Crystal Palace: Birthday Boy Pulis Inside Knowledge Key To Breaking Stoke
1. HAPPY BIRTHDAY TONY
The best possible birthday present for Pulis, who turned 56 this week, would be three fat, juicy points against the club who jettisoned him rather harshly at the end of last season after he had presided over Stoke’s longest stint at the top for a generation. Not that he is bitter about such rejection, in fact he publicly announced that he still holds the Potters in the highest regard and in particular the benevolent chairman Peter Coates. That is pretty magnanimous but you can bet your bottom dollar that he would love to put one over his old charges.
2. FAMILIARITY BREEDS CONTEMPT
Knowing your opposition’s strengths and weaknesses is an advantage and Pulis will have a working knowledge of most of the City players from his nine years at The Britannia. If the FA Cup clash from last year is anything to go by, there will not be too much to thrill the neutral, that ended in a sterile, mind-numbing goalless draw which would have tested the patience of a saint or even a sinner for that matter. The fact that ever since Tony arrived at Selhurst we have been linked with buying most of Stoke’s players, including Crouch, Kenwyne-Jones (remember him?) and Etherington suggests that Pulis still rates his old boys, so the current squad should be highly motivated to prove they are up to the task.
3. STRIKING COMPARISON
Mark Hughes replaced Pulis with the avowed aim of improving the style that Stoke had been tarred with during the Pulis reign. ‘Playing more football’ seems to have led to a few more goals flying around such as the eight amassed in last Sunday’s game with Liverpool that increasingly resembled a kids’ match as both sides took turns to launch attack after attack. Unfortunately for Stoke they were up against Suarez and latterly Sturridge, the most potent strike force in English football. Whilst Chamakh is certainly proving many of his detractors wrong with some impressive displays recently, we still struggle to score enough and with Gayle likely to replace Jerome our own pairing of CAG will see if they can challenge SAS. A tally of 13 goals from 21 matches is firmly in the impotent category and we need to stop firing blanks if we are to rise up the table.
4. BASEMENT BATTLE
Courtesy of Sunderland and West Ham both rather improbably winning away and dint of losing at White Hart Lane Palace plummeted back to rock bottom. But, as has been pointed out many times, the bottom half of the table is tighter than a gnat’s chuff. As the old adage asserts that you need to beat the teams around you, then we have a great deal of ‘pivotal matches’/ ‘six pointers’/ ‘do or die games’ on the horizon with the other ten clubs, starting with The Potters. If we can win half the games against our fellow strugglers then we will be inching towards the ‘Magic 40’ point. With the congestion at the foot of the table, a couple of wins can propel you up the league but danger is always lurking if you lose a few.
5. SPOT OF BOTHER
Last week’s creditable first half performance against Spurs was masked by the feeding frenzy that gorged itself on Puncheon’s penalty miss. To be fair, it was as bad a spot kick as many of us have had the misfortune to see. High, wide and most certainly not at all handsome. Passing up such opportunities when you don’t score many goals is a dereliction of duty and Private Puncheon must NOT be allowed to take another penalty. Indeed our only really reliable penalty taker has just left the club, veteran Kevin Phillips moved to aid Leicester’s promotion push and it’s written in the stars that he’ll score to secure their promotion in May, but that leaves us in a spot of bother. Cometh the hour, cometh the man but just not sure who that man is. If we do get a penalty there will be some head scratching combined with head shaking and a smidgeon of soul searching. So the radical solution is perhaps to try and score from open play and give Tony a belated but much-needed birthday present.
Follow Richard on Twitter, @rcfoster