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Big club life suits MIKELE

February 12 2004

Crystal Palace

Crystal Palace

Palace's new signing MIKELE LEIGERTWOOD admits he was disappointed to be left on the bench on Saturday, but he accepts that's life at a big club, by Joseph O'Shea.

The 21-year-old centre half signed from Wimbledon for £150,000 last week and was expected to make his debut at Bramall Lane, but had to watch from the sidelines as Palaceís defence kept a clean sheet in a 3-0 win.

He told the Guardian: "I was disappointed to be left on the bench but not surprised because it is a winning side and he canít change it like that. I have to bide my time because we have a big squad here and I have to get used to the other players."

He is not alone in having to accept the changing face of Palace under Dowie, who likes to keep a settled side.

First team regulars Dougie Freedman, Tommy Black, Shaun Derry, Kit Symons and Gary Borrowdale have all been left waiting for their chance to impress their new boss as his side has strung five consecutive wins together.

Dowie said: "Iíd love to pick all the lads because they have all worked their socks off, but those in possession have the shirts. Thatís why MIKELE LEIGERTWOOD didnít play.

"That was maybe a surprise to him but he knows heís going to be a big player for the future of the club. Itís not about two games here or there, itís about a season and it would have been unjust to change the back four."

"Dougie came on at Watford and scored, Shaun came on and created a goal on Saturday and Tommy did well against Bradford. We are a tight knit unit and it is a squad game these days."

For the first time in recent memory a Palace manager has a virtually fully fit squad to chose from and there is genuine competition for places.

Dowie added: "I have had good support from the chairman because we have got five centre halves now fit in Powell, LEIGERTWOOD, Symons, Popovic and Mark Hudson."

So for LEIGERTWOOD, like several big names at Palace, it is now a case of waiting for his chance and being ready to grab it with both hands. The big centre half who made 65 senior starts for Wimbledon, would expect nothing less.

Hew added: "There were a few other Division One clubs interested in me, but I know people here like Jon Goodman, the physios, Shipps and Michael Hughes.

"I have been very impressed by the training, the facilities, and the players. It was not a difficult decision to come here, itís a big club."

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