I sincerely hope that this Saturday’s encounter is better than our last FA Cup meeting with the Potters in 2013 at Selhurst. Mind you, it could hardly be worse, I remember turning to my son after about 10 turgid minutes and saying “You haven’t seen many goalless draws have you, but get ready for one right now.” And so it proved, one of the most mind-numbingly boring matches ended 0-0 and both sides were lucky to get 0. The only way is up and more can be expected from both teams who have changed beyond recognition since that game.
Palace were then a Championship club and ended up losing the replay but more significantly gained promotion at the end of the season via the Play-Offs*. Three years on and Palace have almost become an established Premier League club (the only qualification is the recent form that has been a tad worrying). Stoke have been transformed from a typically pragmatic Pulis side into ‘Stokealona’ if the media are to be believed. Mark Hughes has certainly bought in some exciting players like Bojan and Shaqiri who offer plenty of attacking options.
Attacking options are not something that Palace have indulged in the last handful of league matches with no points and one (own) goal, truly making it a “Dry January”in SE25. And so the arrival of Emmanuel Adebayor, the ultimate maverick, has offered Palace fans a glimpse of some magic in front of goal. According to Alan Pardew, Adebayor is unlikely to start against Stoke but he has impressed the manager with his level of fitness and attitude. Of course attitude is a crucial aspect of the former Tottenham, Arsenal and Man City striker and a player who has not played a first team game since last season cannot possibly be match fit.
Stoke will need to pick themselves up from the disappointment of losing at Anfield on penalties in the Capital One Cup semi-final but they showed enough in beating Liverpool 1-0 on the night that they are in pretty good nick. The same cannot be said about the Eagles who need a change in fortune and/or in attitude. There it is that ‘A’ word again and having developed a team spirit that overcame a lack of quality beforehand it is that spirit which needs to be recaptured to get the show back on the road. Whatever happens it simply cannot be as bad as the game three years ago.
Richard Foster is a freelance football writer and author, who is a regular features contributor for The Guardian. He also writes for Sabotage Times and a variety of Palace blogs and fanzines.
The revised paperback edition of his latest book The Agony & The Ecstasy – A Comprehensive History of the Football League Play-Offs – is out now and available through usual bookshops, online & via Ockley Books – http://bit.ly/1SKsnfc.
Talking Balls! His sports quotes book, was published in September 2015 – http://amzn.to/1RjV7Lw
Follow him on twitter @rcfoster