By Simon Mills
The end has arrived. The end of mind-numbing Saturdays spent being dragged into shops, taken to see boring films with similar plot lines and scanning endless TV channels in the vain hope of some pre season game or summer football special to fill the void that is a summer without our beloved Palace. In less than 24 hours from now Premier League football returns with the visit of the Baggies to Selhurst Park!
It has been a dramatic week as a Palace fan, rumbling rumours of big transfer deals can still be heard echoing beyond the hills and the excitement of a particularly satisfying triumph over Valencia reverberates in the soul. I won’t speak about the rumours of comings and goings – I will wait until something more official happens before commenting on those, but I am more than happy to talk about last Saturday’s highly enjoyable 3-1 victory.
It took seconds after arriving at Selhurst to feel the usual excitement that comes from a Palace match day. Granted, it was tempered by the knowledge that the worst outcome would be a dent to morale with no actual points up for grabs, but when you have been forced to wait over two months since the last live game any football is better than no football! A strong lineup gave supporters the first chance to see Andros Townsend fit into the team and even if Steve Mandanda and James Tomkins weren’t quite ready, it was exciting nonetheless.
For the 70 or so minutes that the first team heavily featured in, it was an extremely satisfying experience. Although Valencia seemed to enjoy a good spell of possession early on, it wasn’t long before Palace demonstrated the strength of Premier League opposition and after the first beautifully executed finish from Connor Wickham the result rarely looked in doubt. Even without the likes of regulars Yohan Cabaye, James McArthur etc. the team looked in great shape and the level of competitiveness of the game left many reminding themselves it was indeed a friendly after all.
It certainly ticked all the boxes from what you could ask for from a match like this. Thoroughly entertaining, a great workout, a real confidence booster and some very promising performances from some big players (Townsend, Wickham and Zaha in particular were exceptional). The only downside was seeing Pape Souare, who put in a great shift, limp off with a possible injury – we all pray he will be fit and ready for Saturday. The game was certainly excellent value for those who made the effort and for those who didn’t, you missed out!
Now the real business begins, a good start is always more than welcome and gaining those first 3 points of the season sets everyone up for a real morale booster. Tony Pulis returns to Selhurst Park: for once he will be present at a Palace game on the opening day and I’m sure he will get a ‘reception’ from the supporters. Our games with West Brom in recent times have been a real mixed bag, a comprehensive victory at Selhurst followed by a frustrating day at the Hawthorns saw two very different performances and outcomes last season.
By Alan Pardew’s own admission, we aren’t where we want to be right now – thanks mainly to the Euro’s and we may have to be a little patient at the weekend. As we will more than likely be short of several first team regulars, this could be a very different game to what we will see as the season progresses and I hope we, as supporters, can appreciate this fact regardless of the result.
I’ll just be glad to be back watching the Palace and look forward to the anticipated highs and lows it inevitably brings. With any luck and given the kind of players that have already arrived at the club I am very confident that come the season end (which seems to come quicker every year), we will have had more of the former and less of the latter, at least I hope!
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