Many people expected Crystal Palace to be playing in England’s second-tier this season but thanks to a heroic turnaround and the genius of manager Tony Pulis, the Eagles are soaring into their second-straight Premier League season for the first-time in club history. By December last year they looked dead and buried, in the end Palace finished in 11th and put in some wonderful displays. This season Pulis will be hoping to build off the feel-good factor fostered by exceeding expectations last year, as the South Londoners hope to carry on their surprising spell in the top-flight. Selhurst Park has become a fortress and no team will be relishing a trip to play a physical, committed ‘Pulian’ team in front of the boisterous Ultras in 2014-15.
[RELATED: Full PL season preview]
Transfers In: Chris Kettings (Blackpool, Free), Fraizer Campbell (Cardiff City, $1.6 million), Brede Hangeland (Fulham, Free)
Transfers Out: Kagisho Dikgacoi (Cardiff City, Free), Danny Gabbidon (Released), Dean Moxey (Bolton Wanderers, Free), Jonathan Parr (Ipswich, Free), Jose Campana (Sampdoria, Undisclosed), Aaron Wilbraham (Bristol City, Free)
Last season: As we mentioned, Palace defied the odds to beat the drop last season. Pulis arrived to take over from Ian Holloway with the Eagles in the drop zone and looking doomed. However just as he did at Stoke the Welsh manager made them hard to beat and with some shrewd additions in the January transfer window, Palace’s fans began to believe the great escape was on. After beating the likes of Chelsea and stunning Liverpool with a remarkable comeback from 3-0 down late in the season, Palace were well clear of the relegation drama in the final weeks. It was a herculean effort from all involved in their first season back in the big time. Can they replicate it? Here is a recap of their 2013-14 season.
Star player: Mile Jedinak
Palace’s skipper is the heartbeat of the team and an absolute machine in the engine room. The Aussie destroyer ploughed his way through plenty of PL midfields last season and after some great displays for the Socceroos at the World Cup, expect Jedinak to drive his team on once again. Palace’s incredible work ethic feeds off this guy and he epitomizes their blue-collar approach. The fans love him and he’s a true leader who slots perfectly into the way Pulis sets his teams up.
Coaches’ Corner: Tony Pulis
The reigning Premier League coach of the year agonized over taking the Palace job last season, but when he finally did the entire club got a lift and his PL experience with Stoke shone through. Even Pulis probably didn’t envisage the dramatic turnaround he conducted, as his team went from relegation certs to mid-table obscurity (not a bad thing) in the space of six months. His baseball caps, screaming and no-nonsense approach go hand-in-hand with Palace’s passionate supporters. Expect Pulis’ men to be direct, fast-paced and punch above their weight once again.
PST predicts: Will it be a case of second-season syndrome for Palace as teams figure out how to counteract their direct style? There haven’t been many new faces arriving at Selhurst this summer but Pulis is the king of deals late in the transfer window. Expect big moves. If the team spirit is retained then Palace’s home form will be key as they aim to try and finish in the PL’s top 10 for the first time in club history. If you love an underdog story, keep an eye on Palace.