Published author, Palace fan and all-round lovely bloke Richard Foster will be providing HLTCO with match previews throughout the 2015/16 campaign, bringing a degree of thoughtful perspective to the madness of the Premier League from week to week.
For someone who has just written a book on the history of the Play-Offs, Norwich City provide the most appropriate opening day opponents. The Canaries will be looking to avoid the fate of last year’s Play-Offs winners QPR who returned from whence they came and rarely looked like getting out of trouble. Rather they will be aiming to join the likes of Palace, West Ham and Swansea who have all been promoted via the Play-Offs in the last five years, but have succeeded in establishing themselves in the comfort zone that is mid-table in the Premier League.
This season the fight to stay in the Premier League will be even more intense as the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow will be bursting its seams. When the new television deal kicks in with its basic 70% increase, the cost of dropping down to the Championship will be eye-watering and potentially disastrous. The very thought of missing out on the ever-growing gravy train will be making Delia Smith and Steve Parish wake up in cold sweats.
For Palace this will be the third year at the top table and after a bold transfer policy, highlighted by the capture of Yohan Cabaye from PSG, the owners are looking to consolidate the work of the last few years and attempt to become an established Premier League club. It was interesting to hear from Steve Parish in his recent talkSPORT interview that one of the chief concerns was to avoid complacency. The initial objective, which everyone is focused on, is survival and once, and only once that is secured, the expectations can rise a little higher. As this is Pardew’s first full term at Selhurst it will be fascinating to see if the positive momentum from last season will be carried forward.
Starting the campaign at Carrow Road will pit us against a team that the bookmakers expect to be relegated (as they routinely do with the Play-Offs winners) but they will be determined to show that they are good enough. Alex Neil is a no-nonsense manager who succeeds in getting the best out of his charges and this will be a stern test of Palace’s progress. One of the most impressive aspects of Palace under Pardew was the excellent away form the team showed, something that used to be our Achilles heel. With games against Arsenal, Chelsea, Man City and Spurs to follow, the need to get a good result is paramount.
Richard is a freelance football writer and author. His latest book The Agony & The Ecstasy – A Comprehensive History of the Play-Offs is available through www.ockleybooks.co.uk
He will be a regular columnist for the Croydon Advertiser and Sabotage Times this season as well as other Palace fanzines and blogs.
Follow him on twitter @rcfoster