As his Palace squad prepare to fly out to Hong Kong on Sunday, Frank de Boer is hoping that his side’s hard work on the training pitch can be rewarded by lifting the Premier League Asia Trophy next week.
The Dutchman is looking forward to the trip to the Far East as it will be his first chance to see his first-team squad in match action, and although it is still early days in terms of how he wants his team to play, De Boer is hoping for an early boost in the form of silverware, even if his prime goal is to see how his new players implement his footballing philosophy.
Speaking ahead of the two-game tournament that also includes Liverpool, Leicester City and West Bromwich Albion, he said: “We are still in pre-season so we’ll see how the team is developing and the shape that we think we’re going to play this season. It’s the next step towards getting us fitter and getting the team working the system better together.
“Of course you want to win it; if you go into a game – whether there is a trophy or not – I want to win. That always has to be in the team and the players - you’re not just playing a friendly game, you want to win the game because it is a great feeling when you do so.
“It would give us more confidence because the more games we win shows that we’re doing the right thing. We want to see the things that we have been working on in training in real time, and it’s always very satisfying for the manager if you can see that they are progressing.”
First up for Palace is a game against Liverpool in the Hong Kong Stadium on Wednesday, but despite the tough ask to beat a team who qualified for the UEFA Champions League last season, De Boer believes the challenge will help the Eagles in their quest to be up-to-speed ahead of the start of the new league campaign on 12th August.
Looking ahead to the game against the Reds, he added: “It will help us because it replicates what you see in the Premier League including the pace and intensity, and it is important that you play at that same level, especially against a team like Liverpool. We just want to implement our system and what we expect from the team, but every player has their own role in the team and we want them to perform at that level.
“You have to concentrate against a team like Liverpool because they have Mane, Wijnaldum and Coutinho as well as so many good players. They are a great team and we have to respect them, and we have to be at our best so it’ll be a good test for us.”
Aside from the two games in Hong Kong, the week-long trip give the new Palace manager the chance to get to know his players better off the pitch and see what types of character he has at his disposal: “Team bonding is important because we have to work with the players and they have to work with each other every day. They spend more time together than they do with their families so to get a week away is a good opportunity to get a good feeling with each other. It’s also about mentality and as a manager you can see who is dealing well with it or getting a bit sloppy.”
But back to the fixtures, De Boer is also looking forward to sampling the support the teams will receive from the local supporters who snapped up all the tickets for both days in a matter of days. Despite having to wake up at all hours of the day and night to watch English football, the Asian supporters are incredibly passionate about the Premier League, and having spent time in China on previous tours, De Boer doesn’t expect anything less going into the Asia Trophy.
“You can see that especially the Premier League is very popular and the fans there follow it every week and know every team in the league,” he said. “They are really fanatic and that’s fantastic to see that they are so involved, and that gives you a great feeling. They are very humble people and respectful to everyone.”