The Greatest Palace Squad Ever?
In the wake of another successful January transfer window, the Palace squad is one with talent and depth, but could this be the best squad the club has ever had? Sam Hesketh thinks it may well be.
For those who didn't hate the face-melting yellow of Deadline Day already, the last couple have quickly burnt themselves out, marked only by the odd purple dildo or pizza delivery in Stoke. However, with last January's purchases of Joe Ledley and Scott Dann and 2015's incoming transfers, it could well be argued that we actually know what we're doing, much to the delight of Jim White's nauseous distinctly non-yellow grin.
In the past few weeks we've filled striking gaps, brought in a bonafide left-back, signed two creative midfielders that have done the business in the top flight and a couple of youngsters that may well prove to be bargains in years to come. As a result, we now have legitimate competition for places, meaning the likes of Barry Bannan, who is a perfectly capable player, has been forced to leave the club, albeit temporarily.
Despite not having seen the Team of the 80s or successful teams of even earlier decades, having only begun coming to Palace in 1990, surely there is still an argument for the current crop of Eagles to be crowned the best squad in the club's history? Only four years after seeing the likes of Barrett and Claude Davies at the back, Dorman and Garvan lacking any kind of steel in the middle of the park and the impotent strike force of Jermaine Easter and Calvin Andrew, we are now treated to the skill of Chamakh, the pace and trickery of Yala, the top flight know-how of Puncheon, calm talents of Scott Dann and non-stop energy of James McArthur and Joe Ledley - quite some transformation.
Taking the squad at face value, we can see it is full of internationals - from Jedinak's successful captaincy which resulted in Australia lifting the Asian Cup to Yala's fine goalscoring form at AFCON, a large number of the squad have had the honour of turning out for their country. With even those not in the 25, such as Kwesi Appiah scoring in international tournaments, the squad is full of players who have been recognised as having talent beyond the average. We even boast three players with England caps in Campbell, Zaha and Kelly, the former rarely seeing action due to the form of Dwight Gayle.
The team of 1990/91 was my first Palace squad and one that is remembered for all the right reasons. Our heroes from a quarter of a century ago had so many attributes, but it can be argued that the current crop have just as much. For Ian Wright, who came up through the non-league ladder, see the free-scoring Gayle, for the grit of Geoff Thomas, see Jedinak. For dazzling wing-play made so enjoyable by Salako, see Yala and Wilf and with the likes of Joel Ward and Scott Dann showing week in, week out, why they are being looked at by international scouts, the legend of Madden, Humphrey, Ninja and Thorn lives on.
As brilliant as that team was under Coppell, the league has changed beyond recognition. In the current era of Sheiks, Russian billionaires and American consortiums, keeping our head above water in the top flight is increasingly difficult. We have spent money on this squad, even getting to the point of paying £5m for Mutch, who may not even get in the team every week, but compared to those around us, we aren't even guilty of going over the top. Looking at Leicester, Hull and everyone's favourite money-wasters QPR's outgoings, it's clear that there is much to do in the modern game to remain in the league.
Comparing squads across the last 100-plus years may be folly to some, but certainly the squad we have now boasts as much talent and potential as it ever has and we have never had a better chance of progressing. No doubt this will come back to haunt me when we get relegated come May, but for now, we have a lot to be proud of and confident about.
Photo (c) www.andyrobertsphotography.co.uk
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