The Eagles Beak* is a fine Crystal Palace fan site, not infallible on apostrophes as you can see but a place accommodating enough to allow Pete Sixsmith to ramble on about why he dislikes Palace. It was created and is edited by Jay Crame*, who joins us now for the latest edition of ‘Who are You?’. He tries to make us feel better about that mauling at St Mary’s..
Salut! Sunderland: After Liverpool battered you 9-0 in 1989, you won two and drew one of the next three league games, stayed up in reasonable comfort and reached the FA Cup final. Are you old enough to remember that season and can Sunderland take heart from it? The answers were received after the Southampton game but before Arsenal …
Jay Crame: Oh yes, I remember that season like it was yesterday. I was not at Anfield that fateful weeknight but being Palace, the fans were singing we want 10 at nine goals down. It was a tough one to take but football being football the reaction by the players was the most important part of it. And they responded very well indeed and in a funny way perhaps that result had a lot to do with survival that season. Of course, because of that result, our match against Liverpool in the FA Cup Semi Final we were massive underdogs but that 4-3 win in extra time is part of our history. I was there and it is still now one of the games that still makes the hairs on the back of my next stand up. It was all the sweeter because of that night earlier in the season. So yes, Sunderland can take heart from what happened to us. The players will be embarrassed and will want to show that they are better than that.
Our keeper that night was Perry Suckling took awful stick and arguably never really recovered from it so it will be interesting to see how Mannone reacts [er, not too well so far – Ed]. It is quite a relief that it never appears in the statistics as it was before the Premier League began so very little is taken into account before then as we all know.
But that was 25 years ago. What are the Palace of 2014 all about and what did you make of Pulis being sacked and Warnock replacing him?
Makes me feel very old indeed when you put it like that! We are all about being a tough hard to break down side. Physical and hard working throughout the side. We like a player that works hard all across the pitch. The loss of Pulis when we did was shock but there were a few rumours that all was not well at the beginning of the week. Not ideal preparation two days before our first game of the season against Arsenal away but these things happen. We now have Neil Warnock back which is a very good fit for us. He left us without much option in his first stint so there is an element of unfinished business.
Many people love to hate Warnock but him being manager of your club you appreciate what he is like and you get used to that. He is not as agitated as he used to be, too long in the tooth for that. I doubt that he is on par with Tony Pulis who did fantastic things for us last season but Warnock has inherited a decent squad of players and added to that very well. We look to the future that is likely to be Warnock moving to a director role at some stage no doubt once the club have targeted a younger successor perhaps. That is what most fans would like to see but right now, some stability is the key.
Away from Selhurst Park, the received wisdom was that Hosking and Long [Palace owners] must be quite mad, given Pulis’s mighty achievement, but a Palace fan (Mick Brown, an eminent writer) sprang to their defence on these pages. Have they been vindicated?
The four owners of the club saw the state of it when they took it on in 2010. It was in dire straits with only just holding on to the youth academy and nothing much else. The club was on its knees and less than 24 hours from going out of business to a debt that was smaller than what most clubs run at these days but it was the downside of borrowing money from an aggressive lender. The group known as CPFC2010 took over and the four years in between have simply been incredible. The fact that the club had no infrastructure, no scouting network, did not own the ground and playing staff were few and far between suggests that promotion via the play offs in May 2013 was too soon.
Perhaps it was but you have to grab these things with arms wide open when they happen, you just cannot plan such things in football. With all that in mind, the owners run a tight ship. They have a transfer budget and wage structure in place and if Pulis was testing that then so be it, there would only be one winner. Owners have to have the clubs best interests at heart and after seeing the club go into administration twice, a third time attempting to chase the dream would simply be unforgivable.
Guess the Score in Crystal Palace vs Sunderland and you could win – wait for it – a SAFC or Palace mug: https://safc.blog/2014/10/crystal-palace-vs-sunderland-guess-the-score/
How far realistically can a club like Palace go? Does being in London mean you can always at least hope to attract the players needed – provided you have enough money – to challenge for the next level?
A very good question indeed. Football in London is a swollen market and you have to wonder whether we could ever emulate a 3rd place finish like we did in the early nineties again. Last season was the best attempt but football has changed in that time. Finished just outside the top ten last season was incredible, beyond our wildest dreams.
But you have to dream. If Pulis was still in charge then you would be looking at a top 10 finish but now he has gone and Warnock in charge it is back to survival this season and then push on from there. Being a London club, there is the potential to attract players as you would argue that it is one of the best cities in Europe or even the world. I am always reluctant to think too far ahead as at the end of the day, this is Palace and there it is never dull being a fan of this club.
I am never sure whether more neutrals warm to Palace or, like our own Pete Sixsmith in his piece for your site pre-season, find you difficult to like. Did that survey give you some insight into how others see you?
I have to say that apart from our rivals Brighton, Millwall and to a lesser extent Charlton, I have spoken to many many fans that have a soft spot for the club particularly since being back in the Premier League. It is the focus of football in this country whether we like it or not. I think it has more to do with the underdog scenario, that is simply our label. Always has been and always will be I think. Everyone likes a good underdog and as I mentioned above, there is rarely a dull season.
The survey we did in pre-season really emphasised that from our perspective and it was a very worthwhile exercise even though we did not get a view from every Premier League club like we had aimed. The ability to be able to interact with opposition fans is one of the best things that we do both on the site and Twitter. There are always going to be silly fans that abuse but for the most part it is constructive interaction which is great. I suspect that Pete has more of soft spot for one of our rivals!
Time for your own back: your thoughts on Sunderland – the club, the fans, the city, the region …
I am not a critical guy so you are safe here! Sunderland are a club that I would put in a similar bracket to Palace. It is different location wise as you are a one city club so there will always be more likely to attract more fans. We have to fight for that down here in London and the southern counties perhaps.
I have respect for any clubs that hold their own in the Premier League for a few seasons. It is more a question of progression and how you avoid fighting against relegation each season which is our common goal this season. How does a club like that break into that top six or seven fancied teams? It is a real tough one.
It is a difficult one to answer having never been to Sunderland but your fans are as passionate as anyone and you have a history in the game which I and most fans respect. The rivalry with Newcastle is extremely enthralling as neutral and one of your former players, Kevin Phillips, has become a legend for us. I still recall the penalty shootout at your place several seasons back in the play-offs semi finals, think we equalised late on in extra time [precisely how you equalised will be debated for ever – Ed]. Simply compelling.
Highlights for you as a Palace fan?
Now that is a question! Believe it or not, there have been so many highs and lows. It is a rollercoaster as we often refer to the journey as being. It never gets any easier but the good times make the bad ones all worth. I will name three but they are still hard to pick:
* Survival from the brink of extinction in 2010
* There have been several promotions, every one of them have been something to savour
* Securing Championship survival on two occasions – against Stockport County and Sheffield Wednesday were special
* FA Cup Semi Final 4-3 win against Liverpool
And lowest point?
Nothing can beat the terrible feeling of almost losing the club that you support. I know I have mentioned it a few times but feeling physically sick at the thought of it. Apart from that, relegation is never a good feeling and we have had a few and losing the FA Cup Final to Manchester United in a replay was hard to take having been only eight minutes away from winning the trophy in the first game.
Best players you’ve seen – or wish you’d seen – in Palace colours, and any who shouldn’t have been allowed to wear them?
I wished that I had been able to see Vince Hilaire play for Palace. Many older fans absolutely rave about him but it was great to have an interview with him on our site. It was very popular indeed. I have just written about one player that I always enjoy recalling and he was not at the club that long either. That was Attilio Lombardo. It was a real coup for Palace to sign him and he was simply fantastic on the ball, even to the point that his footballing brain was far superior to any players we had in the first team at the time. An absolute joy to watch. I am not a critical guy as I mentioned so I will not highlight any players that should not have played for the club, they have all played a part in our history in one way or another.
Vote for Salut! Sunderland in the Football Blogging Awards: see https://safc.blog/2014/09/football-blogging-awards-make-your-yes-vote-count-for-salut-sunderland/for details
The obvious links between us include, only briefly for Palace, Marco Gabbiadini and Kevin Phillips (both great SAFC heroes). Any special memories of either (that SuperKev penalty presumably being one)?
Kevin Phillips of course. Many were critical of his signing initially but you cannot have too much experience in a team particularly one that is chasing promotion. And that penalty was simply immediate hero status. You cannot underestimate how he coolly stepped up and slotted the penalty home for the biggest prize in the game. Cue pandemonium across one side of Wembley.
It was a little different for Marco unfortunately, he had a big price tag at the time and many fans were critical of him but I enjoyed watching him play for us. He never really had a chance to become a legend at the club like Phillips did but he scored crucial goals especially one up at Anfield in a good win.
What will be this season’s top four?
I think that the title is between Chelsea and Manchester City this season with it returning to London come May. As for the other two places, it will be tight but I think Arsenal will be take one of them and rejuvenated Manchester United.
If not mentioned, where will our clubs finish?
The big question. The bottom half will be close again this season I suspect with a whole host of teams with similar ability. I firmly believe that Palace have the squad and ability to avoid the bottom three and I suspect Sunderland have just enough too. I have a feeling that we will not be a million miles away from each other and go for Palace 15th and Sunderland 16th but anything 17th and above is more than acceptable.
Victor Moses is no worse than all the other football divers. Is it time to give up bothering about their cheating and just write it into the coaching manuals? If not, what’s your plan?
My absolute pet hate. At the time of writing I have just witnessed watching Eden Hazard spend most of the game on the grass, more than the ball in fact. He has undoubted quality but he feels the need to go down under the challenge far too easily. It is perhaps too easy to name Hazard as an example, he is just unlucky as it is fresh in my mind but he is not the only one. Something has to be done about it but officials have a tough enough job running a game for 90 minutes as it is without being criticised. My suggestion would be for retrospective action to be taken, a panel meet on a Monday and apply a booking to any that are clearly a dive. With players getting banned for accumulating yellow cards and missing games it would make them change their ways perhaps.
Brazil 2014: good memories or already forgotten?
I heard it mentioned the other day that the World Cup was three months ago! Not forgotten at all as we here on The Eagles Beak provided fan coverage throughout and it was an absolute blast. The biggest and best football tournament in the world is what international football is all about. The group stages were arguably the best there has ever been even if the knock stages did not quite live up to those games that went before it. The best team won the title though, you cannot argue with that.
One step the football authorities should take to improve the ordinary supporters’ matchday experience?
Consider the fans when scheduling games. Do not make a Sunderland away game at Palace on a Monday night. Do not make Palace fans travel to two consecutive away games in the North East like last season. I do not think that it is about the match day experience as that is what it is but having the fans best interests at heart when scheduling is key in my view.
Will you be at our game and what will be the score?
Yes, I will take my regular seat in the Arthur Wait stand for this one and I am looking forward to it. I had the result down as a win for Palace even before your loss to Southampton but I am doubting that now in view of your next game against Arsenal. If you do not get anything from that one the players will be more than up for taking us on. Simply due to it being a Monday night and you are away from home, I think and hope that we will just edge it so 2-1 to Palace.
* Jay Crame on himself: I am the founder and editor of The Eagles Beak. I have been a Palace fan since the mid-80s and lost count of how many games I have been to. I do not get to many away games these days due to other commitments. As for the The Eagles Beak, it is a Palace fan site that began as a simple blog to talk about football in 2012.
Along with a Twitter account the interest grew until last year we set up our very own site and it has gone from strength to strength ever since. We have an excellent team of regular writers who contribute to the features on the site and we have real pride and passion in what we do. One of the best things about what we do is interacting with opposition fans as well as our own. I often appear on podcasts particularly the EPL Roundtable and also recently co-presented on Holmesdale Radio. I am always looking for new ideas for the site so that it evolves as time goes by as nothing stands still for very long in football but we are working on some as we speak. We always encourage intelligent debate, interaction and comments from any football fans on the site, Twitter or our Facebook page.
Interview: Colin Randall