THE HALF DECENT FOOTBALL MAGAZINE

Eagles being run responsibly recently

icon palaceleavemed28 March ~ I keep hearing how this Premier League relegation bun fight is great for the neutrals. However, I suspect most of them don't actually care. As a Crystal Palace fan I'm not a neutral, but I can see their point. From mid-table down, there's a lot of poor football being played in England's top tier this season. In August I suggested most Palace fans would probably be happy enough if the team gave it a go, if the players didn't make too much of a show of themselves and if any money was used prudently, mindful of the ordeals of 2010, when the club was looking at possible extinction after another stint in administration.

And, so far, that's pretty much how things have turned out. The fact that other clubs (Fulham and Cardiff) have been enduring such rotten seasons has provided the Eagles with a buffer separating them from the drop zone for most of this year. But you do fear what psychological damage may kick in if/when the club drop into the bottom three.

Starting with the visit of Chelsea today, Palace have a run of eight games to the end of the season. Half of them (Chelsea, Everton, Manchester City and Liverpool) look particularly daunting, while realistically you can't see them getting much more than six or seven points from the other half (Cardiff, Villa, West Ham and Fulham).

That could be enough. Manager Tony Pulis recently suggested that finishing a point above the relegation zone would mean success for him, that the building blocks would then be in place for another year. I know what he means, but it's this survival as business model notion that I always trip up on. The idea that you do anything necessary to stay up, then scoop up some more cash, spend it on new players and progress from there, rarely rings true.

It doesn't seem to be working for Fulham. It might not work for West Brom, or Sunderland or, at the time of writing, three or four others. For all that, Palace do have plans; the club hope to increase capacity at Selhurst Park (having given up on the idea of a move) and Pulis seems set to stay no matter what happens.

I'd love to watch Chelsea, Manchester City and all the rest in SE25 next season but as long as we keep a sense of direction and progress, no matter how modest, as long as we remain a well-run club, I'll watch the club back in the Championship next season without any feelings of bitterness and regret. I might even get to see some decent football again. Matthew Barker

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