5 Reasons Crystal Palace Will Escape Relegation
After three wins from their last four matches, hope is alive for fans of Crystal Palace. Today Cassini delivers five reasons why Palace will be in the Premier League next season.
The history of Crystal Palace’s previous attempts to survive in the Premier League can unfortunately be accurately summed up in one word – futile.
As most people are aware, Crystal Palace has never survived a Premier League season.
Failure #1 1992-93 (20th of 22)
The sorry tale of woe begins with the first season of the Premier League in 1992-93, when after three successful seasons at the top level in the old Division One, the club failed to survive the league name-change finishing in 20th place out of 22. The club finished level with Oldham Athletic on 49 points, but were relegated on goal difference after Oldham improbably won their last three games including away at runners-up Aston Villa, the day after Palace had beaten Ipswich Town and seemingly secured safety. Somewhat prematurely, and a little embarrassingly, the team actually did a lap of honour after this game to celebrate staying up. Incidentally, that total of 49 points (and the average of 1.17 points per game) remains a record for a Premier League relegation.
Failure #2 1994-95 (19th of 22)
Palace bounced back immediately however, winning Division One comfortably, but the 1994-95 season was to be the last Premier League season with 22 teams and consequently four teams would be relegated at the end of this season. In typical Palace fashion, the club again occupied the final relegation place, and were relegated in 19th place.
Failure #3 1997-98 (20th of 20)
After a rare loss in a play-off final in 1996, Palace secured promotion back to the Premier League via the play-offs in 1997, but the 1997-98 season was not one Palace fans will look back on too fondly. Their first home win of the season came on the 18th of April, and the club achieved the rare feat of picking up twice as many points away as they did at home - 22 and 11 respectively. Although 1997 ended with Palace in 13th place, eight consecutive defeats and a run of 13 losses from 15 games not surprisingly saw the club relegated in last place.
This time there was to be no quick return, and in early December 2003, relegation to the third tier was more likely than promotion with Palace in 22nd place out of 24 after 22 games. The last 24 games saw a complete turnaround however, with Palace winning 16 of them seeing the Eagles soar into the final play-off spot. As play-off specialists, it was almost a formality that they would defeat Sunderland (on penalties) and West Ham United and face their fourth season in the Premier League.
Failure #4 2004-05 (18th of 20)
The 2004-05 Premier League campaign was no different, but in the end history repeated itself, and Palace were again relegated after the shortest of stays. The season was notable for the fact that going into the final round of the season, not one team was already relegated. Along with Palace, Norwich City, Southampton and West Bromwich Albion all had a chance of avoiding the drop, and when the dust had settled, it was the latter who secured 17th place. Palace were safe with nine minutes of the season remaining, before conceding an equaliser at local rivals Charlton Athletic, condemning the club to spend their centenary season in the second tier.
Premier League Odds To Avoid Relegation - Odds as at 12th December 2013.
Hope In 2013/14
Nine years on, and Crystal Palace are back for another try. Clear favourites for relegation as soon as the final whistle sounded at Wembley in May 2013, the challenge of survival will be just as hard as that of previous seasons, but there is always hope, and here are five reasons why this time around, that hope might be justified.
#1. Only Two Relegation Places Available
The team avoiding relegation by finishing in 17th place is always relegated the following season. Well, not always, but they have been for the past four seasons with Hull City, West Ham United, Wolverhampton Wanderers and Queens Park Rangers’ survival lasting just one season, and while it is still early days, Sunderland look well placed to continue that sequence.
The good news for Palace is thus that one of the three relegation spots is already reserved, although any joy at finishing one place above relegation might be tempered by the knowledge that relegation next season becomes almost certain. I’ll take that chance.
#2. 35 Points, Not 40
It is commonly asserted that a team needs 40 points for survival. They don’t. There may have been more validity in this statement in the days before the (albeit changing) ‘Big Four’ began to dominated the league, but in the last ten seasons, only once has the 18th placed team achieved 39 points (Birmingham City in 2011). In five of the last ten seasons, given a good enough goal difference, you would have stayed up with 34 points. Just 30 would have been enough in 2010 to match 18th placed Burnley. The average points required for survival over the last 10 seasons is 35, an average of 0.92 points per game. Crystal Palace has 13 from 15 games – an average of 0.87. Not too far off.
#3. Tony Pulis
Recently appointed manager Tony Pulis has never been relegated. As a friend and former team mate at Bristol Rovers of previous manager Ian Holloway, Tony will be fully aware of the task he inherits. During his first spell as Stoke City manager in 2002-03, the Potters were newly promoted to the Championship but an immediate return looked probable for much of the season, before a win on the final day secured survival.
Pulis left Stoke, but returned to manage Stoke to promotion to the Premier League, and more relevantly for this article, managed to keep them there. After a decent start to the 2008-09 season, Stoke slumped and looked likely candidates for relegation, before a couple of January transfer window signings rejuvenated the team. A spell of four wins in six games in March / April saw them to a creditable 12th place finish. Stoke’s home form was key, losing just four times, and although it is early days yet for him at Palace, he has managed the team to 1-0 and 2-0 wins in his two home matches. In short, the man has been here before and knows all about achieving good results on a limited budget.
#4. Club, Owners, Fans
Crystal Palace are fortunate to be owned since 2010 by four longtime fans with realistic expectations and a willingness to include fans in many non-player related decisions, for example the redesign of the club badge. Little things like the club recently purchasing the Gold Disk of the club’s official anthem - The Dave Clark Five’s Glad All Over - are also evidence that the owners are true fans, and go a long way to strengthening the bond between club and fans. With the transfer window opening up again in January, the owners will be fully supportive (within reason) of Tony as he looks to strengthen the squad and put his own identity on an inherited team. It was mentioned at the time of Holloway’s departure that perhaps too many changes had been made in too short a time, and Pulis will be the beneficiary of not only the current squad being together for longer, but also of the upcoming transfer window and the opportunity to make changes. The ‘new manager’ boost has resulted in a couple of needed wins, and while points are important, the confidence generated is priceless.
As for the fans, anyone who has seen any of Crystal Palace’s matches to date can attest to the vocal support the team receives both at home and away throughout matches, winning or losing. Incidentally, the now much copied “We Love You” song was first used sung in England by the Holmesdale Ultras after being adapted from a song sung by St Pauli fans. Block B of the Holmesdale is a loud and positive place and the enthusiasm is infectious. Fans are also realistic about the likelihood of staying up. If they do survive, then it is a huge bonus, if they don’t, then they’ve had one memorable season, the bank account is healthy, and as history has shown, they will be back.
For the non-elite teams in the Premier League, the difference between relative success (survival) and failure (relegation) is slim. One misstep or happenstance can lead to a team entering a rapid downward spiral. With the cohesion at Palace between owners, players and fans appearing to be tight, this can only work in Palace’s favour. Not all clubs are fortunate enough to have this bond, with two prominent examples being some strange off-field appointments at Cardiff City and the name change suggestion at Hull City, which has diverted fans attention away from supporting the team and instead to opposing the owner’s proposal. Fulham have recently changed their manager and the board at West Ham will not be happy if their inaugural season in the Olympic Stadium looks as if it might be in the Championship. Norwich City’s Chris Hughton is under some pressure, and Steve Clarke at West Bromwich Albion has won just one game since September (ironically enough versus Crystal Palace). And then there’s always the possibility of a Stoke or an Aston Villa running into trouble, or perhaps even Manchester United…?
More seriously, that Palace has got their turbulence out of the way already is good news. The hope for Palace is that their admittedly difficult task of reaching safety is made somewhat easier by other clubs self-destructing.
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