Tuesday, May 01, 2007

First impressions – May 1

Eagle Eye's regular monthly editorial

And so the season is all but over. A handful of fans will go to Colchester hoping to see a glimpse of the future with the rumoured inclusion of Lewis Grabban, Dave Martin and possibly 15 year-old wunderkind John Bostock on the bench. But for most of us the last action of the season came last Sunday with a welcome even impressive win over Derby.

It leaves us looking at a 13th place finish and a season of underachievement, talk of which has been heightened by the win over a Derby side making a final bid to stay in the race for automatic promotion but who looked every bit as flat and uninspired as Palace have for most of this season.

So are we making progress or not? Peter Taylor has long contended that the current squad is good enough to have made a stronger bid for promotion and that consistency has been the real failing. Many of us however feel that it lacks genuine quality and are left heaving sighs of relief that it’s all over.

We can count the genuine high points on the fingers of one hand and even when sitting pretty with maximum points after three games, it was already apparent that this Palace team was nowhere near good enough. In fact at one stage it was being described by more than a few as the worst Palace side in more than 20 years. In terms of the lack of entertainment that tag still applies, it’s difficult to recall when we’ve been anywhere near as boring as this. We’ve endured some turgid, one-paced fotball and many have laid the blame at Peter Taylor’s doorstep, feeling that he is over-cautious and has deliberately settled for points when victories were needed.

That said, there is a recognition that building a team takes time. Some believe that Taylor has done well with a side shorn above all of the talent of Andy Johnson and also missing Emmerson Boyce (arguably our best player) the steel of Aki Riihilahti and Mikele Leigertwood in midfield and to a lesser extent Fitz Hall.

The players coming in have been a mixed bag. Again Taylor harldy won the fans over by acquiring journeymen such as Kennedy, Scowcroft, Kuqi and to a lesser extent Lawrence (who has surprised many with some committed displays). Cort has been a solid if unspectacular defender, while Green, Ifill and Martin at least hint at more attacking ambitions, although the first two have struggled for fitness (which may be a constant worry) and the latter is being introduced very gradually.

Looking for pointers for next season is not easy. We had a decent run from Christmas, which suggested we could be a top six side, but that form fell away and there were lame performances at Leeds, Plymouth and Barnsley which had little to recommend them. Good wins over Preston and Derby suggest better times ahead but we still seem to lack a real driving force (although to be fair the entire division seems to be lacking in that respect).

There are now one or two rumours that Taylor may shortly be on his way, either of his own accord or possibly because Simon Jordan fancies the suddenly available Chris Coleman. Whether these rumours have any foundation, one suspects it would be a mistake to change again just at this moment. It has not been a good season, but the thinking of most fans is to wait and see what Taylor does in the summer. Can he bring in some younger players with pace and possibly get rid of some of the deadwood even including one or two of the journeymen he brought in, such as Scowcroft, Kennedy and Kuqi? There are youngsters such as Lewis Grabban coming through, who could make n impact next year, most of us are prepared to wait a little longer to see if Taylor can turn the current drab outfit into something a little more inspiring. It would be silly not to give him the chance.

Saturday, April 28, 2007

Sign the petition... reject the new Palace kits

Many supporters are upset at the hideous new Palace shirt designs, which are extremely ugly and continue in the thoughtless tradition of Crystal Palace FC taking their suppporters for mugs.

Enough is enough. With widespread anger about the rubbish kits, an online petition has been set up and the Palace Independent Suppporters Association is taking the matter up with the club.

Apart from disapointment with the designs, whcih are truly dreadful aan an embarrassment to club and fans, there is also the matter of the whole process as the club charter says it will consult on kits (which might have given us a chance to at least overwhelmingly dismiss the worst kits in CPFC history). No wonder fans feel disenfranchised. If you've had enough please sign the petition and do not buy these rubbish kits.

Click on the headline in this article and it will take you to the petition

Friday, April 27, 2007

Palace unveil rubbish new kits

Crystal Palace FC today revealed their stylish new kits for 2007-08. The new look designs are intended to highlight the character of the club and the thinking of those who designed and approved the kits.

'We've gone for Italian style and French flair,' said chairman Simon Jordan, who of course is readily identified in most tabloids as the very epitome of 'good taste'.

The home kit on the left incorporate's the chairman's own corporate colour of orange into the traditional Palace colours and recognises that fans have a feeling for history with a nod to the yellow and black FA Cup final replay kit down one sleeve.

'We feel that these kits will look perfect for when the wheels come off our season,' said Jordan.

The away kit on the right takes its cue from the atmosphere around Selhurst Park since Peter Taylor arrived, and is inspired by French mime artist Marcel Marceau.

'We think this one will be a big seller,' said Jordan, 'mime is money.'

Thursday, April 26, 2007

How Palace can learn from Napoleon

Exclusive: A leaked Palace document which forms part of Peter Taylor's 'roadmap to the Premiership' shows how an understanding of nineteenth century military history can help us to victory next season

The following notes show how Palace can achieve success by adapting Napoleonic military tactics... we're rather taken with the bright reds and blues and the glistening Eagles on sticks - all very Palace!

1. Form square For the 2007-08 season, Palace's primary defensive system will be to form an infantry style square in the 18 yard-box. It's a proven defence against cavalry attack and we believe it could be just as effective against opposition wingers. We are checking with the Nationwide league to clarify rules allowing Leon Cort and Mark Hudson to fix bayonets.

2. The retreat from Moscow formation We perfected this in the 2006-07 season where, after our corners have been cleared, we have a bedraggled and exhausted looking bunch of stragglers trying to make it back to their own half. Scowcroft, Kuqi and Kennedy have done a passable impression of the shattered remnants of the Imperial Guard struggling through the snow. We're thinking of adapting this next season to include a scene where Kuqi is butchered for horse flesh.

3. Artillery In the absence of any kind of midfield quality, the back four maintain an aerial barrage. Rather than have Palace wasting energy by charging upfield like the Scots Greys, the order will be 'just bloody boot it!'

4. Attacking in line Again, a tactic we've already worked on this season. String everybody out in a line and plod aimlessly forward towards the opposition while they pick us off at will.

5. Sign Sharpe A dashing hero could be the answer to our lack of cut and thrust up front, get that goalscoring bloke from Scunthorpe (although knwing our luck we'll end up with Mr Bean instead).

Cruelly taken out of context quotation

Taylor insists the players must end their habit of conceding soft goals. 'A lot of our games could have ended 0-0, but we have conceded silly goals and they have cost us.'

Sweet holy whatsname, mother of that bloke out of the bible.... just what we really needed this season would have been more 0-0 draws. Haven't we suffered enough? It might have been a bit more encouraging if he'd said the players must end their habit of getting three yards inside the opposition's half and then turning round and retreating.

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Season review part 1: Goalkeepers

As the season approaches a merciful end, the Eagle Eye team assesses each aspect of the Palace squad, starting with the keepers…

Overview: Palace have had a problem with goalkeepers for years, in fact we still haven’t properly replaced Nigel Martyn. This season has seen chaos between the sticks with no less than four different keepers employed. Of those, the three that actually belong to us have all been in and out, hit and miss and we end the season with more uncertainty over who our number one will be.

Positives: An experienced, potentially brilliant keeper who is an established international (albeit with the eternally useless Hungary), he ended the season in good form. Gabor’s style is unorthodox, although he seems to have tempered his bizarre positioning at corners. He is an erratic talent but still makes mistakes and still makes great saves. His handling has improved greatly – aerially, he commands his area better than any recent Palace keeper. Distribution is erratic, often to the point of being a liability.
Negatives: Uncertainty has lingered over his future for the last two seasons. He has made encouraging noises about wanting to stay with Palace if the club ‘shows ambition’ to get back into the Premiership and, presumably, if we can afford to pay him. For someone capable of brilliance, he has conceded some poor goals, which resulted in him being dropped and then loaned to West Ham and then Aston Villa although Peter Taylor’s apparent punishment seemed over harsh.
Keepometer 7 A confident on-form Kiraly is an asset and would save us the expense of having to buy a new keeper. He's by no means perfect but he's the best we can hope for. It will come down to money and that means he may well be off in June.

Positives: A loyal understudy to Kiraly, he has waited patiently for his chance and played well when called upon just before Christmas. Was then unlucky to get injured, preventing him from having a longer run in the side. Has been given the final three games of this campaign for Peter Taylor to have a look at him, which in a way speaks volumes – he’s been here three years and we still don’t know if he’s up to it.
Negatives: After a number of past calamities, many fans don’t have much faith in him and it seems that his defenders might feel the same way.. Can we afford to take a chance?
Keepometer 5 Out of contract this summer, probably not worth the risk of another contract.

Positives: Arrived from Barnsley with only a handful of games under his belt but with England under-20 honours and a good reputation, aided by apparent interest from Chelsea. Now gaining experience on loan with the Seaweed with okay reports. Flinders is the only example of us getting someone from Taylor’s fabled ‘little black book’ of young stars.
Negatives: No reflection on the player, but this deal was a complete waste of money. Palace doing their ‘big mouth’ bit signed him in a blaze of £1m reports only to be forced to backtrack after a series of disastrous autumn performances. Even if it turns out that the fee was ‘only £400,000’ it was hardly money well spent – buying expensive young keepers is a mug’s game, shades of Matt Gregg or Chris Day here? We’ve had no return on him in his first season and it’s doubtful whether he will be ready next term. By the time he fulfils his potential, he’ll be out of contract.
Keepometer 6 Hold onto him, we’ve paid the money hopefully one day we might see a return on it, but not yet. An expensive one for the future.

Positives: Looked the real deal during his loan spell from Everton, showed confident handling and produced one or two cracking saves of rare agility. Unlucky with his injury.
Negatives: Now on loan at Sheffield Wednesday who, should Everton decide to sell (and they would be stupid to do so), will undoubtedly be in pole position to snap him up.
Keepometer 8 Not ours to keep, but if he became available would be a very good buy. Best we can hope for is that our ‘Brownie points’ having given them AJ will secure a year’s loan deal.

Conclusion: Peter Taylor’s handling of our jeepers keepers has been poor and contributed significantly to the autumn slump - a self created crisis. We really want to avoid spending money on goalkeepers as there are so many outfield areas in desperate need of strengthening (i.e. all of them). We may have a difficult job to find someone better than Kiraly, but that may be out of our hands. Speroni or Flinders as number one? Not an enticing prospect.

Players linked: Iain Walker of Bolton (ex-England and Spurs journeyman, bad hair, dodgy photos) has been mentioned in the Sunday People. Expect Taylor’s old keeper at Hull, Boaz Myhill, to be mentioned as well.
Emerging talent: David Wilkinson.

What if... James Slowcroft joined the Fingerbobs

Slowly, steadily, I move at my own pace
They call me Flash though I won't dash
Who wants to run a race ?
As long as I get there, why worry ?
What's the hurry? [YAWN]

Friday, April 20, 2007

Three Yorkshiremen and a Palace fan

Yet another blatant Monty Python rip off… as we prepare for a visit to Barnsley, happen there’ll be a distinctively stereotypical regional flavour with flat hats, whippets, Yorkshire pudden, Michael Parkinson and probably a bland shopping centre with a Next and a River Island in it. Cue music from the Hovis advert…

FIRST YORKSHIREMAN: Who'd have thought 20 year ago we'd all be sittin' here preparing to play a fancy pants London outfit like Crystal Palace?
SECOND YORKSHIREMAN: Aye, in them days we was glad to have Trevor Aylott up front.
THIRD YORKSHIREMAN: An’ we thought he were great. Even though we used him during t’week as a pit pony.
FIRST YORKSHIREMAN: He were a luxury player.
PALACE FAN: We were happy in those days, though we were poor.
FIRST YORKSHIREMAN: Because you were poor. My old Dad used to say to me: ‘A chairman with money can’t buy you happiness, son.’
PALACE FAN: He was right, he bought us Ade Akinbiyi… and John Macken.
FIRST YORKSHIREMAN: You were happier when you had nothin'. We used have this tiny old stand with great big holes in the roof.
PALACE FAN: We’ve still got an old stand with great big holes in the roof. We used to stand on an away end, all twenty-six of us, no future, half the defence was missing, Tony Mahoney up front and Steve Ketteridge in midfield, relegation staring us in the face and we were all huddled together in one corner cos there was no roof on the Holmesdale and Uncle Ron wanted to sell us a Top Score card.
THIRD YORKSHIREMAN: You were lucky not to have a roof! We used to have to watch Bruce Dyer in t’acid rain!
PALACE FAN: We used to be told by the Chairman’s brother that we were historic jean wearing fans shivering on the concourses.
SECOND YORKSHIREMAN: You were lucky to ‘ave concourses, we used ter play in t’corridor!
PALACE FAN: We had a goalkeeper called Kevin Miller… he was about as much use as a damp cloth…
THIRD YORKSHIREMAN: We used to dream of buying Kevin Miller! He was Mister Palace to us. He used to keep goal in an old water tank on a rubbish tip and got woke up every morning by having a load of rotting fish dumped all over him! And he ate the lot.
PALACE FAN: When I say we play in a ground, it’s really only a hole in the ground covered by a sheet of tarpaulin, but it’s still Selhurst Park to us.
THIRD YORKSHIREMAN: We were evicted from our 'ole in the ground; we 'ad to go and live in a lake.
PALACE FAN You were lucky to have a lake! There’s a hundred and fifty of us in the Arthur Wait wading through rivers of piss in the shoebox that passes for the toilets…
FIRST YORKSHIREMAN: You’re lucky. We played for three years with Aylott up front and he couldn’t fight his way out of a wet paper bag. We used to have to get up at six in the morning, eat a crust of stale bread, go to work down t' mill, 14 hours a day, week-in week-out, for sixpence a week, and when we got home our Dad would thrash us to sleep wi' his belt.
PALACE FAN: Luxury. We have to try to stay awake while Mark Kennedy waddles around in midfield, watch James Scowcroft get nowhere near scoring, pay forty quid to get into a match where the team never crosses the halfway line, read SE25 and Simon charges us three quid for a small bottle of warm lager, if we’re lucky!
THIRD YORKSHIREMAN: Right. I had to get up in the morning at ten o'clock at night half an hour before I went to bed, drink a cup of sulphuric acid, work twenty-nine hours a day down mill, and pay mill owner for permission to come to work, and when we got home, our Dad and our mother would kill us and dance about on our graves singing Hallelujah.
PALACE FAN: Well, of course, we have it tough. We 'ave to get up at twelve o'clock at night to spend ten hours on the phone trying to get through to the Palace box office and work twenty-four hours a day to be able to afford to buy one ticket in the lower Holmesdale, we spend a lifetime’s wages on a crap plastic shirt which is covered in catches and bobbles after one wash and sit in an empty stadium where most of the people don’t turn up for fear of losing consciousness and when we get home Shefki Kuqi’s calling us the worst fans he’s ever seen…
FIRST YORKSHIREMAN: And you try telling the young people of today that… they won't believe you.

Putting Palace first

Does Crystal Palace FC ‘owe’ anything to other clubs when selecting teams to ensure that competition remains fair?

In the next two matches, Palace who are safely mid-table, face Barnsley who are fighting relegation and Derby, who are hoping for automatic promotion, and manager Peter Taylor has told the official club website: ‘I'll be tempted to name a young side for Colchester, but not against Barnsley or Derby. We will be playing our strongest team out of fairness to the other clubs in our division… I’m sure people like Birmingham, Sunderland, Wolves and Preston will want us to play the strongest team.’

Aside from the question of whether Palace’s emerging youngsters would actually be a better choice than some of the old stagers who have been playing without distinction all season, fans have been arguing over whether Taylor should be considering other clubs’ interests above those of his own team.

Morally, the answer is yes, but it has been a good few years since clubs were last required by rule to field full-strength teams in the league and few of us believe that if circumstances were different other clubs would do the same for us.

Indeed, Palace supporters will recall a disinterested last day performance by Barnsley at Portsmouth in 2001, which would have sent us to the third tier had it not been for a very late Dougie Freedman goal at Stockport. Portsmouth themselves made very little effort to avoid defeat at West Brom in the final game of 2005, knowing that their defeat might help send rivals Southampton down from the Premiership… it did, but relegated Palace too.

But this is not about any kind of revenge. All season, Palace supporters have yearned to see some of their emerging academy talent break into the squad. With three matches left and nothing to play for, they regard this as the perfect moment to give exciting winger Dave Martin, pacy striker Lewis Grabban and even much-touted 16 year-old Victor Moses a bit of valuable league experience. Not so, it seems. Many Palace fans feel that Taylor’s apparent willingness to put the needs of Birmingham et al above that of his own club is the wrong decision.

Thursday, April 19, 2007

Eagle iRobot: a futurist’s view of Crystal Palace

Never mind the youth academy and searching the lower leagues for talent… Tony Matthews says technology is the answer to Palace's talent crisis

I bet the boffins in the UK Office of Science and Innovation's Horizon Scanning Centre laughed to themselves when they decided to call their studies into the robotic future the Sigma and Delta scans. They could have called them the Eric and Ernie scans or the Derek and Clive scans, but that wouldn’t have sounded futuristic enough, would it?

This British government study, recently reported by the BBC, reckons that within the next 50 years some too-clever-by-half types will have invented intelligent robots, and said robots will require the same rights as humans. So that knackers the idea that they’ll get on with the hoovering and make your dinner while you put your feet up. In fact you’d better prepare yourself for them to rise up and slaughter you in your beds, cos that’s what the silvery-sods always do in the films, whihc is not a pleasant thought although it won’t stop the technomuppets from inventing them will it?

Microsoft’s Bill Gates might want to make robots a reality, but for many of us they conjure up all kinds of unpleasant images, from Rutger Hauer’s malevolent replicant putting the fear of Noades up us in Blade Runner to Will Smith’s battles in I Robot to Woody Allen’s stuttering little service droid in Sleeper. But amid all these nightmarish science fiction visions, one of the most obvious practical applications for robots could be for Palace to build themselves an artificially intelligent footballer.

What we’re after here, is a number 8 with a tackle like Iron Man, the precision passing trajectory of a laser guided missile and the pace of a T1000 model Terminator. And we haven’t had one of those since Geoff Thomas.

Fortunately, Eagle Eye can reveal that Palace is at the forefront of developing such technology and, if the work of the Selhurst Park CyberTechBoffinLab bears fruit, we may at last see a little bit of steel added to our midfield. Professor Kitt Syborg, the enormously clever chap who is head of research and development at the CPFC laboratory, is aiming to produce a complete player, one that combines the loyalty and ability to do as it is damn well told of a Cyberman with the aerial ability and clinical finishing of a Dalek. Unfortunately, Palace chairman Simon 'I'm only human' Jordan is being a bit tight with the old purse strings and so far professor Syborg is trying to create such a being out of two packs of Bacofoil, a set of corner flags, some rubber bands, a pair of Clinton Morrison’s old silver boots and a tin of WD40.

The first question for someone producing an artificially intelligent footballer is ‘how artificially intelligent does it have to be?’ The answer, it seems, is ‘not very’ or to put it into a complex scientific formula ‘short planks to the power of 2 = professional footballer’.

Despite having one or two screws missing, Professor Syborg says Palace are on the verge of a major breakthrough and should soon be able to put a microchip into Clinton Morrison’s shoulder (which should balance him up quite nicely) but Palace are experiencing teething troubles with a model called an iKuqi because they can’t get the clunking great feet right and it keeps tripping over itself. The real development work, though, is being saved for a new Roboforward called Tommy Klangley, who looks like a cross between an ordinary household dustbin and Tweekie from Buck Rogers… and plays like one, too.

While Palace struggle to finance their robot player programme, stinky rich clubs like Chelsea and Arsenal are already well advanced in their plans for a futuristic future. The Arse have developed an indestructible robot that is capable of shape shifting and time travel ready to turn out on the right wing. By contrast, Palace’s left back, who may one day be called upon to face such a terrifying machine, is made out of an old Whitehorse Lane End urinal, a pram wheel, and the hose attachment from a 1970s Electrolux vaccuum cleaner. ‘We’re pretty certain Palace’s new left back will suck,’ said professor Syborg.