By Simon Mills
Finally, we can all relax. It might have taken a miracle (or disaster) beyond belief, but until we were 100% mathematically safe there was always going to be that nagging doubt in the back of our minds.
Yet on Saturday, as much as I can’t explain why, there wasn’t a moment I didn’t believe that we would go on to beat Stoke to secure our place in the Premier League next season… even if ultimately results elsewhere did the trick anyway.
Ever since that fateful final day in another part of London in 2005, the very notion of going into our last game with the possibility of relegation hanging over our heads would be a nauseating one. It’s therefore been more than welcome that since our return to the top division, we have managed to avoid such a scenario. It will allow us to enjoy our away trip to St. Mary’s – other than praying beyond hope that our players avoid injury and suspension ahead of the final!
Travelling down to the South coast needing a result would have definitely been a worry. Southampton are back in great form and have the ability in their squad to rival any in the league when they are flying. With results going the way they did in the past week, they also remain very much in the hunt for a Europa League spot, so have everything to play for.
Ironically, should they finish 7th, there is every chance that the Saints will be one of the very few clubs hoping for a United win in the final, which would be their only ticket into Europe next season. The cynic in me would be very tempted to leave out any players we will need on May 21st for fear that such an incentive may have an unfortunate consequence. I’m just hoping that I am too cynical and a team of professionals would never play in such a ruthless manner.
That fear probably comes as a result of a Stoke City side with considerably less to play for putting in some very debatable challenges last week in our 2-1 victory – particularly the likes of Stephen Ireland (on Yannick Bolasie) and a less than friendly Charlie Adam. They certainly weren’t holding back and Joe Ledley suffered a very nasty injury, which has ruled him out of both Cup Final and the Euros, which is desperate bad luck for him. We all wish him well and a speedy recovery.
In one of my recent blogs I mentioned how special this club was and what a strong sense of community we have. This weekend there will be two further examples of what a great Palace family we have as the club looks to make the final day a memorable experience.
Those lucky enough to have got themselves tickets will join Steve Browett and Jeremy Hosking on the latter’s fabulous vintage steam train ‘The Lord Dowding’ for the journey to the south coast. I must admit to being massively jealous and, had Wembley not left me completely broke, would have loved such an incredible experience. For those lucky people who do get to go, enjoy!
Secondly, there is also a sponsored 85 mile bike ride – starting at 5.30am, departing from Selhurst. I think I know which group of fans I would rather be travelling with! That said, the ride is raising money for two excellent causes – MIND, which is the Mayor of Croydon’s chosen charity, and the CPFC Foundation. They will be riding alongside Southampton fans, including a number of ex-players, another brilliant example of the community of our club that we share not only together, but also with our supporters. Good luck to them all and safe travels.
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