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Crystal Palace

Selhurst Park: a vision of fan unity

The Boot Room

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There has been something stirring at Selhurst Park for a while now, something that is lacking from many other state-of-the-art football stadia. It is difficult to define, strangely elusive and is something all football fans think their own club possess, to varying degrees of confidence.

That ‘something’ is something betwixt an atmosphere and a club identity.

Drawing on the iconography of Italian Ultras in terms of visuals and strong club identity of everyone’s favourite hipster German club, St. Pauli, match days at Crystal Palace are a spectacle to behold. But this is not just flag waving and ticker tape parades, nor is the atmosphere supplemented by freebie give away noisemakers by a local paper or the club shop. Any old club can bash together an impressive mosaic display by painstakingly and neatly printing out some coloured card and getting some office trainees to place them on brittle plastic seats. But to their credit, Palace have found a lovely niche between gaudy spectacle and impressive expression of club identity.

The days of daubing an old bed sheet with thick black markers offering simple but direct advice aimed at the board or manager to ‘do one’ (my lord, I refer you to evidence A: that crudely produced ‘Lambert Out’ effort held aloft by Aston Villa fans at Hull City recently) are long gone at Selhurst Park. Their targets are wider and less insular: protests against the Premier League’s proposed 38th game and Roman Abramovich’s dirty money which they claim has ‘plagued our game’ indicate a footballing social conscience with a going concern for the well-being of the game as a whole and the modern fan experience. More recently, it seems that Palace’s supporters are locked and loaded on the greed of the Premier League with their latest tifo: £5BILLION IN THE TROUGH YET SUPPORTERS STILL EXPLOITED. SHARE THE WEALTH, PIGS

This is why comparisons with St. Pauli are valid. Head of fan organisation and security at St. Pauli, Sven Brux is rightly proud of his club’s anti-homophobia and anti-racism campaigns, claiming that, “We were the first club wearing T-shirts, saying that racist things were forbidden and at the time no-one in Germany cared about these things. Our fans were the first to say we don’t want these things in football.” Sticking it to The Man it seems is common ground between these two clubs.

Of course, it helps too that Palace boasts an old fashioned ground in which to create such an atmosphere. Holding aloft such banners appealing for change is harder to motivate yourself for if you are too busy spending half-time munching a feta and leek pie washed down with a gingerbread infused latte. Selhurst Park was once renowned for its inaccessibility but now its quaint quirks, such as a corner tunnel, lend it a unique feel and look. Oh, what the heck? Let’s just admit that it’s got character. Lest we forget too that this was the scene for many of 90s football showcase moments: Eric Cantona’s kick at Matthew Simmons, Dalian Atkinson’s mazy dribble, Tony Yeboah’s blunderbuss of a shot and Michael Owen’s debut goal for Liverpool.

But it’s not just banner waving that gives Selhurst Park it’s unique atmosphere: leaders of the cheer, The Crystals maintain the spirit of Sky’s Strikers in welcoming teams out in to the arena. An eagle swoops and circles around the stadium – another iconic spectacle invoking scenes of fanatical displays to be found around Europe, notably by Roda JC’s fans pre-game. The stadium announcer contributes too in his emphasis on Christian names yet aversion to surnames in informing of the Eagles scorer:

Stadium announcer: Danny

Crowd:                        GRANVILLE

Stadium announcer: Danny

Crowd:                        GRANVILLE

Of course, there have more frequent and sexier scorers for Palace but this is a particularly memorable one, given that it somehow evokes a northern scene of cobbles and Hovis bread.  The club even makes Dave Clarke Five sound like some kind of contemporary cool sing-along new wave band, the likes of which chancers like Imagine Dragons would be falling over themselves to even imagine such a catchy chorus sing-along line.

With bearded enforcers such as Joe Ledley and Mile Jedinak strutting around in a hipster style around midfield, Crystal Palace are something approaching achingly cool – no doubt they’ll be opening up their own cereal café imminently.

This kind of expression of fan unity is starting to grow too: Nottingham Forest supporters have established a routine of copious flag waving and singing in the Lower Bridgford area, even creating artistic banners with pictures and images harking back to the glory years (don’t begrudge them this, times are tough and the most natural reaction to this is to wrap oneself up in the warm duvet of nostalgia) and celebrating current heroes, all creating a sense of identity for the suffering fans and helping to rebuild the club’s somewhat broken image, formulated during the Billy Davies years.

This kind of fan expression can only be a good thing in an era of ever increasing ticketing structures and eye watering television deals. Safe-standing appears to be back on the agenda too and it is refreshing to see football fans looking beyond their own club: it is easy to forget that for many, images of the football mob still carry repulsive connotations, sadly only reinforced by events last week in the Richelieu-Drouot metro station. But watching football is supposed to be a fun activity and Selhurst Park certainly looks like a fun place to be.

It’s almost enough to make you wish you were an Eagle.

The Boot Room is a football analysis website, bringing original and creative content to the fans of the English Football League.

Crystal Palace

Crystal Palace should gamble on Ahmed Musa after World Cup triumph

Jamie Watts

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Leicester City‘s forgotten man, Ahmed Musa, set the world alight with his sensational display in Nigeria’s 2-0 triumph over Iceland, becoming his nation’s all time top-scorer after bagging an emphatic brace. And Crystal Palace should really take notice.

Musa failed to score a single Premier League goal last term, before being sent back to former club CSKA Moscow in January. But today’s showing was the 25-year-old at his brilliant best, and he’s reminded us all what he’s capable of.

His performance for the Super Eagles should attract the interest of their club namesake.

The Eagles are in serious need of attacking reinforcements this summer, having flirted with relegation under the winless tenure of ex-boss Frank de Boer but Wilfried Zaha’s timely return from a long-term injury, rejuvenated the squad and Roy Hodgson eventually cemented an 11th place finish.

However, another long-term stint in the treatment room for the Ivorian could cause collapse at the club, and Musa could take the reins as the creative, counter-attacking spark behind the physical presence of Christian Benteke – who notably managed a meagre three goals himself.

Not only that, but along-side Zaha, the two could wreak havoc against Premier League defences in Roy Hodgson’s fast counter attacking style, and he could begin showing his best form in England for the first time since his arrival.

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Chelsea

Crystal Palace’s hopes of Ruben Loftus-Cheek return boosted after latest comments

The midfielder is unlikely to get what he’s after at his parent club.

Jamie Watts

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Ruben Loftus-Cheek has boosted Crystal Palace‘s hopes of securing his services for another season, after claiming he will only remain with Chelsea this summer if guaranteed a regular first-team spot at Stamford Bridge next season, in quotes via Sky Sports.

The 22-year-old spent last season on loan at Selhurst Park after making just 31 appearances for Chelsea since his debut in 2014, and his immense talents have earned him a place in Gareth Southgate’s England squad this World Cup.

Photo: Getty Images

“I want to play as much as I can,” revealed Loftus-Cheek. “Even this past season just gone, I didn’t play as much as I would have liked because of injuries. So I still feel I need a proper season of playing, wherever it is.”

Loftus-Cheek made 25 appearances for Roy Hodgson’s outfit last term, and is still unhappy with the amount of minutes he managed, so it’s pretty safe to assume Chelsea – given the disastrous domestic season they’ve just had – won’t be bettering his previous return, or be prioritising taking chances on academy products next season.

And Palace will be keen to offer the stylish midfielder a deal to extend his stay with the former England manager, where, if available, he will continue to be considered one of the first names on the team-sheet.

Photo: Getty Images

Palace are likely to face competition from rival clubs though, as Loftus-Cheek is emerging as a star on the biggest stage of all in Russia; having flourished in his brief cameo against Tunisia. And he’s now considered likely to start against Panama, with Dele Alli nursing a slight injury.

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Chelsea

Crystal Palace should plot audacious loan move for Chelsea’s Michy Batshuayi

Crystal Palace should act on the latest reports from Germany.

Jamie Watts

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Photo: Getty Images

Chelsea‘s resurgent striker Michy Batshuayi is back to playing the football that garnered interest from Stamford Bridge last summer.

The then-defending champions signed the Belgian international for £33 million, but he was eventually loaned out to Borussia Dortmund in January, after failing to break into the first team in west London.

The 24-year-old instantly hit the ground running in the Bundesliga, bagging an impressive seven goals in 10 league appearances – having scored just two in 12 for Chelsea that term – and he’s also performing well for Belgium when Romelu Lukaku isn’t spearheading the side.

Dortmund are unlikely to sign the striker on a permanent deal this summer, according to reports from Sport Bild, as the German giants look to land a worldy striker to succeed Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, which means he’ll likely be resigned to a bit-part role at Stamford Bridge.

Photo: Getty Images

Crystal Palace should make an audacious swoop to land Batshuayi on loan this summer, in their quest for attacking reinforcements if he returns to the Premier League.

The Eagles are in serious need of attacking reinforcements this summer, having flirted with relegation under the winless tenure of ex-boss Frank de Boer, but Wilfried Zaha’s timely return from a long-term injury rejuvenated the squad and Roy Hodgson eventually cemented an 11th place finish.

With Christian Benteke’s slump in form – registering a meagre Premier League three goals – Hodgson will have to ensure the side have more goals in them next term, and signing his fellow countryman would be a fantastic coup.

Photo: Getty Images

The prospect of Batshuayi and Zaha spearheading the attack would be a frightening prospect for any Premier League defence, and Palace need to ensure they have depth in-case their top scorer should face another lengthy stint away from the pitch.

Chelsea are under pressure to succeed next term after a disastrous season, and play-time for the Belgian won’t be high on their list of priorities.

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