Well Rovers may not be going that well, but here at Viva Towers we’re on fine form. Just over a month into the season and we’ve already matched last year’s total for episodes of our occassional opposition view piece; T’Other Side u’t’ Fence. The latest
victim kind participant is Stephen Bridle of the excellent Crystal Palace fanzine Five Year Plan, which has been in print since 2003. Its their Popular Stand if you will, although it costs £1.50 I’m told, but then thats London for you. They’ve money to burn those Southerners. Anyway, read on for Stephen’s personal take on Palace.
Name: Stephen Bridle
Website: Five Year Plan
Stand of choice at Selhurst Park:
For me it has to be the Lower Holmesdale stand. Preferably in Block B. If you’ve ever been to Selhurst before you may have seen them jumping about like lunatics down at the front of the stand. Whilst I’m not quite energetic enough to indulge in all of that, I do like a bit of a chant and the atmosphere created in that part of the ground is far better than anywhere else inside Selhurst Park.
How do you feel about Saturday’s game?
I’m sure it’s not going to be the easiest of games despite your current form, but I’m sure it’ll be an interesting one. Donny are a team that like to play football properly, and Dougie Freedman – now in charge at Palace – has got the team playing some fairly nice football. We have a horrible tendency to drop back and defend a one goal lead, and NEVER look fully comfortable doing so. Having said that, with our wealth of skillful, pacey attacking talent we can be devastating on the counter – which is definitely something you’ll need to be prepared for.
Palace have made a reasonable start to the season, what are your expectations of the team for the campaign ahead?
Well, after our first game of the season against Peterborough – during which our second half performance was quite close to being shockingly bad – it was all doom and gloom at the Palace camp and across the message boards. However, after that we started picking up and found ourselves in quite a respectable league position (especially when compared to the last two seasons) until we narrowly lost out to Middlesbrough last Saturday. We’re currently sitting in mid-table but we got our own back against ‘Boro a few days later, knocking them out of the third round of the Carling Cup – so that should give everyone at the club a bit of a boost.
Where do you think this Crystal Palace team is strongest?
We’ve got a wealth of young attacking talent who aren’t afraid to take players on – especially down the wing. We’ve been very strong in getting to the byline and putting balls into dangerous areas this season, that’s something you’ll have to be prepared for; I hope you’ve got trust in your fullbacks. Players like Wilfried Zaha, Jon Williams and Jonathan Parr have been causing all sorts of problems for our opposition this season.
What do you perceive your side’s weakness to be?
We’ve not really had any sort of real consistency in the centre of midfield for a while now. I think we need to settle in a decent ‘spine’ for the team to really push on this season. But, my main concern is in defence – or rather our lack of ability to do so at times. As I mentioned earlier we’ve started, much to the dismay of the vast majority of Palace fans I’ve spoken to, to drop really deep to defend one goal leads – which you just can’t do when you’re defence looks a little too much like a scrambly, ill-conceived mess at times. Not everyone will agree, but we’re far too narrow – which invites teams like Doncaster, who enjoy playing a bit of football, to attack our flanks which all too often causes us major problems.
Which Palace player or players should Rovers be most worried about?
One you want to look out for in particular is 18-year-old Zaha – he’s been linked with some Premiership clubs and has really started to live up to the hype the media have surrounded him with, putting in some top class performances for the Eagles so far this season. Luckily for us he signed a five year contract last season.
Which Doncaster player are you most wary of facing?
John Oster has to be high up on the list. For the simple fact that ex-Palace players have a tendency to score against their former employers. It happens more often than I’d like, and has become a bit of a running joke amongst quite a few Eagles fans.
Justified or not, every side has a scapegoat, who would you say is Palace’s?
It’d have to be Calvin Andrew I think. He’s a striker who has scored three goals for Palace since he joined in 2008. He’s been out on loan a few times, but still it’s not the best of records. He used to get a bit of stick from the Palace fans – he used to enter the game to chants of “Sharp, sharp, sharp-shooter” – but he always tends to work his socks off, which is something that has begun to endear him to the fans. Now instead of any horrible comments and scapegoating in that sense, he’s more the subject of slightly sarcastic cheers than any sort of nastiness. All fans have a bit of a moan at their players, but there’s a culture emerging at our club where we cheer no matter how we’re playing – watch the Palace crowd start singing even louder if you put one in against us on Saturday and you’ll see what I mean.
Are you happy with Dougie Freedman as manager?
He’s an absolute legend at Palace so it was hard not to be worried and excited in equal measure upon his appointment as manager. But he’s done okay so far! He saved us from relegation last season in what turned out to be a bitter battle against the drop and has exceeded expectations so far this season. So yes, I’m quite content to have him stay for as long as he likes. The problems will start to arise if we lose miserably to rivals Brighton this coming Tuesday.
There are [or at least there were when I sent these questions to Stephen] increasing calls amongst Rovers fans for Sean O’Driscoll to go, what are your thoughts on him?
He doesn’t have the best win ratio around, but then not many managers do. I’ve got nothing against him personally and I like the way his teams play football – but if it’s not working, it’s not working.
Song or chant to listen out for:
We brought the “We Love You” chant to the English game, and you’ve probably noticed many clubs have picked it up – most notably Blackpool, and now our bitter rivals Brighton have bastardised it for their own horrid purposes. It’s been around for a little while now, you’ve probably heard it before, and it’s characterised by it’s catchy “woah woah woah” chorus.
Finally, a match prediction:
Our league positions would suggest a Palace win – but factoring in our inability to play out-of-form teams and our penchant for coming home from away trips with bugger all to show for it and you start to get a different picture. Though we managed a decent 1-0 away against Hull, we have lost our last two league games – some would argue undeservedly, but that’s all part of the game. Blimey, It’s a tough one. I’m sorry – but I think I’m going to have to go 2-0 to Palace. But I wish you all the luck for the rest of the season.
Thanks to Stephen, and his token last ditch grovel for approval there means that we’ll end by directing you toward the twitter feed for the Five Year Plan fanzine. You can follow them via @FYPfanzine.