Jump directly to the content

News Corp is a network of leading companies in the worlds of diversified media, news, education, and information services.

DREAM TEAM

Your Sun

A News UK Company
TOP
FOOTBALL'S FRONT LINES

Civil war at a mythical fortress — all is not as it seems at Crystal Palace

Football's Front Lines: "It makes me feel pretty sick to be honest and really undervalued by the club."

Crystal Palace are enjoying their most successful spell ever, so why are their fans unhappy?

Barring a complete disaster, the Eagles will compete in their seventh successive top flight campaign next season — a club record by some way.

In Aaron Wan-Bissaka, Roy Hodgson and Wilfried Zaha, the club have one of their most exciting academy prospects, their most high-profile manager, and arguably their greatest ever player.

But many supporters view this season as a massive disappointment.

And many want Hodgson out.

Support for Hodgson is far from unanimous

Getty - Contributor
10
Support for Hodgson is far from unanimous

Cards on the table; I’m a Palace fan.

I have been ever since the age of six when my dad gave me the choice of “be a Palace fan or get the hell out of my house”.

So I know very well the frustrations fans are experiencing, because I see it every week.

For me, staying up is the be all and end all, anything else is a bonus.

But coming to Selhurst Park has not always been fun this season.

Palpable tension

Getty Images - Getty
10
Palpable tension

There is a myth perpetrated by many pundits and journalists that Selhurst Park is a difficult, intimidating place to visit.

Apart from Thornton Heath’s nightmarish parking situation, away teams often enjoy their trips to the ramshackle but charismatic corner of South London.

The Eagles have won just four times at home in the league this season, scoring a measly 13 goals — only Huddersfield have scored fewer at home.

Since getting promoted in 2013, their win rate at Selhurst Park stands at 33%.

So while the fans are capable of whipping up a stirring atmosphere, the venue is far from the fortress it is portrayed to be by the media.

It’s been a slog at times for Wilf and co

Getty Images - Getty
10
It’s been a slog at times for Wilf and co

Some fans think they know the reason for the club’s spluttering home form.

“We’ve played well against teams that come and attack us,” says Jay Crame, editor of fan site The Eagles Beak.

“That’s our strength. We get behind teams that attack us. A lot of teams this season have come to Selhurst and defended deep with numbers and we just can’t break that down, even with the talent we have.

“It’s been going on for a few years now,” adds season ticket holder Stephen Kingdom.

“Our away form has been better than our home form pretty much the whole time since we came back up, but this season we just don’t seem to have an idea of how to score against teams at home.

“This season has been a massive disappointment. At the end of last season everyone was in such a good mood, summer signings seemed alright, and it really felt like we were going to hit the ground running and have a great season.

“But, particularly at home, we’ve just not performed.”

The club has a proud identity

Reuters
10
The club has a proud identity

It gets worse for Stephen.

He is also one of 400 fans who sit in Block E of the Holmesdale Lower Stand behind the goal who are being turfed out of their seats next season to make way for the Holmesdale Fanatics  — the European style ultras who come dressed in all black and lead the majority of the chanting.

After being told they couldn’t move to Block E this season, the fanatics didn’t attend the first few games in protest and the atmosphere suffered badly.

The fanatics are set to move from the corner they’ve occupied for years

Getty Images - Getty
10
The fanatics are set to move from the corner they’ve occupied for years

The club have since bowed to the pressure and have announced a ‘singing section’ behind the goal for next season.

Hundreds of loyal supporters are being displaced to accomodate the ultras – although they are being compensated by the club with half price season tickets for next year and other incentives – and this decision has created something of a civil was among the fans.

“I’ve had my seat since the stand was built, that was 25 years ago,” Stephen said.

“It makes me feel pretty sick to be honest and really undervalued by the club. I think it’s a worrying precedent.

“I’m not anti the HF (Holmesdale Fanatics), they do great things, but once they do something like that, where does it stop?

“Are they going to start demanding half-price tickets next and say they won’t come otherwise?

“Do they improve the atmosphere? Massively, absolutely. You can’t deny that, I’d never deny that.

“But that didn’t mean they had to say ‘we don’t want to do this here anymore unless you move us’ and that’s a strange way to support your club if you ask me.”

Some feel the fanatics held the club to ransom

10
Some feel the fanatics held the club to ransom

I was at the ground on Saturday as Palace relegated Huddersfield with a 2-0 win.

For the first hour, the atmosphere was a weird mix of nerves and passion, as it often is at Selhurst.

Hodgson’s side were booed off at half-time having missed a string of chances — a common occurrence.

After the restart, Luka Milivojevic converted from the spot (again) and Patrick van Aanholt secured the three points as fans sung Hodgson’s name before leaving content.

Funny old game

Getty - Contributor
10
Funny old game

However, a win against a team with just 14 points from 32 games won’t eradicate the underlining frustrations.

Many dislike Hodgson’s pragmatic approach, even though such tactics will almost certainly guarantee survival each year.

It is common for travelling Palace fans to chant “Hodgson make a sub” in reference to his reluctance to change tact.

But the ex-England boss is not lacking in support.

Eagles legend

10
Eagles legend

Former Palace striker Clinton Morrison, who now works as a club ambassador, believes there is no manager better to lead the Eagles.

“When he first got the job I was surprised but he’s proved me wrong,” he told me after the Huddersfield game.

“Roy Hodgson is brilliant. Speaking to a lot of players they said he’s really good on the training pitch, takes a lot of the sessions and does ever so well.

“I’d have liked to have played for him, he’s got so much experience.”

And Morrison, now 39 but as chirpy and friendly as ever, only had good words about the Palace fans.

“Crystal Palace fans are brilliant. I’ve got a great rapport with them. These are the best I’ve played for in my career.

“They always cheered me on even through difficult times. I love coming back to this club and that’s why I work here, it feels like home, it’s a family now and that’s why I’m glad the team are doing well for them.”

What next?

Getty Images - Getty
10
What next?

The fans are brilliant but they deserve a bit more in return.

If the club are once again involved in a relegation battle next season, the simmering frustrations may come to the boil.

But if Palace do change things too drastically they risk suffering the same fate as Swansea — or worse, Sunderland.

10

READ MORE FROM FOOTBALL’S FRONT LINE: