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From the gutter to the stars, the rise and rise of Crystal Palace

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AFTER a season to remember, Five Year Plan fanzine editor ROBERT SUTHERLAND explains why this campaign has meant so much to Crystal Palace fans, after years of pain...

TIME marches on, never ending. Our history is but an element of the passing of time, and as Crystal Palace march on in their pursuit of greatness, it's easy to forget where we were just four years ago – a point where the club's history became almost insignificant in the face of an aggressive creditor.

It would be even easier to forget were it not for our supporters, whose shared experience has galvanised what was at times a fragmented unit.

The last four years have seen Palace's supporters stand behind the club in a way that is unmatched in the league; the uncompromising, unquestionable encouragement that greets every pass, move, tackle and shot comes not just from a "new in the league" experience, as other Premier League fans like to insist. It comes from seeing the club on the brink of abyss, staring into the oblivion that would have been a support without a club.

Core to Palace's support are the Holmesdale Fanatics, who have shown Palace fans a reality where singing isn't something to be ashamed about, where celebrating your colours, your love and your passion for a football club is expected rather than mocked.

Their attendance at the protest outside Selhurst Park provided a body for others to rally behind. Their guidance and verve in chanting has brought a different sound to the stadium, and their tifos and flags have given colour to a club whose stripes were inspired by the most extravagant of managers in Malcolm Allison.

From the final game of the season against Sheffield Wednesday four years ago, to the last home game of the season against Liverpool on Monday night, Palace as a club have gone through a remarkable transition.

Prior to that fixture at Hillsborough, Selhurst Park belonged to a bank, the training ground belonged to a landlord, the players were being touted by an administrator and the squad were being managed by a caretaker.

Since then, we've tasted the fear of relegation, have seen the coming and going of Palace legend Dougie Freedman as manager, experienced the gut-wrenching pain of losing the League Cup semi-final, screamed with adulation at our promotion winning charges, reacted with surprise at the resignation of Ian Holloway, questioned the logic in appointing Tony Pulis and eaten humble pie as he guided the club to a mid-table position in the Premier League.

The owners are supporters first and foremost, but they are also successful businessmen capable of negotiating to Palace's advantage.

Their mantra is that they are guardians of the club – and with such a mantra comes the commitment to never put the club in the kind of position it found itself in prior to their arrival.

They have guided us throughout the last four years with sensibility, helping to secure a Premier League status which, on that day in Sheffield in 2010, looked so very distant.

Much of what Palace have achieved in the last four years has come through hard work and perseverance. Whether it's the supporters, players, management or administrative staff – they've all played their part in transforming us into a Premier League outfit.

Undoubtedly, more is yet to come. The club needs to build on this season's success by seeking to repeat it next season.

Long-term, Palace will look to develop the stadium and will probably seek to invest in the club's other infrastructure; Tony Pulis has already mentioned that the training ground needs more work, for example.

Football is also a dangerously cyclical pursuit, and a few poor decisions can have disastrous consequences. Charlton Athletic are perhaps an example of what to avoid – the sacking of Alan Curbishley had a domino-effect which resulted in two relegations and left the club in a position that it is only now starting to recover from. There is risk in every decision you make, and Palace's owners and fans are only too aware of just how great that risk can be.

There is, however, a great deal of pleasure to be taken at the advancing strides that Palace have made in the last four years. The club can stand proud at what it has achieved since our last administration spell.

Few could write a story as vivid or as tumultuous as Palace's – mediocrity is something that Palace just don't do.

Even with a mid-table finish, the club this season have played a crucial role in deciding where the Premier League trophy might end up.

Four years ago, we would never have envisaged a mid-table Premier League finish. Here's to seeing what kind of adventures Palace take us on in the next four years.

From the gutter to the stars, the rise and rise of Crystal Palace


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