Connor Wickham came off the bench last weekend to make a substitute appearance in the 79th minute and the striker’s return to fitness will no doubt give manager Alan Pardew something to think about when it comes to picking his starting eleven for tomorrow night’s clash against Everton.
Prior to his recent injury set-back, Wickham had scored four goals in two games and he is eager to end the season on a high, especially with what he believes to be a huge weight lifted from the squad following their win on Saturday.
“It was big for us and we needed it massively, it’d been 14 games without a win and we owed it to our fans and everyone at the club, and most importantly ourselves. It was probably the biggest three points we’ve won this season, we’re now further away from the relegation zone and hopefully it’s a stepping stone we can build on.”
The feeling around the club never seemed to be one of panic, but there was an undeniable sense of tension amongst fans and it didn’t go amiss on the players. Although they went on to win the game against Norwich on Saturday, the team appeared to be playing with a slight edginess in the first half, but Wickham believes the win will spark an upturn in confidence.
“It feels like a burden has been lifted off our back. In the changing room after the game we could feel that and you could tell by the noise in the stadium when the ref blew the final whistle and the crowd erupted there was a massive feeling of relief for everyone. We know we’re good enough to pick up points like we did at the start of the season, the league is so tight right now - I think one win and we can go up to twelfth - and if we put a couple of results together we can be right back up there.”
Dressing room spirit often comes under the spotlight when team performances take an up or downturn, but the one thing not lacking from this Palace side is squad togetherness – the players’ group celebrations after defeating the Canaries said it all – and it is something Wickham says has stayed strong throughout what has been a difficult period for the club.
“There has never been a down week in training or a time when morale has been low. We’ve got individuals in the team that are very high spirited and it’s contagious. The dressing room has always been in high spirits and I think it is part of why we’ve stuck together as a unit, you see teams crumble, but we’re a team and we’ve got a good solid foundation and squad.”
Everton travel to Selhurst Park tomorrow evening with worries about their own league form playing on their mind, but Wickham says the Palace players know how good a team Everton are – despite recent grumblings from some supporters of The Blues – and wants the home crowd to get behind the players as they look to build on their first win since December.
“We won’t be underestimating Everton, they’ve got the players to put on a good performance and they’re obviously a good team. But we’ll be looking at we can do, we’re focused on taking one game at a time and off the back of Norwich we want to build on that and hopefully we’ll pick up three more points tomorrow.
"The atmosphere here is one of the best and the fans are loud and they stick behind us, I don’t think they realise just how much they’re helping us out when they’re cheering us on - it really does help the boys.”