He has only been gone for a season and a half, but our previous manager is back for the second time. Last season Big Sam did the Red Adair job at Sunderland, and now he has been employed in the same capacity by Palace to try to turn their season around. In between he managed England for a game, before a newspaper sting caught him out and forced him out of a role that he had coveted for his whole career.
His start has not been an auspicious one, and in their last game they lost at home to Swansea. That meant that Swansea did the double over them, winning 5-4 in an extraordinary game at the end of November, before a late goal gave them a 2-1 victory at Selhurst Park.
Now we have the chance to complete our first double of the season (we only did the double over one team in the Premier League last season – Liverpool). A first half Lanzini goal was enough to take the spoils at Palace, although the day was marred slightly by another ridiculous sending off when Cresswell was dismissed by Martin Atkinson, after picking up two yellow cards within a minute. The first was for a dive that wasn’t a dive, the second was for a foul that was barely a foul!
Palace actually started the season well and by the end of September were seven points ahead of us. As they now trail us by six points, and we haven’t had the best of seasons, it goes to show what an alarming slump they have had. Of course that resulted in the sack for another of our old managers, Alan Pardew, who once again demonstrated that he can have have a good effect at a club for a while, and then everything goes wrong. He’d done it before for us, and at Newcastle.
After picking up just one point in their opening three fixtures, three wins on the bounce with a convincing 4-1 victory at home to Stoke sandwiched between away victories in the North-East over Middlesbrough and Sunderland, left them in the top half of the table. But they have only won once since, a 3-0 victory at home to Southampton early in December. They now sit just one point and one place above the drop zone in seventeenth place.
They made three big signings in the summer with Bentecke, Townsend, and our own James Tompkins costing them around £50 million. Their net spend wasn’t so big though, as they recouped around £43 million with the sales of Bolasie, Gayle, McCarthy and Jedinak. Speaking to some Palace supporters, they are not too impressed with Tompkins, although you can’t help thinking he would have got a decent amount of playing time had he remained with us, especially after we fell into the three at the back system. He would have been ideally suited to play on the right side of that. Many fans could not understand why we let him go, but I’m not sure he is good enough to take us to the next level. But supporters often have a greater affinity with “one of our own”.
Palace is one of those fixtures where we must look for three points to cement our mid-table position and hopefully push on in the remainder of the season. The major talking point surrounding the game will be the Payet revelation that he doesn’t want to play for us anymore. I am hoping for a galvanising effect on the team as a whole, and as a result I fully expect us to win, but I feel like that for most games. Perhaps 2-1?