Woosie's Words - I told you Gayle would come good
Wow, what a season. Possibly a "typical Palace" season at that.
It started in miserable fashion with only one victory under Ian Holloway, before Keith Millen steadied the ship and Tony Pulis put the wind beneath the Eagles’ wings, all in all ending in a quite remarkable 11th place.
You may have noticed over the season that I have championed Dwight Gayle when many wrote him off, and his goals against Liverpool and Fulham clearly indicate that he has progressed as a player and grown into the role he has to play.
The best finisher at the club, Gayle needs to ensure that he works hard on all aspects of his game if he is to be a regular in the starting line-up next season, but he did his cause no harm with a couple of poacher’s goals and a superb free-kick against Fulham on the final day of the season.
It seemed that £6m was a significant outlay for a relatively untested player, but for a 24-year-old coming into his playing prime it could prove to be a bargain.
Part of the gang: Scott Dann congratulates Dwight Gayle
With Marouane Chamakh’s Selhurst Park future unresolved as yet, a partnership of Glenn Murray and Dwight Gayle up front could turn the Eagles’ goalscoring fortunes around; and provided the defence remains firm, another exciting season could be in store.
The two forwards combined in excellent fashion to demolish Brentford’s U21 side earlier in the season, and there have been hints of a good partnership developing between the two, with Murray playing in the deeper role currently occupied by Chamakh, and Gayle playing as the lone striker.
One other man whose future is unclear is Julian Speroni, the Argentinean ‘keeper has been offered a new contract but it remains to be seen whether he will stay for another season at the club.
Any deal is likely to relegate the 34-year-old to the bench in a bit-part role, in which case it is probably unlikely that he will remain at the club where he has spent the past 10 years of his career.
There are a number of arguments that Speroni should be the first choice ‘keeper next season, not least the fact that his form in the past six months has been nothing short of outstanding.
Even the weaker areas of his game have improved, and he has continued to make some world class saves between the sticks. Surely one more season beckons?
Time up: Is Julian Speroni heading off to pastures new?
Overall, it’s been a quite remarkable year at Palace. Victory over Chelsea at home, a stunning comeback to draw 3-3 with Liverpool at home, alongside an impressive victory against an in form Everton side at Goodison Park all will live long in the memory of all who were there to witness them.
The supporters have stepped up to the mark and Selhurst Park has been rocking, with the away support equally as vociferous.
It follows that Palace fans are not only vociferous in speech (or song) but in actions too with resplendent displays in the Holmesdale from the fanatics and significant numbers travelling the length and breadth of the country in their all-encompassing support for the Eagles.
It’s been a mighty fine season, and as a critic of the Premier League journey and of Tony Pulis when he was appointed, I’ll whisper it, but I’ve quite enjoyed the competitiveness against the supposed "big teams" and the dogged determination, solid organisation and thoroughly enjoyable counter-attacking football at times in this league.
What a club, what a community, what a season.
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