to carry on his pundit duties for the Confederations Cup.

Whether Poyet knew about being sacked or not is not the issue or our concern, what we saw is what the majority will believe. The football World saw his shocked face and this is what people will believe and remember whatever the outcome.  The now empty #GusBus has properly broken down on the side of the A23 and its wheels are strewn across Brighton and Hove with the engine still just ticking over.

Brighton has since appointed a new man to cover the role with Poyet still suggesting that there will be an enquiry which will run and run for months to come. We all thought that the closed season would be dull but, this whole debacle has greatly and thankfully assisted us, entertained us and it still has plenty of mileage to come.  

The obvious conclusion is that this rivalry is true and will always be there but we have moved on now, we have left them in our wake and, nothing we can do or say would do more to their credibility than they have done themselves. 

"To sum up, I don’t think that we will miss any of these rivalries in the slightest because they either do not matter, feel valid enough to be a true rivalry or, because the club has hit its own self-destruct button."

It’s really is time to move on, it’s time to look ahead and time to build a fresh, exciting and secure future for the club. It’s time to ignore our rivals that have not achieved what we have as #underdogs and, to ignore those that are jealous of our position. We may meet one / some of the above teams next season in the cup(s) and the usual rivalry antics will re-emerge but, until this date we should just focus on #cpfc because we are Premier League and they are not. We have much more important and bigger things to be getting on with now. They will poke fun and laugh if we lose and get relegated but, they would love this chance at the big time. They would love to be going to the Emirates, Old Trafford and Anfield rather than travelling to matches at Barnsley and Yeovil during the cold Winter. Let’s be honest, our ultimate goal is survival in the Premiership but, I am sure that we have a great journey along the way.  If we retain a place in the Premiership for 2014/15 then, to us fans it would be like winning the whole competition.   

"Whatever the outcome, this is our chance to shine on and off the pitch and to let the whole watching World see what our club and fans are all about."

Article by Paul Price @P_CPFC_Price

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