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Millen hails Delaney as Crystal Palace's defensive rock

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KEITH MILLEN says he tried to sign centre-back Damien Delaney when he was manager at Bristol City more than two years ago and has praised the Republic of Ireland international for another season at Palace.

On the back of helping the Eagles into the Premier League, Delaney has stepped up superbly to form a solid partnership with both Danny Gabbidon and Scott Dann.

But in the summer of 2012, he was close to walking away from the English game completely.

"I spoke to him when I was Bristol City manager in January 2012 and his head had gone," Millen said.

"I think he was thinking of quitting the game or going abroad to America.

"I tried to persuade him to come to Bristol, and I can't remember now why it fell through or the finances put forward, but I didn't sign him.

"For him to go from there in his career to have two great years at Palace, he's been so consistent. I think that has coincided with how the team has been set up as well this season."

Palace's defence was certainly a lot stronger following Tony Pulis' arrival in November, but their shut-outs were also down to getting used to the Premier League and learning from mistakes at the start of the season.

Millen says he and Pulis went through all the goals the Eagles had conceded from August and made it their mission to stop the silly errors.

"When you analyse the first 12 to 15 games, we were making mistakes and getting punished," he said.

"It would be interesting to go through them all again, but I bet if you analysed it there were a lot of sloppy goals we gave away.

"From December onwards, we've hardly given any soft goals away or penalties.

"At the start of the season we were diving in and going one or two goals down, and all of a sudden in the second half of the season we've learnt very quickly that we can't do that.

"I remember in the month I was in charge, myself and Tony analysed the goals we'd conceded and I think something like 16 out of the 20 were goals we could have done better.

"They weren't great goals to concede. We just said to cut out those sort of goals and mistakes and we'll give ourselves a better chance of winning.

"It's a big thing moving forward that we carry on doing that."

Meanwhile, Millen believes Palace will "thrive" on being the underdogs once again next season against the bigger sides in the Premier League.

But that tag should bring the best out of the Eagles squad as they aim to build on last season's 11th-place finish.

"Tony made a great point to the players that when we come back next season, we'll be favourites for relegation again and they'll have to get that in their mindset of how it will be," said Millen.

"It's a great way to look at it, and I think we'll probably be in the bottom four favourites.

"But if we're the underdogs, we're a group that seem to thrive and get better like that.

"I think that brings the best out of the group so we have to continue thinking like that."

Millen hails Delaney  as Crystal Palace's defensive rock


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