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Crystal Palace v West Ham United

Filed: Tuesday, 3rd December 2013
By: Preview Percy

We get the distinct impression that Preview Percy doesn't really like Croydon. Just a hunch.....

Next we hop across the other side of the river where our opponents will be Crystal Palace. Kick-off is at 8pm partly because it’s going to be on space telly, and partly because it’s taking place in the back end of beyond in Croydon.

As regular readers will know, Croydon is probably my least favourite place on the planet, it having been the birthplace of the ex-Mrs Percy and the site of most of the more dispiriting periods of my life – which, considering that I reside in the Avram Grant Olympic Rest Home For The Bewildered, should give you some idea just how bad the place really is. My antipathy to the place extends to its football club with its made-up nickname, Cardiff City-like attitude towards club colours and nicknames and the risible “ultras” with their prearranged songbook and idiot with drum. It's all a bit “Reading” and, mark my words, it's only a matter of time before the Palace forums are awash with hand-wringing over whether or not to bring inflatables to matches. Did I mention the ex-Mrs Percy comes from there as well?

Palace were promoted last term – slightly fortuitously – by way of the playoffs. They needed an 89th minute winner in their last match against Peterborough to book a playoff berth. Then, after drawing the first leg 0-0 at Selhurst Park, they beat an out of sorts Brighton 2-0 in Sussex. An extra time penalty converted by the nearly as old as I am Kevin Phillips-Bong was enough to see off Watford. There was a degree of irony in the manner of their play-off final victory insofar as manager Ian Holloway had been a strong critic of the loan system that had allowed Watford to populate their squad with what seemed to be half the population of a medium sized Italian city. Strangely, this was the same loan system that allowed Holloway to sell Wilfried Zaha to Man Utd and retain his services until the end of the season.

Palace’s Premier League history tends to measure their post-promotion seasons in the singular – since the establishment of the current set-up they’ve been relegated every season they’ve had in the top flight and their start to this season has done little to suggest that they’ll break that pattern this time around. They've “amassed” seven points from their 13 matches having beaten only Sunderland and Hull thus far this term. The seventh point came from a 0-0 home draw with Everton. Other than that it's been defeats all the way.

After a couple of months of such results, Holloway finally decided that he’d had enough and ought to go. Chairman Steve Parish agreed with him and in the middle of October a parting of the ways was announced “ by mutual consent”. As Palace continued to lose game after game Parish seemed in no hurry to appoint a new boss, commenting that he was unaware of there being a correct length of time for the appointment of a new chap. Which may be a fair comment, though whatever the recommended time is surely the month or so it finally took to bring in Tony Pulis was pushing the limit a bit.

Amusingly, the last match under the control of caretaker boss Keith Millen brought them only their second victory of the season – although the appointment of Pulis had already been announced he hadn’t started work yet. Pulis's first game in charge returned to business s usual last weekend as they went down 1-0 at Norwich. Pulis has yet to stamp his “game into disrepute” style onto the Glaziers, but no doubt as the weeks progress we'll see the full repertoire of diving and thuggery that his previous employers were so well-known for, although not, it would seem, to referees.

As everyone knows, on promotion a club needs to spend a few bob on players or face a return whence it came pretty smartish. With that in mind they brought in no fewer than 16 players over the summer. I'm sure they were aware of the Premier League 25-man squad rule when they started signing everyone, though the experience of, for example, Stephen Dobbie suggests a certain lack of cohesion on the transfer front. After a spell on loan from Brighton last season Dobbie signed a permanent deal in July only to be shipped out on loan to Blackpool, a club that he always seems to end up at whenever he's surplus to requirements at his home club.

One of the down sides of getting promoted in a year when the tv money goes through the roof is that everyone has a fair idea of what you have to spend. This is why Peterborough felt able to command an alleged, if undisclosed fee of some £4.5m rising to £6m including add-ons for striker Dwight Gayle. A shrewd bit of business. For Peterborough.

There are a couple of ex-Hammers in the squad. When they come to write the our 21st century history the name Marouane Chamakh will struggle to fill a microdot in the footnotes to an appendix of obscure players. His spell on loan last season was the living embodiment of the dictionary definition of the word “underwhelming.” Danny Gabbidon, on the other hand, was part of the 2006 FA Cup Final side cheated out of victory by the scousers. Signed at the same time and from the same location as Ginge, the pair replaced the Ferdinand (A)/Ward (E) central defensive pairing that had seen us promoted.

Like Ryan Giggs, Kevin Phillips is 40. Unlike the aforementioned Giggs, Phillips, as far as I'm aware anyway, hasn't spent a large amount of his spare time in the company of his brother's missus. Or, if he has, he's been a darn sight more successful with the superinjunction process than Giggs. Philips has made four substitute appearances this season, the last of which coincided with Holloway's last game in charge, that being the 4-1 home defeat to Fulham. Phillips was on the bench at the weekend for the trip to Norwich.

We may be reunited with an old friend (in the same way that one might refer to herpes as an old friend) Jimmy Kebe. Kebe will be remembered for getting a kicking from Jack Collison at Reading a while back and there are enough Hammers in the squad with long enough memories to make it an uncomfortable evening for the irritant.

Us? Well the win was most welcome at the weekend, even allowing for the desperately poor quality of the opposition. The editors of this site bring me the recordings of the post match press conferences (they make a great cure for geriatric insomnia) and the sound of Martin Jol getting quieter and quieter as he sought to respond to question after question about his future made for pretty uneasy listening. Sort of an aural equivalent of Croydon, really.

It was a nervy first half and sometimes you need a bit of luck which we got when Diame's shot was deflected and ref Atkinson decided to stick at “just being fussy” rather than the full blown “let's change the result” mode that we've encountered from referees far too often this season. It was pleasing to see us make positive substitutions when 1-0 up as well, rather then trying to see the game out.

Another nice touch was the reaction of Mark Noble as Modibo Maiga went off. Maiga, who has had a pretty rough time of it this season, had played pretty well, all things considered before running out of steam. As Maiga began his walk off the pitch to be replaced by Carlton Cole, Noble ran over to put a congratulatory arm around the player's shoulder as he left to generous and deserved applause.

There are no fresh injury worries so it's largely a matter of how the boss wants to line up. I'd expect us to go with a striker again and, were I in charge of things, I'd give Maiga another go. There again, if I were in charge I'd give Croydon to Scotland as a going away present.

Prediction? Well we're well overdue back to back wins and I think this will finally be the match that breaks that particular duck. It won't be an easy win – there's the “first match at home for the new boss” thing that will get the little "ultras" all excited, bless 'em as they leaf through their “Obsever's Guide To Things Proper Football Supporters Do” to get over. However, with our confidence having received a much-needed shot in the arm from the events of the weekend I think we'll have enough. I shall therefore be appropriating the Avram Grant Rest Olympic Home For The Bewildered's fund to pay Scotland to take Croydon away (£2.50) on us to take the points with a 3-1 win.

Enjoy the game!

When Last We Met At Selhurst Park – Drew 2-2 (Championship October 2011) Nolan & Carew equalised goals from Ambrose & Murray in a match played on 1 October in 80 degree heat. Ever the muppet club, they played music after goals and did that sad announcing the goalscorers leaving the home support to shout out the scorer's surname thing. They may still do it – nobody knows.

Referee: Lee Mason Idiot who sent Mark Noble off after a perfectly timed tackle in the Everton match. Owes us for that.

Danger Man: Marouane Chamakh – let's face it someone who is that poor tends to break such sequences in matches against us.

Daft fact of the week: I hate Croydon. Did I mention the fact that the ex-Mrs Percy comes from there?

Please note that the opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of, nor should be attributed to, KUMB.com.

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