THE HALF DECENT FOOTBALL MAGAZINE

Need to build the gap to Sunderland tonight

icon palaceleavemed3 November ~ A few weeks back, during Crystal Palace’s 2-1 home defeat against Chelsea, I noticed the bloke who sits just across the steps from me becoming increasingly agitated. There’d barely been a peep out of him during our previous three games at Selhurst. Eventually he got up, ran down to the nearest advertising hoarding and gave it an almighty boot. Apologising to the steward, he sheepishly made his way back to his seat. He caught my eye. “That really bloody hurt actually,” he grimaced.

There have been times in recent months when watching Palace has indeed been a painful affair, though nowhere near the knuckle-biting experience many expected when that nice Tony Pulis upped and left hours before the season began. Neil Warnock has come in and pretty much taken up where he (and, to an extent, Pulis) left off. A big, hairy midfield, a well-drilled, if clearly limited, defence and a hope that Yannick Bolasie and/or Wilfried Zaha can use all that wing-play trickery to get something going up front.

Warnock’s return felt slightly flat, if truth be told. Not that anyone complained, but his appointment still feels like a temporary arrangement. Stories surfaced last month that he may move on to a director of football-type role at the club next summer. And now rumours abound of a takeover by US businessman Josh Harris, owner of the New Jersey Devils ice hockey team and NBA stalwarts Philadelphia 76ers.

We’ve been here before; everyone from hip hop moguls to Muammar Gaddafi have been mooted as potential buyers over the past decade or so. This time, it looks like it could well happen. Co-chairman Steve Parish would stay on (presumably the other three co-owners would take their leave) in a £70 million deal. It wouldn’t just be the Holmesdale Fanatics, with their against-modern-football ticket, who would presumably bristle at the idea of the club coming under foreign ownership. In the four years since the CPFC 2010 consortium took over, there’s been a genuine bond between fans and boardroom. It would be a huge shame to lose that.

For now though, tonight’s visit of Sunderland is a biggy, not least because Manchester United and Liverpool are up next this month (there’s also the small matter of former Brighton manager Gus Poyet’s return to Selhurst for the first time since last year’s Championship play-offs).

The adrenaline rush of last season’s late run of form is unlikely to be repeated, even if Warnock does have a better squad to work with than his predecessor. It’s going to be something of a slog over the coming months. Building up a decent buffer between ourselves and the bottom three is going to be crucial this side of the transfer window, regardless of whether there’s suddenly money to spend in the January sales. Matthew Barker

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