Having seen both Scott Dann and Jason Puncheon suffer probably season-ending injuries during Crystal Palace’s New Year’s Eve draw with Manchester City, I can’t escape the thought that we might have seen the latter kick his last ever ball in red and blue.
Given the midfielder’s age (31) and the lack of first-team opportunities he had been afforded by Eagles boss Roy Hodgson in the run-up to the City game, an injury as long and as complicated as this is bound to be extremely hard to return from. Should that end up being the case, I’d like to take this opportunity to put on record my gratitude for the fantastic contribution Punch has made to our club’s recent history.
It’s easy to play down his importance now but until relatively recently, we hadn’t won a single Premier League without him in the side since returning to the top flight in 2013. Yes, the last year has seen a rather dramatic drop in form from him but for close to half a decade, Jason happily took on the role of our team’s talisman, scoring all sorts of important goals.
For me, forgetting the potentially life-changing FA Cup Final strike against Manchester United, Puncheon’s biggest moment in a Palace shirt came at home to Norwich in the same campaign. After a wretched run of form and the very real possibility of relegation from the Premier League looming over our heads, he curled a beautiful effort into the bottom left-hand corner of the Holmesdale’s net and sent the stadium into total meltdown.
His face in the aftermath of that strike was a true picture. With tears visible in his eyes (not for the only time in red and blue) there could be no debate about how much our club meant to him. Football fans are by their very nature fickle beings, with thousands having spoken ill of Puncheon in recent months thanks to his comparatively poor displays, but in an era when so many players are motivated purely by the money being offered to them, his deep-rooted love for the shirt should be admired.
I really hope we do get to see him turn out for us again but if not, I have no hesitation in saying that I absolutely love Jason Puncheon.
With more time on my hands, I could easily have spoken at length about his goals against Cardiff (A), Manchester City (H), Tottenham (H) or Liverpool (A), all of which were massive for us in their own way. The current situation is not one the man himself will be happy about but whatever happens from this point forwards, no one can remove the memories Punch has made in a Palace shirt.
He’s one of our own.