Thursday, 13 June 2013

Scream If You Want To Go Faster

Regular contributor to The Eagles Beak, Paul Price brings us his view straight from the Palace rollercoaster. Let us know your thoughts on Twitter with @P_CPFC_Price and @TheEaglesBeak.

It's a family affair. Logo designed by Daisy and George Price

With the fans already boarding the #CPFC rollercoaster and with the clock ticking away towards the end of the August 2012 transfer window, the announcement of the Premiership 2013/14 fixtures (mid-June), the start of the season in mid August, Twitter has been awash with speculation around who we are going to sign, where the first game will be, who against, who the contenders are for relegation next year, whether the new badge on the shirt is positioned correctly, do we like the new home and away kits and a number of other club/player related subjects too. 

Many of the above Wembley dramatics and wondering what the club are doing to strengthen our chances of staying in the Prem’ for some time to come.

With regards to the transfer speculation/transfer window, it is expected that the club will be signing some new players in order to cover injuries and generally strengthen the squad for the tough games ahead in the Premier League. We have seen daily speculation over who we are going to sign, for how much and what other clubs we are trying to beat in order to get the required signature. Much of this appears to be pure guess work and gossip at this stage.  For example, the confirmation by Steve Parish on @FL_Champ that the club did not even make an offer for Balde. Reading those tweets about Balde and researching his credentials is now a bit of my life that I will never get back so, was there any point?

As expected at Palace, we have also seen speculation around what current Palace players other clubs are looking at and, whether these players may be tempted away in the transfer window. I sincerely hope not as perhaps we can now be seen as a buying club and remove the selling club shroud that we have often worn for so many years. I currently have a very simplistic view but, personally I am not really taking too much interest at this stage in transfers in or out.  The window has a while to run still and, ultimately we will sign who we sign in readiness for the new season.  It really is as simple as that in my head.  Other than that, I will just take a passing interest on twitter. 

All aboard the Palace rollercoaster

To add to this argument, CPFC2010 and Ian Holloway will not necessarily care what we think or what we have to add so, best let the experts and the money men get on with business and let’s see what they have done in the run up to the season starting.  The ongoing speculation also really does nothing other than be the catalyst for more hype and over-pricing of players to which their agents must surely be rubbing their hands together.  

My current view is that we should retain as many of the current squad members as possible and strengthen in a sensible manner without spending too much money on key headline signings (although I am disappointed that Man City beat us to Jesus Navas from Sevilla for £14.9m!). Personally, I love the players we have and I think that they deserve a chance at the big time for what they have achieved against the odds and with the ongoing negative media that we / they have had to suffer.  Remember, much of this negativity has come from so called experts who touted us as relegation fodder at the beginning of the 2012/13 Championship season so, let the boys try and prove them wrong again or at least give it a shot. 

The way forward is surely a couple of players with Premiership experience mixed with a few Championship / lower league players who would also complement our squad.  Maybe four/five new players?? Across the board, we need players that are hungry for success, want to evolve / grow and have a chance to shine on the big stage again or, for the first time.  We are now hopefully in the position where we could attract some of the right types of players as a confirmed Premiership club so, let the circus commence.

We have all seen what over-spending has done in the past and even recently with the likes of QPR.  Their millions of pounds spent in the market did nothing to secure their place in the Premiership and many of the signings did not live up to expectations. A great example of this was Chris Samba’s £12.5 million transfer. To put that into perspective, that is six times more than the whole team that won promotion for Palace on at Wembley. To really rub salt into their wounds, it was ex Palace player and Samba’s counterpart Clint Hill that won QPR player of the year for the 2012/2013 season, a player that in July 2010 left Palace on a free transfer to join Queens Park Rangers.

The message here is that big names and big prices are not necessarily the answer to remain a Premiership club. The model used by teams like Swansea, Norwich and indeed Southampton are there to be admired.

Young Palace fans Daisy and George meet royalty

We need players willing and able to blend into what we have and not over-priced and highly paid prima donnas that may cause upset and spoil the wonderful team spirit that we have at Selhurst currently. Not picking on QPR (although they are currently an easy target) you only have to look at the final day antics of people like Boswinga who smiled as he left the pitch having been relegated.  I just hope that we do not attract this type of player, we need people that will be proud to wear our shirt and with give it everything they have for the whole season.  To be honest, these are the reasons why many of us fans have fallen in love with the current crop of players that we have.  It is not because they are the best in many cases, it’s because they have given it everything, we have seen their pride, their tears and their massive expressions of what “it” means and that is what I hope we use as the basis for the future in order to build the right mix of players and spirit going forward.   

Admittedly, team spirit, determination and drive will often only get you so far but, we need to strengthen sensibly, with a level of restraint and perhaps use the loan market to some degree for at least the first part of the season.  This also gives us a level of control where we can put our current squad of players, newly signed players and possibly some loan players on the pitch and see how they perform in our team at this level and how they mix with the team even before wasting our vital resources.

Returning to transfer speculation, we shouldn’t really care who we sign for the new season – sure, we will certainly all have an opinion but, the squad that starts the season will be the one that I support so, let’s just see where this roller-coaster takes us again. Furthermore, I completely trust Holloway and CPFC2010 to give it their best shot, bring in the right players to suit our squad and to grow the way we want to play without blowing the budget wide open so, let’s just see where we are when the shutters go up on August 17th at home or away.

Just as important as investment in players is controlled investment in the Stadium and facilities in order to build for the future and to ensure that we attract and keep new fans.  Again, there have been reports of building a 40,000 capacity stadium at Selhurst.  This is a fantastic aspiration to have and we all hope that one day we will fill this every single week but, do we need this now or in the short-term?  We have sold just over 12,000 season tickets.  Our average gate is around 16,000 and best gate in the low 20k’s.  Maybe some initial investment to improve what we have and a staged plan to take us to 30,000 capacity before embarking on further re-generation of the ground to 40,000 is the short term answer in my humble opinion?  A flexible model that can be assessed and changed based on our standings and finances each season.

The CPFC rollercoaster heads towards the Premier League

Ultimately, securing a regular place in the Premiership should be looked at as a marathon and not a sprint for a club like ours so, if we do not have a good start to the season then, we still need to hold our heads high, remember who we are, what we have achieved since the problems of 2010, consolidate and push on again.  We can always strengthen in the next silly transfer season around Christmas if required to give it a go.  

It may be controversial but, it would also not necessarily be the end of the world if we went down at the end of next season either.  We all sincerely hope that this is not case and we all hope that the #underdog tag that has suited us so well over the years will does us proud again next season. It’s more about how the club can react to that pressure and situation on the field whilst having an on-going panoramic view around building to give ourselves the best chance of bouncing back quickly if we were to drop back into the Championship next or in any other future season.  Even if this were to happen, we would have the money that we may have saved from promotion and also parachute payments that could be used to give it another push when ready in the way that many successful teams have started to adopt. 

It may even take a return to times gone by where we have bounced up and then dropped for a number of seasons but, West Brom are a club that did this in the past and have now done well to secure their Premiership place on a regular basis with relatively limited funds compared to the big boys. Thinking about it logically, we actually have a pretty good chance at staying up next year as we will be playing teams like Cardiff and Hull who are also new to the Premiership.  We will be playing some clubs that had a difficult and edgy ending to last year’s fixtures calendar such as the likes of Stoke, Sunderland, Villa and Southampton to name just a few.  I honestly believe that we can get positive results against these and many other teams in the league.

With regards to who we play.  Again, it is very exciting to see who we may face but, the bottom line is we need to play them all home and away next season.  Ideally it would be good to start off at home perhaps against a mid-table team from last year such as Fulham in order to set the scene and to give us some form of measurement around where we are and where we have arrived.  Whatever happens, we will all know very shortly where the first game will be and who against and it will be a great season.  I know that I will be there supporting the lads at home in my normal season ticket spot or, hopefully away as much as possible at one of the big stadiums in the league.

I have mentioned transfers, future fixtures and teams that may be in the relegation fight next season so, to cover all items at the top of the article, we now move onto the badge and its positioning.  

Maybe it would indeed look nicer on the red instead of blue in order to make it stand out more but, the blue bit is on the players left, the badge goes on the left and it is over the player’s heart.  Apart from that, loads may have rolled off the production line by now so, if Gok Wan doesn’t mind then I’ll move on …  What really matters to me is that we have a great badge that shows a really cool and slightly modernised dynamic looking eagle.  It also has an insight into the past with the Crystal Palace structure which, to me is a beautiful reminder of our heritage.  The kits are both really great and in my non biased opinion, the 2 best kits in the Premiership.  CPFC2010 and other people involved in the club have done us really proud with the kits and the badge for next season.  

That’s pretty much everything covered really so, just as a recap.  The aim for the coming months for me is to pretty much ignore transfer speculation until a tweet is received from @CEO4TAG or @Official_CPFC with actual player news, take an interest in the fixtures coming out and make high level plans for away games, worry about who we will beat and who we won’t as the season progresses (and as the next game comes around), worry about the relegation zone if we are actually in it, enjoy my new kit(s) and badge and most of all keep enjoying the memories of Wembley for the whole Summer and until the season starts knowing that we are Premier league.

To put all of this into perspective, the biggest thing on my mind currently is whether Steve Parish has taken our feedback on board and has purchased the red and blue striped nets that we all want to see adorning our goals next season on match day and, of course on match of the day in the evening.  They may even compliment the goal line technology that we need to have installed as a premiership club.

Have a great Summer (when the sun does actually come out), let’s enjoy our achievements, bask in the glory all Summer and worry about next season when it actually comes cos “We are Premier League” and it’s gonna be one hell of a journey.  

I fully aim to go into the new season with hope tinged with a little expectation.  The expectation is more around how we cope and how we perform rather than our overall position and, if through some amazing wins, an improved stadium, against the odds and with money in the bank we avoid the bottom three when the fat lady finally sings at the end of the season then, I for one will be very happy man.

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