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Palace in the media

October 1 2004

Iain Dowie

Iain Dowie

One of the hardest things about being a season ticket holder is the away games - you want to go because you’re so involved with the team's fortunes, but you feel guilty that you might be neglecting your other Saturday commitments and end up taking the easy option, by Ed Aarons.

That's how I found myself at a friend’s flat this weekend, sitting listening to London Live’s excellent radio commentary of Palace’s hard-earned point at Villa Park.

Legendary Eagles defender Gary O’Reilly always makes for entertaining listening and so it proved on Saturday, with Andy Johnson’s sixth minute strike giving him and his co-commentator plenty to get worked up about.

Although the Eagles were unable to hang on to the lead that they so thoroughly deserved, it was refreshing to finally hear some supportive words from the media about Iain Dowie’s side after a week where the wolves had really stuck their claws in.

First, it was Alan Hansen on last Saturday’s Match of the Day, which incidentally, was watched by less than 3 million people, its lowest figures for more than 25 years.

He ripped into Palace’s defending in the match against Manchester City, labelling it as “the worst I have ever seen in the Premiership” and completely writing off the team’s chances of survival. But how refreshing was it to hear our manager’s response to the player who couldn’t even make Scotland’s World Cup squad in 1986?

"I am not interested in what he has to say,” said Mr Dowie. “If it was Jose Mourinho or Arsene Wenger or Alex Ferguson, people who understand the management game, then fine. He was a great player for Liverpool and I enjoy listening to him but if he wants to say that about my team then let him. It is easy to criticise isn't it?”

With responses like that, it makes me ‘glad all over’ that he has finally signed the new deal because he would be an extremely difficult opponent. Dowie’s importance to the side cannot be underestimated when you look at how he has transformed our club in the last nine months and despite our short-comings on the pitch, we know we are still in with at least half a chance of survival with him at the helm.

“Our manager gave us a speech before the game that no-one will forget,” said Palace’s flying Finn Aki Riihilahti earlier this week. “Whenever he and the staff start speaking, you think you can beat anyone on the day. You just feel that. Part of our mental strength and positive side was down to that."

All that makes you wonder how the media can take such a pessimistic view of our Premier League chances. Sure, on paper we have what is perhaps the weakest team but the momentum of last season and Andy Johnson, top scorer in England besides Monsieur Henry, must give us a fighting chance at least? Not if you believe the views of the national newspapers on the morning of the Villa game.

The Times’ Daniel Finklestein in his predictor table had our chances of victory at only 4 percent, while the draw was quoted at a meagre 8 percent. This left David O’Leary’s side as overwhelming 88 percent favourites for victory, surely an over-estimation given their dire performances at home recently.

But then again, I don’t know why I’m at all surprised by this attitude, it’s something all Palace fans have got used to over the years. Who remembers the ill-fated season back in 1995/6 when Palace went an incredible 11 game goal drought and were featured on Baddiel and Skinner's Fantasy League?

No, it seems that our SE25 team has been and will always be an unfashionable club to support among the luvvies but, to be honest, would you really want it any other way?

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