April 24 2012
Something very rare has happened this season to Crystal Palace, something that Andrew Cole has rarely experienced.
The rarity I speak of is that the season has been completely over for the Eagles since April. Since taking up my seat in the Lower Holmesdale from 2005 onwards, I can only think of two seasons from the last seven that have been so decisively over by this time and somehow both those seasons felt much different despite the same position in the table.
What was it about those campaigns that made it different to this season and why is this one so different? Well the two years I am thinking of are 2006/7 and 2008/9 both of which had the Eagles finishing mid-table.
At the time the atmosphere on the HOL was one of mild (but controlled) frustration seeing as the team had achieved a play-off position in their respective previous seasons. We were a team on the up and we should not have settled for ‘knocking on the door to the Premier League’ but instead gone at it with a battering ram.
No this term is different, and the reason for that difference is that fortune had been hard on the Eagles for previous two years with administration and George Burley doing a fine job trying to plunge Palace into the third tier of football.
This season however it’s been very different. We have had plenty to cheer about with victory over Manchester United and our decision to create a little bit of unique history down at Brighton's Amex Stadium.
We have easily avoided relegation and mark a measurable increase in league position yet this is not enough for some fans. So bored has the HOL become that poor recent performances caused a near perfect split in the Palace fan base with vocal battles being fought over numerous websites.
As the debate raged on, I found myself sitting at the sidelines truly wondering who is right and my conclusion is this. There is little point having this debate because we are arguably showing signs of both ‘under and overachieving’.
We have had a mixed season in terms of performances with some spirited hard earned points picked up against some of the division's top teams and yet a few occasions where we have just rolled over and let inferior opposition carve us open time after time.
Almost out of the blue Palace pulled off a cup run that probably won’t be matched for quite sometime clearly overachieving against much better opposition. Yet that run came to a sudden end in the most underachieving fashion.
The story repeats itself in the squad; players like Nathaniel Clyne, Julian Speroni and even Wilfried Zaha have had fantastic years while others like Darren Ambrose, Owen Garvan and Glenn Murray have had seasons to forget - albeit with glimpses of their ability. We have some underachieving ‘big’ names in our team yet a very much overachieving price we paid for most of them.
So yes, our season might be over, and that is rather boring and uncharacteristic for Palace but we have a bright future ahead of us with a summer full of tweaks and changes to our line-up.
In the short term however, let’s not mope or even celebrate our position but concentrate on finishing the season on a high note with victory over Cardiff this Saturday.
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