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December 11 2023 3.52am

Kick by Kick with Joseph O'Shea

March 10 2004

Julian Gray

Julian Gray

The minority of Palace fans who needlessly booed Julian Gray should cast their minds back to December 10th, when Crewe beat a Gray-less Eagles side 3-1.

Palace had won one in 11 league games and were lying in the bottom three. With Gray back in the side, Palace won the next two under Kit Symons and the winger has played every game since as Dowie's side won seven and drew two in 11, scoring twice.

Numerous factors have contributed to the remarkable revival, not least Dowie's inspirational regime and AJ's goal-scoring form.

But the left-sided position was a massive problem after Gray walked out in the summer, with AJ, Wayne Routledge and even Jamie Smith failing to fill the void.

His reluctant return may not inspire affection, any more than his inconsistent performances in the previous three years, but he came back a better player and has quietly made a huge difference.

Dowie is desperate to persuade him to sign a new contract, and was understandably furious on Saturday that a mindless few supporters could jeopardise his plans.

The simple fact is that Palace need Gray more than Gray needs Palace as low summer bids from Charlton and Leeds showed. Talented left wingers are notoriously hard to come by, and he will have no shortage of offers this summer without a prohibitive fee on his head.

Mullins, Derry and even skipper Shipperley have all been targeted by a certain section of home supporters this season, and Palace have only won six of 18 matches at Selhurst.

The fantastically supportive away fans have inspired Palace to eight wins in 17 on the road. Surely with 11 games to go, it's time for everyone to get behind all the players and see what the club can achieve.

Join me on Saturday as Palace take on Joe Kinnear's resurgent Nottingham Forest at the City Ground from 2.55pm.

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