Spyin' Kop - Crystal Palace: Them and Us.

Posted by Armin on November 11, 2004, 10:49:09 PM

A second home game on the run brings Premiership new boys Crystal Palace to Anfield this Saturday.  Last season Palace were struggling in the (as then) First Division until Iain Dowie transformed the team into promotion candidates.  A win at Cardiff over a West Ham team boasting far more experienced players brought Palace back to the premier league and they become the third of the newly promoted teams to face the Reds at Anfield.

For an insight into our opponents RAWK has turned to Crystal Palace fansite Holmesdale online:  http://www.holmesdale.net/

Answering our questions is forum moderator Gavin Mander otherwise known as 'Moose'.  We'd like to thank Gavin and Holmesdale online for their help.

On with the questions!

RAWK: How has the season begun for Palace?

Moose: Much as expected - it's always difficult for newly-promoted sides to adjust to life in the Premiership, especially the side that has been promoted via the play-offs, because they have several weeks' less time to prepare. I felt as though we could have picked up a couple more points in our first few games (Norwich away, Man City and Everton at home) but we were exposed not through our lack of quality but through our naivety. It was good to see that we weren't completely outplayed by anyone except Chelsea, who beat us without breaking into much of a sweat, but we learned pretty quickly that lapses in concentration at this level cost goals, and the likes of Anelka, Berger and Drogba don't often forgive mistakes. However, in the last month the errors have reduced and we are looking a much tighter unit. As a result we've been picking up points reasonably regularly and have a small buffer between us and the relegation zone.

RAWK: What are your expectations for this season? Have they changed from day one?

Moose: My expectations were for relegation, but not in last place, which I still think will belong to Norwich. In the light of the last few games, though, I've raised my expectations and I'm starting to believe that we could stay up this season. Anything 17th or above will do nicely!

RAWK: Who do you think is your most important player(s)?

Moose: Obviously Andy Johnson will be at the top of any Palace fan's list. The improvement in his game in the last season and a half has been nothing short of astonishing, and every time he gets the ball you think he can score. His pace is excellent, his control has improved, his shooting is more clinical, and his work rate is unbelievable. The other players I'd single out are:

Centre back Fitz Hall, who we bought from Southampton over the summer. He's a centre back in the new mould, with confidence to play the ball from defence rather than just boot it away, and he's a great reader of the game.

Midfield "enforcer" Aki Riihialhti, who has really blossomed since Dowie's arrival. His attitude is fantastic, and he never gives less than 100%. Passing and mobility have really improved, and he's getting back to his old scoring ways.

Midfield "dynamo" Michael Hughes - still turning in the performances at 33 years old: he's tenacious, hard working and a vital link between Aki and AJ.

RAWK: Your worst player(s)?

Moose: The thing about this team is that, although we lack the quality of the very top sides, all of our players give their very best every game - it's expected by the Dowie regime, and anyone who doesn't "bleed red and blue" is quickly dropped. Don't expect to see any lazy Palace players on Saturday! The only disappointment this season so far was our keeper Speroni, who was too prone to needless cock-ups, but he's been replaced by the more solid Gabor Kiraly in goal.

RAWK: What do you expect in the way of atmosphere, singing, pies etc from your
trip to Anfield? How does it compare to rival grounds?

Moose: The atmosphere is always excellent at Anfield - Liverpool fans are vocal and seem to support their team regardless of whether things are going well. It has been the scene of a few interesting games between out two teams over the years! To be honest, most Premiership grounds compare very favourably to us at the moment - it's pretty easy when you're used to trips to Gillingham and Rotherham...! But I prefer the likes of Anfield to the new purpose-built stadia like the Reebok or the Riverside, which I think lack a little bit of atmosphere.

RAWK: Any young up and coming players in the squad that we might not know about?

Moose: You might not have heard of most of our players! The two I'd single out this season are Emerson Boyce (right back) who we brought in on a free from Luton. Our regular right back, Danny Butterfield, suffered an injury pre-season and Boycie was thrown in to the first team. The jump of two divisions is huge, but his response has been magnificent and Butts will have trouble getting his place back. The other young player worth a look at is Ben Watson, who plays alongside Aki and Hughesie. He's a product of our youth system and has the potential to go far in the game. Watch for the cultured passing and ability to create space on the ball - and he's only 19!

RAWK: Was swopping £4.5 million and Andy Johnson for Clinton Morrison the best bit of business Palace have done? Are you annoyed by the speculation linking him with a move to Anfield?
Moose: (Actually, it was £3.75M as AJ was valued at £750K) It's certainly one of the best pieces of business, although Ian Wright for peanuts from Dulwich Hamlet was pretty good, as was selling Chris Armstrong to Spurs for £4.5M, although I think most clubs have taken Spurs for a ride at some point in the last few years! We've definitely ended up with the better player, although I like Clinton and want to see him succeed in his career. As for AJ to Anfield, it's paper talk only and isn't annoying. If you want to get AJ, you'll need to get Dowie first, and they've both committed another 5 years to Palace.

RAWK: What sort of line-up will Ian Dowie put out against us?

Moose: We'll play 4-5-1, which has become our favoured formation this season. AJ will play as lone striker, and Hughes will play between him and the midfield four. Not sure of the starting line-up, as we've got a few injury worries at the back.

RAWK: Do you have a favourite/best chant(s) and perhaps any that require an explanation?

Moose: The new chant for this season is "Bouncebackability" which is a word much loved by Iain Dowie to describe our reaction to a bad result. Soccer AM are leading a campaign to get the word included in the new dictionary!

RAWK: Where do you expect Palace and Liverpool to finish in the Premier League?

Moose: Palace, 16th. Liverpool, 4th.

RAWK: Which Liverpool player will you fear the most?

Moose: Either Luis Garcia or Alonso - they both look high quality. Very glad that Gerrard is injured, as he is top, top quality. Always worried about Kewell, who seems to enjoy playing against us!

RAWK: And your feelings on the new 'Spanish flavour' Liverpool. Rafa Benitez himself and our new recruits?

Moose: Difficult to say at the moment as I think the team is still gelling, but the potential is there for a team who can rip others to pieces. If I was a Liverpool fan, I'd be more worried about an ageing defence, who I think are slightly past their best. As for the new recruits, the Spanish pair Alonso and Luis Garcia are great purchases, but we'll wait and see whether they will enjoy cold British winters!

RAWK: Why 'Holmesdale'?

Moose: The Holmesdale Terrace (now the Holmesdale Stand) backed onto the Holmesdale Road, SE25.

RAWK: How about predicting the result?
Moose: I think we could get a draw, so I'll go for 1-1. May be a bit optimistic...!

© RAWK 2004

Just a quick note, we will be off to the smoggies next and after that its Champions League time again so if there are particular questions you think we should be asking either Boro or Monaco then fire away.

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