Will put up with long balls in short term
7 December ~ I have to confess that I've been enjoying a nostalgic flashback or two since the appointment of Tony Pulis as the new manager at Selhurst Park. All these media mutterings about direct style and dogged spirit has put me right back there on the Holmesdale, quite possibly decked out in one of those multi-coloured Joe Bloggs sweatshirts and Naf Naf jacket, ciggie in hand and gleefully yelling "Ooof!!!" with the rest of them as Wright 'n' Bright, eyes trained on the sky, barge their way into the opposition penalty box.
Pulis, decried in some quarters as football's biggest bogey man since the FA's long-ball guru Charles Hughes, will doubtless stop short of the neck-cricking, up-and-at-'em style of Steve Coppell's team (Vinnie Jones, of all people, memorably described late 1980s/early 1990s Palace as being "right 'orrible bastards") but, the thinking goes, playing to basic strengths, defending in numbers and working on set pieces could be just be enough to stay up.
Most Palace fans would happily take that. However, it's unlikely many of them could stomach two or three years of such stodgy fare, no matter how effective. There are concerns that the coming transfer window will see the Eagles lumbered with one-dimensional journeymen at the expense of younger, homegrown talent. Equally, the club's enthusiastic support and the players' general give-it-a-go attitude has won some goodwill, if little else, but that could soon all go by the wayside if they start boring everyone's behinds off.
For now though, there's a sense, however fleeting it may turn out to be, of momentum, of a bit hope. The draw against Everton, pre-Pulis but featuring the sort of stubborn defending that the former Stoke City coach would have heartily approved of, and seat-of-the-pants wins against Hull and West Ham have seen a useful return of seven points in four games, with just one goal conceded (on Pulis's debut as Eagles coach, the away defeat to Norwich).
Much like their promotion last summer, when Ian Holloway's side were able to take advantage after various rivals hit the buffers, you get the impression that, if Palace are to stay up, it will be as much due to other teams sliding into the drop zone as any changes Pulis can bring about out on the pitch.
And so here come Cardiff. With visits to Chelsea and Manchester City still to come before the year's end, it's a game Palace really need to get something out of. Saturday afternoon at Selhurst promises to be a pretty brutal affair, one that could well set the tone for the rest of the season. Ooof. Matthew Barker