No matter how many people dismiss them
18 August ~ "No chance. Next." I've been dreading this moment all summer. Sometime on Saturday during Football Focus, probably just before the credits are about to roll, and doubtless just after saying how great it is to see Ian Holloway back, one of the game's true characters, presenter Dan Walker will ask Mark Lawrenson if he reckons Crystal Palace can stay up this season. And he will answer thus. I've been happy enough having the Premier League humming away in the background for most of the past eight years.
I'd watch Match of the Day if I could stay awake, Match of the Day 2 if I could bear it, watch an occasional game in the pub, but work invariably meant that my footballing attention was elsewhere, as did my support for a team which, more often than not, found itself flapping about at the wrong end of the Championship.
I like the way Palace have been going about things since coming out of administration three summers ago. I like the owners' sense of realism, I like the way co-chairman Steve Parish connects with the fans. I like the sound of some of the new players who have come in during this transfer window – relatively rational purchases such as the young striker Dwight Gayle and midfielder José Campaña, and Marouane Chamakh too, who's surely worth a gamble. I like the new away kit.
There aren't too many fans out there that can share a similar sense of contentment with their club. So, the prospect of having my team scrutinised, and almost certainly dismissed, over the next ten months by phone-in armchair know-alls and smug podcasters is a little galling.
But here we are. The first game of the season and it's Tottenham at home. Even without the injured Gareth Bale, there's more than enough about the visitors to provide a potent indicator of what we'll be up against over the coming months. A cautious, slightly jittery, optimism seems to surround most Palace supporters. We have a good home record against Spurs, it's just that we haven't played them for the best part of a decade.
Pre-season didn't tell us an awful lot, though Gayle looked pretty useful at times during the 1-0 defeat to Lazio at Selhurst Park last weekend. Fans are keen to see what these players can do, to find out if they can work together and what, if anything, they can go and achieve.
Palace's hapless defence and the prolonged absence of Glenn Murray (last season's 31-goal-getter isn't expected out of the treatment room until around the turn of the year) are big concerns but if the newcomers can click, and if Chamakh in particular can get back to his Bordeaux vintage, then maybe we can get something going, particularly against the teams around us.
Tottenham are unlikely to be one of those, of course, and today's game could prove a tough old slog. But I've got a feeling we're going to be a half-decent team to watch this season, that we're going to be positive and that Palace will continue to be a happy ship. And, for now at least, that'll do for me. Matthew Barker