sports gazette

Culture Club: Supply and Demand at Selhurst

Published: 19 Oct 2016

Selhurst Park has played host to such a variety of emotions, it can play rival to any television soap drama you can name. Although possible, it is highly doubtful that Scottish architect Archibald Leitch had foreseen the melodramatic persona that the South Norwood ground would inhabit.

Of recent years, Palace fans have been overindulged with fortuitous spectacles, flying high amongst the elite of the English Premiership. Their promotion in the season of 2012/13 was a miraculous campaign that saw a side not associated with the higher regions of the Championship rocket into the Premiership via a gloating play off journey, defeating M23 rivals Brighton & Hove Albion in the semi-finals, eventually conquering Hertfordshire hopefuls Watford in the final courtesy of ‘Super Kev’s’ winning extra time penalty.

With Holloway walking, Millen managing, Pulis’ long ball, Warnock constantly praising his ‘great set of lads’ and Pardew’s Strictly Come Dancing routines, the Selhurst faithful have had their cliché ride on what is the Premiership football rollercoaster. With managerial comings and goings, player loyalties being teased and tested, and with the introduction of the Neil Morrissey’s Real Palace Ale outside of the Red & Blue bar, the one true constant throughout these recent times has been the set of supporters that parade along the Holmesdale road on route to Selhurst.

Crystal Palace supporters are known throughout the English game (and of recent times in the USA courtesy of NBC’s documentary ‘Behind the Badge’) as being some of the loudest and enthusiastic fans in attendance within the top flight and beyond. Headed by the Holmesdale Fanatics, acknowledged as the ‘Ultras’, the noise that can be generated resonates like a hurricane. Volume is normally not a problem at Selhurst.

However, of recent times the all too familiar attitude seems to be changing state. The routinely philosophical approach to witnessing Crystal Palace has indisputably transformed into a pressing demeanour, where the results and performance are becoming extensively more fundamental to the identity of the club. Perhaps this is too individualistic. These small murmurs have been just that, small. But the longer they persist the bigger the risk of it engulfing the authentic characteristics that represent The Eagles.

Whether it is voiced live before, during or after a match, or written by the sort of keyboard warriors you would find shamefully cursing the names of Justin Bieber and alike over on Youtube, these views are being slowly noticed.

These views tend to range across several different aspects within the club. Without a doubt, Crystal Palace is in the best period of their footballing existence. Older supporters may refer back to previous days, days where the English Premiership wasn’t even a mere mention on the tongue, but it is incomprehensible, through the financial backdrop, the stature amongst the elite, and the worldwide recognition, this is the most consistently prosperous time to be a Palace fan.

So where do these negative feelings originate from? In comparison with pre 2013 promotion a lot has changed. When Steve Parish and the CPFC 2010 board gained control of the football club after Palace flirted dangerously close with extinction through administration, the ideology of the club was engulfed with different opinions.

It was obvious that the Barcelona style of play was only going to grace the Selhurst pitch if the Catalonians flew first class to Selhurst for a pre-season friendly.

The expectation was for the team to show some effort and try and produce a good game through a good tactical approach. The realisation was that although biased perspectives may have clouded the judgement, Crystal Palace were not the best side in the world. Harsh words for those of South London to here, but honesty is the best policy. Knowing this, it was obvious that the Barcelona style of play was only going to grace the Selhurst pitch if the Catalonians flew first class to Selhurst for a pre-season friendly.

The timing was also a factor. Survival from relegation, coinciding with survival of administration developed a steely nature throughout SE25. This in turn made everything else seem perhaps more positive than it was to the outside. Clint Eastwood’s famous South West Civil War pursuit in ‘The Good, the Bad and the Ugly’ seemed almost autobiographical.

Fast forward 6 years, and after a few seasons of getting back to normality (not a common phrase known throughout the Palace faithful), the Eagles are four years into their Premiership adventure. Surely, being a fairly constant figure in the Premiership would make the supporters blissful? On a whole yes, yet some still bemoan. The question is do they have a right to?

Yes, of course they do. These people work hard throughout the week and their hard earned money is transferred into the accounts of Palace. Their investment becomes an expectation, and where before the investment was smaller back in the Championship, it has since risen with the emergence of financial heightening. The more money invested, the more expectation invested. With rival clubs all facing similar predicaments, this all the more so increases success levels to a new degree of pressure.

Yet, the majority still rule in favour of historical context and mind-set to ensure their opinion stays as positive as possible. Specifically to Crystal Palace Football Club, they may lose, they may lose badly, they may occasionally frustrate beyond rationality, but that is the one part of the jigsaw that is the alluring complexion that is Crystal Palace.

Having faced the bad times, an occasional loss, negative performance, or teasing opportunity, nothing will ever detract the fundamental feeling that it can be worse and that if you aren’t content with the current state of the club, perhaps you aren’t truly made for the Parish and Pardew parade after all.

It isn’t necessary wrong to feel negative from time to time. That is indisputable amongst all fans. However, sometimes a step back and a thought provoking mind map will ensure a different attitude towards the club and perhaps will provide a more constructed and productive support that every football club can dream of.

One thing is for certain, whether your mind is dominated by concerns or comforted by positives, Selhurst Park will still host some of the most variably passionate supporters in the history of English football.

Imagine if Super Kev missed….

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