Friday 01 August 2014
Manager: Tony Pulis (November 2013)
Home ground: Selhurst Park
Players in: Chris Kettings, Fraizer Campbell, Brede Hangeland
First five BPL matches: Arsenal (A), West Ham United (H), Newcastle United (A), Burnley (H), Everton (A)
For the first time in their history, Crystal Palace are preparing to compete in back-to-back Barclays Premier League seasons after an extraordinary turn around in fortunes in 2013/14.
Bottom of the table in November, Palace looked doomed after picking up four points from their first 11 matches before former Stoke City manager Tony Pulis moved to Selhurst Park. He quickly galvanised the Eagles and under him they lost only 10 out of 26 matches as they secured a club-record 11th-place finish.
The South London club only conceded 27 goals in as many matches following Pulis' appointment, and comfortably ensured safety with a run of five consecutive victories from late March to mid-April, including impressive triumphs against Chelsea and Everton. That feat earned the Barclays Manager of the Month award for Pulis, and his then fellow to a narrow defeat against champions-elect Manchester City before rallying from 3-0 down to draw 3-3 with title-chasing Liverpool in one of the most gripping matches of the 2013/14 top-flight season.
His achievement in keeping Palace up earned Pulis the Barclays Manager of the Season award in May.
At the heart of their defensive solidity, which included 11 clean sheets in Pulis' reign, was long-serving goalkeeper Julian Speroni, who joined the Eagles in their previous top-flight campaign in 2004/05. January signing Scott Dann and former Portsmouth defender Joel Ward also impressed while winger Jason Puncheon, who made a season-long loan move from Southampton permanent, and striker Dwight Gayle were the club's top scorers with seven League goals each.
Palace have bolstered their firepower this summer with former Cardiff City frontman Fraizer Campbell, while goalkeeper Chris Kettings has joined on a free transfer from Blackpool and centre-back Brede Hangelaand has arrived from Fulham. New contracts for Speroni and Marouane Chamakh, who played a key role in Palace's survival following his move from Arsenal, provided further boosts for the Eagles.
The 2014/15 campaign is the first time they have managed a second consecutive top-flight season since the formation of the Barclays Premier League in 1992/93. Their debut in the competition ended in relegation, and they were consigned to an immediate return to the Championship in 1994/95, 1997/98 and 2004/05.
The new Barclays Premier League season starts with a trip to fellow London club Arsenal, while West Ham United and newly promoted duo Burnley and Leicester City will be the first teams to visit Selhurst Park. Buoyed by their passionate supporters, Palace lost only four home matches under Pulis last term.
|Best BPL finish
|Seasons in the BPL
||5 (1992/93; 1994/95; 1997/98;
|Most BPL appearances||Dean Gordon (88)|
|Top BPL goalscorer||Chris Armstrong (23)|
Hopes for the new season.
They are reasonably high. If the manager is backed in the transfer market, and I have no reason to believe that he wouldn't be, Palace are in a great position to build on last season.
What was the overall impression of last season?
It was an incredible fightback. There was a little bit of work done on the stability of the side when Keith Millen was in caretaker charge, they tightened up a bit and perhaps were not playing quite so expansively. Then Tony Pulis came in and that experience he has of the Premier League was brought to bear. He worked out the core of players that he wanted, he settled on a system that really did work for them and not only frustrated a lot of teams, they counter-attacked and created chances. They did fantastically well.
The second-half fight back to the season was absolutely outstanding and they romped to safety in the end, which I don't think anybody would have thought would have been the case when they lost 4-1 to Fulham and Ian Holloway decided it was time to step down. It speaks volumes for the transformation there. One of the key things was the level of organisation, the players worked extremely hard, they all knew their jobs, they all weren't allowed to slip off of that.
What are the special qualities of Tony Pulis?
He brings a vast amount of experience. He has never had a relegation on his footballing CV and when he came in initially, people probably thought that record was in danger of going because of the position the club were in.
He is very, very good at managing the players and making sure they are motivated. He has also got an eye for the kind of player that you need to bring in, such as Scott Dann and Joe Ledley. They all added quality to the side. He showed that he could adapt to the squad he had because although he made a few changes, he still used largely the same side and got the best out of those players.
What is the mood like among the fans?
They are just enjoying it. The first season back was fantastic for them and they added massive colour to the League. Home and away they would be the most vocal fans that you would see at matches. It helps massively that they have got this unwavering support. Selhurst Park is such a special place. At Palace, there was that atmosphere, it didn't need a team to do something for it to be there, it was already in place before the match kicked off and it would stay there even if there were tough times.
With a few signings before the season starts, I think they are confident they can kick on again. The club know the rewards if they can get that bit of continuity. If Pulis can do what he did at Stoke City and keep Palace up for a length of time, it really could transform things.
What are the matches the fans always look forward to, and what are the ones they dread?
I think they look forward to nearly all of them. There's not a natural derby match there like there has been in previous years when they have looked forward to playing the likes of Brighton & Hove Albion. I don't think there are many that they dread. The players are quite happy to be the underdogs and Pulis does not mind the fact that Crystal Palace are written off before a ball is kicked.
They fed off that last year and I am sure they will do again. With regards to the fans, they do not go anywhere and sit back and be quiet. Even at Liverpool they were so vocal. Because they did so well under Pulis in the second half of the season and acquitted themselves well against the top sides, they are not wincing and thinking 'we have got to go to Man Utd away, Chelsea away'.
Who is the best young talent BPL fans might see emerge this season?
Attacking midfielder Jonny Williams is one player that the Palace fans would love to see come through. He has been very unlucky with injuries over the last few seasons but he did really well out on loan at Ipswich Town last season. He is a lovely, grounded lad. He has been with Palace for years. He is quite small but can carry the ball. He's a bundle of energy and can really open sides up when he is on form.
Crystal Palace in three words
Passionate. Committed. Hungry.
Richard Cawley is the deputy sports editor at the South London Press. You can follow him on Twitter @RichCawleySLP.