Antonio signs new West Ham Utd deal

Michael Antonio has given West Ham United and Slaven Bilic a welcome boost for next season by penning a new deal at the club.

The 27 year old winger who had been tentatively linked with other clubs in the media early in the season after another good campaign with the hammers, has laid any speculation to rest with a new 4 year deal.

Antonio was called up to Sam Allardyce’s first England squad and had enjoyed another fine goalscoring season, and tops the clubs scoring charts with 9 league goals, despite being out injured since the beginning of April.

The new deal will be welcome news to the West Ham supporters who have seen their club endure a difficult first season at the London Stadium.


Redknapp to remain with Birmingham City

Harry Redknapp has agreed to remain as Birmingham City manager and is expected to agree terms on a one year deal with the club this summer.

Redknapp was brought in as caretaker manager for the last 3 games of this season after the sacking of the hapless Gianfranco Zola, and after an initial defeat won his remaining 2 games to ensure that Birmingham survived relegation to League 1 by just 2 points.

Redknapp has had spells at Bournemouth, West Ham, Portsmouth, Southampton, Tottenham and QPR. But aside from a two game spell managing Jordan, the 70-year old has remarkably never managed a side North of London.

Love him or hate him, he’s great entertainment, and Birmingham City fans can at least look forward to some free flowing attacking football next season and no doubt plenty of new signings. Hopefully for them also, a far smoother passage to Championship safety.

Why Liverpool WILL finish in the Top 4 this Season…


Very simply, Westham and Boro. Surely there are two harder games in the league?

No cup distractions…

United have the Europa League trophy within their sights, but the grind of Thursday-Sunday matches could really test the resolve of Mourinho’s squad. We saw first-hand last season how that competition can affect your league position, and the hope is that it acts as a real distraction to United.

I think they’ll end up winning it. There are also the FA Cup commitments for Arsenal and Chelsea. It will always be at the back of their minds.

Bouncing back…

For what it’s worth, Liverpool have a great record of bouncing back from a lack of results this season. The last 3 games have been exactly that- 1 draw, 1 win and 1 defeat.

I believe this pattern will continue and Liverpool will attain the required points necessary for a top 4 finish. You have to think the stars are aligning if they’ve managed 4 points out of the last 9 available and still in a strong position.


The reds have been very unfortunate with injuries, suspensions and international duty so far this season. They have lost key men such as Philippe Coutinho, Adam Lallana, Jordan Henderson and Joel Matip for lengthy periods, while Sadio Mane’s absence was expected but still a big blow.

You have to look no further than Chelsea to see how beneficial a fully fit squad is, with Antonio Conte effectively using the same 11 players for almost the whole league season, with Cesc Fabregas and Willian thrown in now and again. Things suddenly look a lot more positive for Liverpool in that department, however, with almost everybody back fit and ready.


I backed them for top 4 on our pre-season show. That’s not a reason to support the validity of a top 4 finish, but instead, I am of the belief that if you back them from the start then you should stick by your guns!


Pickford to return to the Premier League?

Sunderland’s relegation was officially confirmed last week, and the speculation has already begun around one of the few positives to come out of their dreadful season.

Jordan Pickford has been many people’s selections for goalkeeper of the season thanks to a series of dazzling displays and you wonder how much worse the season might have been if it wasn’t for the 23-year-old stopper.

He has been linked in the media already with Liverpool, Manchester United, Manchester City and Everton and whilst David Moyes confirmed yesterday that there is no relegation release clause in the youngsters contract, three of the linked clubs have all struggled with stability in goal this season having rotated their number one at various points in the campaign.  Not to mention the uncertainty around De Gea’s future.

There is no doubt that there will be some pressure on Sunderland to sell the England U21 international this summer with some of the Premier League giants circling.

So we want to know, is Jordan Pickford good enough for your club?

Tweet us @sofasportsnews_

Liverpool Season Ticket Holder Dan takes part in our Q&A…

Q: Taking your Liverpool hat off for a moment- would you back Liverpool for a top 4 finish and why?

I don’t think Liverpool will get top four.

Liverpool have two games left and they need to win both of them. A trip to West Ham these days isn’t as intense as it used to be (at Upton Park) but its never an easy place to go. They showed what they can do against Spurs (another ball playing team similar to Liverpool, although much better at it!).

West Ham are also a big, strong side which is the complete opposite to Liverpool with Matip being the exception. Our strongest defender is currently on loan at Palace and so I expect at least one set piece goal from them…Antonio header! – although I think he’s injured…hmm.

All West Ham have to do to get a result against us is to sit back and stop us creating anything which, with Sturridge and Lallana on the bench, was so easy for Southampton at the weekend.

Playing Lucas, Emre and Wijnaldum, all slow, defensive minded players, at home against Southampton was a ridiculous decision by Klopp. Especially in what really was a must win game for us. Origi doesn’t make half the runs Sturridge does which means every time Coutinho had the ball he had no one to aim for and we resorted to sideways passes over and over again.

Therefore, we were very easy to defend against. Sturridge and Coutinho have a great understanding, Coutinho knows where Sturridge is going to run to. You just have to go back to 2013/14 or 2014/15 to see that.

Then you have Middlesbrough at home, a team already relegated so you just know they’ll get a result at Anfield to restore some pride. I expect another bore draw with only one team going for it!

 The maximum points Liverpool can get is 76, Man City 78, Arsenal 75 & Man Utd 74– providing they win all their remaining games. So even though it looks good for Liverpool, I just don’t see it happening.

When was the last time we had a convincing win? Maybe the 3-1 win over Everton back at the beginning of April. Other than that any points we’ve picked up have been a result of scrappy 1-0 wins or draws.

Will the top 4 even be worth it if we continue to perform as we have been since January?– on current form we’d struggle to even qualify. Like I have said previously, I don’t think the promise of Champions League football is as much of an incentive to join a club as it used to be.

Players these days unfortunately tend to be motivated more by money. Look at United and Chelsea, they were not in the Champions League but were still able to buy sign top players such as Pogba, Zlatan, Di Maria etc.

The thing about Liverpool is that we are never going to splash out the wages needed to attract these top players, even if we do get into the Champions League. Its just not in our business model.

Q: What did you make of Gary Neville’s comments on MNF around the need for Liverpool to refine plan A?

I agreed with Neville and actually said the same thing last year when we lost to Bournemouth. Our strongest starting 11 is pretty good and can beat anyone on their day, we have shown this on numerous occasions this season.

But take just one player out and it’s a completely different equation. He took off Mane in that game and we conceded three goals. We had a plan B in Benteke, who’s since been sold to Palace…

Teams sussed out Klopp’s tactics straight away – its simple, pack the defence and we can’t get through. All this pressing etc. doesn’t always work so you need other options and various different ways of playing. This was evident when he almost got Dortmund relegated in his last season there, people simply worked him out.

Q: Ideally, this summer, who remains/goes/comes in? 

For me I’d get rid of Mignolet straight away. He’s done ok recently but his distribution and presence in the box is some of the worst I’ve seen. I like Pickford and Butland but they’re both quite inexperienced. Obviously you’ve got the superstars in Oblak and Donnarumma but we wont go for them. Klopp’s already said that he’s happy with his two goal keepers. Great.

  • We clearly need a left back. He’s done well but we can’t have another season of Milner at left back and he clearly doesn’t rate Moreno. I cant think of any targets off the top of my head but I wish we still had John Arne Rise!
  • He should bring back Sakho and have him partner Joel Matip. I rate Clyne so RB is fine, plus we have Trent Alexandar-Arnold who I think will be superb in a  few years (Ben Woodburn and Ojo look like players too!)
  • In an Attacking sense we are fine until we get an injury. Coutinho, Mane, Firmino and Lallana are all class. I would also keep and actually play Sturridge! Bar Harry Kane, hes the best English Finisher for me. – he did more in 5 minutes on Sunday than Origi has for 5 games
  • We do need another centre forward though; Lacazette or Aubameyang would obviously be welcomed! – both are runners and would fit the system well in my opinion.
  • The dream for me would be Griezmann – I love watching him play but it’ll never happen. We never buy the finished article/superstar player. Torres, Suarez, Alonso and Mascherano were not world class when we signed them. Im still not sold on Klopp. I don’t think he’s done anywhere near enough to earn the media and fan plaudits he receives.
  • He failed to strengthen the side in January despite us being top of the league at that point.
  • He knew Mane was going AFCON and opted not to replace him despite knowing how important he is to our team. It’s not like he picked up a sudden injury, we knew we were losing him for two months.
  • Klopp waits too long to make changes. The one thing I admire about Mourinho is that when it’s not working, he changes it. Jose makes a lot of changes at half time, never leaves it too late like Klopp.

Q: Palace fans are raving about Sakho- was that a mistake? Is the keeper/defence as vulnerable as popular belief?

He let Sakho go out on loan despite us having an awful defence all season. Up until his injury he’s been immense for Palace and the clean sheets he helped them get will probably end up keeping them in the league.

He needs to swallow his pride and bring him back because he’s our best defender by a mile. So what if he showed up late for training a few times, it doesn’t matter in my opinion.

You play your best players. Fergie played Cantona after he Karate kicked a Palace fan and we played Suarez after he bit Ivanovic! – both much more serious offences than being late for training!

Q: Coutinho- just how good is he? Is it only consistency that separates him from the league’s best?

Coutinho is class. At 24 years of age his best years and consistency are still ahead of him. He can change the game in a second either with an outrageous goal or a killer pass/assist.

He’s one of the few players that the crowd stand up to every time he’s on the ball because you know he can produce something magical. In terms of the league’s best, you have to compare him to players that play in his position, so you’re looking at Hazard (who himself can be argued to be inconsistent. He had a whole season where he was poor), Ozil – goes missing a lot in big games, Mane – who has had a better season than Coutinho, Sanchez – for me plays further forward so its tough to compare.

 Hazard is the better player though.

What are your thoughts on Dan’s views? Tweet us @sofasportsnews_


CPFC – The Great Escape Is Still On…

The Great Escape is Still On….

4th February at 1545 I thought we were relegated.   With fixtures against Chelsea, Arsenal, Leicester, Liverpool still to come and our final two away games in Manchester no sound minded Palace fan could have thought any different. How wrong was I….

After pulling off the miracle at the Bridge and quite frankly destroying Arsenal (I thought we would), the game against Leicester was the most pleasing and showed the real character of our side.

Two months ago at two nil down with half hour to go the ground would be half empty and we’d get beaten by four, so the fact that we came back and drew 2-2 demonstrated that we’d turned a massive corner and I felt after that game we might just be alright.

To then go to Liverpool and win up there was quite incredible and moved us from bottom three to 12th in about 6 weeks.

I’ll come onto Spurs and Burnley because for me the reason we’re now back in some danger are due to two factors Mamadou Sakho injury and the disgraceful tackle of Grujic on Tomkins a week ago. I can’t leave that, so more of that in a bit.

Credit Allardyce…

What Big Sam has achieved with us is incredible. Palace fans all over social media are glowing in their praise and quite rightly so. How he has organised our back four into a unit that looks incredibly solid, plays football from the back instead of ‘hoofing’ it to Benteke and quite frankly can stand up to the best attacking players in the Premier league – Hazard, Costa, Sanchez, Coutinho, Kane, Ali and only Coutinho scored (from a quite outstanding free kick), speaks volumes.

What he also deserves praise for is the attacking intent he’s kept in our play to go with that defensive solidness. Many say he’s a one trick pony and only defends to get results and maybe I would still be one of those if he hadn’t have come to Palace. But look at the facts..

Scored two at Chelsea, two at Liverpool, two against Leicester, three against Arsenal. Seriously it could have been five against Arsenal.

We’re good to watch. Zaha, Townsend and Benteke are flying but they can attack with freedom knowing that defensively we’re solid, there’s no panic and every player on the pitch is working at absolute capacity.

I’ve talked endlessly about Zaha so I won’t even bring him into this write up as there’s a new Palace hero alongside him…..

Mamadou Sakho….

If we stay up and he’s available for 40 million he will be the best signing we ever make! The bloke is off the scale when it comes to defending. I honestly think he’s the best central defender I’ve ever seen play for Palace. He has everything. His reading of the game is phenomenal and he doesn’t need pace because he’s always in the right place. His calmness under pressure is incredible  and he never hits a long pass…never.

He gets us playing from the back, but his most important contribution is the fact that he makes every single player in the back four plus Wayne Hennessey play better. He gives them assurance that he’s there and our improvement is down to what he has brought to our side.

If we only sign one player, he has to be the one. I mentioned the Spurs game and I’m not going to dwell on it, but we lost that game from the minute he went off injured. It affected the players and we were a different side without him. We need him back…quickly!

Yohan Cabaye has also been outstanding lately and I thought Luka had made a massive difference to our midfield (which he has), but I actually think Cabaye makes him look better and it was noticeable against Burnley how much Luka missed Cabaye in that midfield and Palace as a side missed both him and Sakho massively. So much so I think it cost us that game.

Martin Kelly….

I’ve always rated Kelly but he got slaughtered by Palace fans when Pardew was playing him at left back. I felt sorry for him as he was trying to do a job and was basically hung out to dry, but since Allardyce has moved him to centre back he has been sensational. He’s played that well that he could easily be the first choice partner to Sakho, which is some compliment given that he’s in competition with Scott Dann and James Tomkins. Which leads me onto…..

That disgraceful Grujic tackle….

If that tackle had been made by Fellaini, Costa, Joey Barton, Suarez it would be over every back page of every paper! It was a disgrace. A real leg breaker and looks to have finished Tomkins season and by doing so has really affected our chances of surviving. I’m serious when I say that.

We went to Liverpool (where Sakho was not allowed to play against his parent club) with Kelly and Tomkins as our centre backs and looked really solid as was proven with the result. My point being that because of that tackle we’re now having to play Kelly and Delaney and our back four against Burnley were quite frankly “all over the shop”, yet Kelly had another storming performance.

I’m really raging about it and can’t let it go. There should be retrospective action taken and how programmes like match of the day didn’t highlight it is beyond belief to me. They’d have been all over it if it had been one of those others I mentioned.

Thank god we had that magnificent run because those two defeats this week have dragged us back in. Six points clear, three to play and a far better goal difference so really 7 clear. The Hull game at home in two weeks time is absolutely huge, because I do not want to be going to Old Trafford on the final day needing something, regardless of what side Mourinho puts out.

Our run has been phenomenal and I just wish that Steve Parrish had appointed Allardyce in October as I honestly believe we’d be safe now.

However, if you’d have said to me on Feb 4th at 1545 that we’d be 6 points clear of relegation with three to play…I’d have snatched your hand off!

If we survive….

Get Sakho immediately, pay Wilf what he wants, keep Townsend, Benteke and Cabaye along with Kelly Dann and Tomkins. Buy two new strikers to back up Benteke and replace Delaney, Fraizer Campbell and Jordan Mutch with Premier league players and we’ll be battling for top 8….you heard it here first!

Mark Storey

Has The Power Shifted in North London?

No, is the short answer to ‘has the power shifted in North London’ but the theory that this is ‘only one season’ is a quite common Arsenal rhetoric this week. It’s not one season, the ‘shift’ has commenced a while ago and really came to light last season when a title challenge was sustained by one side and not the other. It’s not uncommon for Arsenal to accept trouble when it’s too late (Monsieur Wenger) almost a natural denial mechanism.

So the long answer to ‘has the power shifted’ follows now. No one can say what Power shift means for sure but the answer to me should still be, no, not yet.

Power in modern football consists of various new things, and whilst I don’t think you’ll see a dominant era between the two clubs either way again like the one that has just ended on Sunday in terms of league position, There will unlikely ever be an opportunity for one to capitalise on the financial incentives of success to the extent that they can pull that far clear of the other that Arsenal benefitted from in the late 90s, the lie of the land is certainly changing

On the pitch, there is no gap anymore, I don’t think there has been for 3-4 seasons but if finishing above the rival at the end of the season was what was needed then that box has now been ticked. Indeed since redknapp joined Tottenham in 2008, Spurs have a marginally better head to head record against their neighbours in the league. That’s over a 9 season period. So not a flash in the pan.

A good period as a comparator as Spurs once went 9 years without even beating Arsenal once in the league. The dominance has ended quite clearly and arguably shifted slightly in Spurs’ favour when you consider that Arsenal haven’t beaten Spurs in the league for 3 seasons, and also a couple of the performances Spurs have put in away from home in drawing have been pretty dominant (one in particular), and the 2 home victories have again been more dominant displays than the eventual score lines reflected.

So are Spurs now ‘North London’s premier club’?

Well no, not yet. There are other factors that need to considered and other gaps to be closed.

A big impressive landmark stadium is a factor and an area that Arsenal could point to as a mark of their supremacy as a football club, in a similar way a mansion indicates wealth more than a terraced house, but Spurs are addressing that too and will have the advantage of over a decade of further innovations when the doors open in 2018, equal in size to their rivals too, possibly even deliberately 1000 seats extra capacity. Petty. But I’m sure a statement of intent.

Incoming revenue is another modern factor of power, and between stadium naming rights and shirt sponsorship, Arsenal benefit from £30m a year of income, when compared to AIA contributions to Tottenham of just £14m. Again though, that criteria is being addressed. Nike have signed a kit deal with Spurs for £25m-a-year. The benefit of he shirt being manufactured by the largest sports brand in the world will have huge secondary benefits. Whether it stretches as far to help with signing bigger players, I don’t know, but a player sponsored by Nike in a big stadium wearing a Nike kit is a lot more likely in 2 years time than it is now.

The naming rights to the new stadium will supplement the shirt deal and I haven’t seen the financial structure of the relationship with the NFL but I can only imagine it’s a handsome deal. Lucrative enough to warrant investing in the design and installation of a sliding pitch to be used just twice a season.

Champions League football has always been a measure of a clubs power, and Arsenal’s proud record of qualifying for 20 consecutive seasons will firmly have them in the driving seat and considered more of major club thanks to this exposure. Spurs have now secured successive campaigns for the first time and whilst they will need to at least progress beyond the group stages to start to warrant being considered part of the club, the gap to bridge to their rivals in terms of tournament progression is not a huge one to bridge.

However whilst Arsenal have continually featured for two decades its fair to say that they will rightly be perceived North London’s premier club across the continent, and of course they still haven’t missed out on qualifying this year just yet. That needs to happen once or twice for a shift in this category to be considered, or of course Spurs progress further than expected. I’d say currently though the situation is that the teams are more likely to meet in the middle than Spurs overtake, and the co-efficient supremacy Arsenal hold over their neighbours I’d expect to remain intact for the foreseeable future.

Champions League qualification has been wrongly in my view considered a trophy in recent years and the two North London clubs perhaps the biggest culprits of supporting this ideology, but in the quest for achieving this Arsenal have managed to pick up a couple of FA Cup wins and Spurs haven’t added a trophy to their cabinet since Pochettino took the reins or indeed since February 2008, the run is now as long as Arsene Wenger’s infamous trophy drought. The team need a trophy to consolidate their era of excellence, both in terms of style, financial sustainability and of course points on the pitch, over the last two seasons Spurs have amassed at least FIFTEEN POINTS more than any other side.

No teams deserve trophies, but their play, style and endeavour over the last two years would certainly make them worthy of one. Not a necessity in terms of a power shift as the opponent could well slip backwards, and having mounted a challenge to the league leader twice in two years when the more likely club to do so were their North London neighbours is another pointer to the swing that has clearly occurred.

Because of that form and the uncertainty around Arsenal’s managerial position, bookmakers have Tottenham down as more likely to win the Premier League Title next season than the gunners, and if that doesn’t change between now and August then that would certainly be the first time the gambling industry has felt that way since I was old enough to place a bet. That’s significant. The people / companies who could lose money would prefer to take a bet on Arsenal than Tottenham. How many seasons of that would constitute a complete power shift in that field?

The last area that has been overlooked largely in the media is the pulling power of buying / keeping players. Both clubs recent record of keeping key players has been pretty poor, and with Arsenal’s most expensive assets still to sign new deals, 5 of Spurs’ six most significant players have penned new deals in the last year tying them to the club until into the next decade. More power and control over the destiny of their players, or their next destinations should they demand to move on.

Significant to note also, is the spread of talent, in past eras Arsenal have had several talented players whilst Spurs have been devastated by the loss of their one star man. That scenario has flipped and you wonder what Arsenal would do if they couldn’t adequately replace Sanchez whereas Tottenham would certainly miss one or two players but the supporting talent feels a lot more equipped to manage if one should leave, indeed the title challenge has been sustained despite spells on the sideline for almost every player at some point over the season, and there’s also the feeling that the coach could improve a lesser player to help fill a gap.

All that said, just 2 years ago Arsenal were able to lure one of the World Cups stars to the club, after just one champions league group stage elimination is that situation likely to have flipped in Tottenham’s favour? Doubtful.

MOTD covered the topic on Sunday night at whilst the studio reluctantly agreed that Spurs would be the choice destination of a prime 24 year old, I’d still like to see some evidence of that before declaring that part of the shift complete. A young English player absolutely no doubt, maybe even an established player leaving a Premier league club, a top player from another European Club will still remain to be seen.

Spurs may say their philosophy doesn’t lead them down that path, but in reality it’s more of a case that club haven’t been able to attract the top players ahead of other clubs, and the second rate players that the club have signed have invariably been flops. 7 out of the top 10 most expensive transfers into Tottenham Hotspur have been complete disasters or at least failed to warrant the money spent. Sissoko, Soldado, Lamela, Bent, Janssen, Bentley & Paulinho have all on that top 10 fees paid list that have delivered less than their transfer fees warranted. Interestingly though Xhaka and Mustafi indicate to me the first signs that Arsenal are slipping into that pattern of having to pay big but for the types of players who are not top level. There record transfer of Ozil Failure to win a champions league knockout tie for 7 years will now be taking its toll. Manchester United, Chelsea, Manchester City, Leicester City and, you guessed it, Tottenham have all won a knockout game more recently.

As mentioned, Spurs need to repeat that achievement in the next couple of season and maybe beat a big European name on the way. This transfer window will be a good indicator of if things have changed at Spurs, and if Arsenal do miss out on that champions league spot how will they be affected in terms of what they can bring in. Not much has come through the academy in recent years, a far cry of a decade ago where the production line at Arsenal was seemingly well oiled and functioning well. Iwobi is a demonstration that it is still producing players capable of joining a first team. Spurs had only really promoted Ledley King throughout the first decade of the century, but in the last few years a glut of players have featured in the first team and the ones not quite title chasing standard have been sold on for substantial transfer fees, good enough to play for other premier league clubs. An academy has snuck up at Tottenham and is taking effect in a hugely positive way.

So back to the question of power shift. Whatever you think, depending on what side of the fence you sit or what the term means to you as a neutral. Has your mind changed at all after all of that? Is a shift further along or less so that what you first thought? How many of the boxes need to be ticked for you to declare it complete. A few more probably for it to become undisputed.

Whatever your answer it shouldn’t stop Spurs from celebrating another fantastic season of progress, rubber stamped with the league position above Arsenal that so many demanded. And whatever your answer it doesn’t alter the fact that the shift is at the very least well underway, and although I expect Tottenham to suffer setbacks in coming seasons that may not halt it  unless Arsenal can do something to stem the indecision and uncertainty that has overcome the football club. Becoming a premier club can be as much about teams falling than teams improving, the two simultaneously will speed up the process.

For now though, shift or no shift? Does it even matter?

For this season after 21 years, North London is undoubtedly white. And it’s been more than one year in the making.

De Luca


5 Things That Should Worry Spurs Fans About The NLD

Spurs go into the NLD Derby as odds on favourites with the bookies for the first time in the premier league era. In awesome form at home and playing some exciting free flowing football, and expected to win, there is still plenty to be wary of to avoid upsetting the apple-cart.

1. Chelsea win – Spurs are aiming for bigger things in the league this season than Arsenal. That’s not a dig, that’s just the reality of how it is. Any slim chance of winning the title relies on Chelsea dropping points today at Everton. If Chelsea win ahead of Spurs kicking off that could easily affect the players. With the title race over last season Spurs lost their last two matches to slip behind the gunners at the by the end of the season.

2. Over Confidence – confidence has been a feature of Spurs’ home performances of late, and whilst we want more of the same, this isn’t Bournemouth or Watford, this is Arsenal so some extra caution will be needed. Arsenal are one of the 6 clubs picked out to challenge for the title and whilst their season hasn’t been the best it’s not as bad as Arsenal Fan TV will have you believe. There are still good players, it’s still a NLD and they will be extra hungry to prove a point. They have had an upturn in form and momentum and a new formation that will make them hard to beat. Similar to last season anyone expecting a stroll may be disappointed. Patience will be needed. Maybe even coming from behind.

3. No Dembele – When the media hype up Spurs players this guy seems to be regularly missed. He’s our best player, and is undergoing a late fitness test to make today’s line up. The formation may switch from 3-5-2 to 4-2-3-1 if he doesn’t make it, and whilst Spurs should be able to shuffle and cope, having the big guy in there breaking up play and controlling the territory will be a massive plus.

4. Lloris error – Hugo is often subject to the old World Class debate. Is he? Isn’t He? The thing in the minus column would be his big match status. He doesn’t make many errors, or put in many bad displays but when he does it tends to be a big game. One in this fixture last year, to add to one at the Emirates, a couple against Chelsea last week, and a couple away at City. His mentality in big games is certainly a cause for concern and we’ll be hoping for no repeats.

And finally….

5. Theo Walcott – he may not be the best player in Arsenals squad, but he loves playing against Tottenham, and with Rose out may enjoy it even more than if he was available. Spurs have always struggled against his pace and whilst a far better side now, minus Rose the left back side is the area of weakness matched worryingly with Walcott who has always enjoyed plenty of action on the right wing in this fixture. Combine with the overconfidence factor, Walcott could have plenty of opportunity to stretch Tottenham on the break if they do not box it clever.

A fast and frantic start from Tottenham who may need an early-ish goal to stop nerves setting in as Arsenal play their way into the game and push forward more in the second half.

I always say if you back 1-1 in the NLD and the home side to win 2-1 you won’t be far wrong.
Or if you can’t decide, back each team to have 2 or more corners in each half at 5/2

Dan De Luca

Get out of our club!

Gutless, spineless, weak and pedestrian – just some of the words used in the media to describe yet another abysmal performance from Arsene Wenger’s side. Enough is enough.  This is a group of players who fail to understand what this great club stands for, led by a dictator slowly losing his grip on the club.  The revolt against Wenger began many years ago.  Initially led by a small section of the fan base it has developed into nothing short of anarchy.  The clubs loyal fans are fighting amongst themselves and whilst the rest of the football world condemns their actions I am pleased to see there is still some passion around the club, all be it on the terraces rather than on the pitch!

Off the field issues…

Arsene must go, but he’s not the only problem at Arsenal.  The club is plagued with issues, starting from the very top down.  In Stan Kroenke, Arsenal have an owner with no interest in the sport, no ambition to win honours and quite frankly no clue about what this club once stood for.  He continues to give Arsene Wenger free reign in the transfer market and a powerful influence on all club matters whilst sheltering him from all accountability.

The owner and his board of dinosaurs are a cancer on this club.  Sadly, the type that we won’t be clear of anytime soon.  The only hope is that we can find a manager capable of achieving more with our current resources.  The recruitment has been shocking for quite some time and based on the fact he practically runs the club you can only blame the manager.

Poor recruitment…

Do not underestimate the effect this has had on the clubs current fortunes.  Xhaka, Mustafi, Perez, Holding and Asano all arrived this summer just gone and the club splashed out in excess of £95m!  Shkodran Mustafi has been the latest in a long line of average centre backs to partner Laurent Koscielny and Granit Xhaka has failed to add the required steel to our non-existent midfield.  Lucas Perez can’t buy a game and the other two are nothing more than prospects we took a gamble on.  The club has spent vast amounts of money (by their standards) and it’s clear for all to see there has been no sign of any improvement.  Like Calum Chambers and Mathieu Debuchy before them Wengers latest recruits have failed to repay the faith shown in them.

The Playing Staff…

Much has been made of Arsene Wenger’s contract situation and whilst it’s an unwelcome distraction it’s not a good enough excuse for the recent run of form.

The spotlight is on Arsene but it’s time for the fans to turn some of their attention to this underperforming squad.  Ozil and Sanchez continue to demand improved contracts and hold the club to ransom.  If they don’t want to play for the club they should be sold, the Arsenal have replaced better players than those two in the past and nobody is bigger than the club!

After all, Mesut Ozil has been hiding for half of the season and seems to catch a cold every week whilst Alexis Sanchez prefers to throw tantrums.   This is a squad full of average players, Ramsey, Walcott, Ox, Iwobi and Gabriel just to name a few. They’re not fit to wear the shirt and sadly, Arsene is no longer fit to lead the club.

It looks as though Arsenal will finish outside of the top four for the first time in twenty years.  One can only hope our failure is the ‘catalyst for change’ Ivan Gazidis was referring too.

Arsene, Ozil, Sanchez & Kroenke…


He’s Just Too Good For You!

In February and on the back of being four nil down to Sunderland at half time the players were booed off to “you’re not fit to wear the shirt”. Well to be fair to each and every one of them we’ve gone from relegation certainties to needing a single figure return in our remaining fixtures to stay in the Prem.

That would have been beyond our wildest dreams only 5 weeks ago, but four wins on the bounce have transformed this Palace side. It’s not just four wins, it’s one goal conceded in four games and that was at the champions elect on Saturday.

This turnaround has been quite simply remarkable. Huge credit has to go to ‘Big Sam’ and Sammy Lee. It’s so obvious that they’ve made a difference to us. They’ve instilled a work ethic that was completely absent previously, a will to win or more importantly not to get beat and the work rate throughout the side is phenomenal.

I know I can say it now because it happened, but I fancied us to get something at Stamford Bridge. Believe me I never thought we’d turn Chelsea over but I thought we might sneak a draw. What I saw on Saturday was everything I’ve loved about Palace since our return to the Premier League. Small club, written off but still managing to pull off the occasional shock against one of the ‘big boys’.

What’s also been noticeable and has to be worth a mention is the Holmesdale fanatics/Ultras who have been absolutely phenomenal for the past month. They deserve as much of the plaudits as the players. The noise levels they have created since that Sunderland debacle has gone a long way in inspiring our performances.

I’m not over dramatizing what they’ve created. If the Gooners at the Emirates made half the noise of our fans, some of those mediocre players in that Arsenal line up might turn up and play a bit. So before talking about our side, I’ve got to say “the fanatics you have my utmost respect and the noise generated at Stamford Bridge was off the scale”.

I’ve got to talk about Saturday! I’ve replayed it in my mind every day and it still puts a smile on my face. Like I say I was pretty confident before kick off, but after 4 minutes I realized I must be deluded when Fabregas scored unmarked.

To then see Wilf score after 9 and Benteke after 11 was just unbelievable. There was carnage in our end and my legs are still bruised from jumping into the seat in front when the first went in and then doing exactly the same two minutes later.

What classy goals they were as well. Wilf’s was well… Wilf and Benteke’s finish was just so unbelievably calm.  So much so that I actually thought he was going to miss.

11 minutes in and 2-1 up. We’re never gonna hang on, not against this lot. But we were magnificent. I’m going to single some players out but to be fair every single one of our players deserves credit.

Yeah Chelsea had loads of possession but our structure, our willingness to work, our shape but most importantly our desire to throw a body, a leg an arm in Townsends case to stop a cross or a shot was quite phenomenal. Not only did we hold out til the 90th minute, but also the excruciating 10 minutes of added time.

I’ve got to talk about some of our players and I’ll talk about Wilfried last.

Wayne Hennessey has come in for some real stick from Palace fans on social media since the turn of the year, but three clean sheets in a row and then an outstanding performance on Saturday needs recognition. He made save after save and kept us in the game on Saturday and has rightly re-established himself as our number one.

Sakho is just a different grade. Honestly I’d pay 30 million for him the minute we’re mathematically safe…he’s that good. I know I said it before that Liverpool didn’t rate him but he has been absolutely inspirational for us and it’s no coincidence that since he started his first game he’s played four, won four. He also makes others around him perform better, perform with confidence and is a true warrior.

Andros Townsend has worked tirelessly for weeks now and has completely changed my opinion of him. Similarly, on Saturday Benteke bullied that Chelsea back three, scored a sublime goal and worked harder than I’ve seen (possibly all season).

Finally to my man ‘Wilf’. Anyone who’s read these blogs know how much I love Wilf. He has to go down as my all time favourite Palace player, which is a big statement. His goal on Saturday was class, but his all round performance was exceptional. This doesn’t surprise me, it just shocks me that all of these so called pundits are saying “he’s now delivering”.

Seriously….what?? “He’s now delivering!!”….are you having a laugh! Wilf has delivered for us for two seasons. He was the fans player of the year last season so I do honestly wonder if any of these pundits have ever seen him play or whether they just jump on the bandwagon of “he never cut it at United so he must be rubbish”.

When Wilf left us after scoring the goals in the play off Semi and earning the penalty in the final, Sir Alex knew what he was getting. Let’s be frank, Ferguson rarely made a dud signing.

Wilf was never going to fit in with Moyes. He was too flamboyant, not structured enough and didn’t conform to the boring working winger Moyes liked. Similarly, Van Gaal could’ve done with some excitement just to liven the fans.

United’s loss is our gain. Englands loss is the Ivory Coast’s gain and if Messi had scored that goal against Russia last week, we’d still be talking about it now.

It’s no surprise the big clubs are circling. I honestly think that Wilf could play for any one of them. That includes Chelsea and he would be a fantastic signing for Arsenal.

I fancy us against Arsenal next week and I honestly think we’ll now be alright. The players deserve great credit but so does Big Sam. He’s turned us around and I think he can build something special…roll on Monday night! Let’s hope we’re singing “he’s just too good for you” all night.

Mark Storey


AST provide Gunners Fans with an Update…

Arsenal 2-2 Man City – 2/4/2017

Having suffered 4 defeats in their last 5 league fixtures the Gunners managed to halt the slide and somewhat ease the pressure on under fire boss Arsene Wenger, for another few days at least.  Manchester City would have come to the Emirates feeling pretty confident and Pep Guardiola’s adventurous team selection made their intentions clear from the outset.

Not many managers are bold enough to field 6 attackers at the Emirates from the start.  Some would call it over confidence; others would read between the lines and say it’s an acknowledgement of his own team’s defensive short comings. Make of it what you like…

Two sides who continue to show they are defensively inept and a whole host of attacking talent on the pitch meant we were always going to see goals, all be it sloppy ones.

The Gunners failed to sparkle but their refusal to fall away despite having gone behind twice could lay the crucial foundations on which their revival can be built on.

With the unrest currently surrounding the Emirates stadium, the game itself became something of a side attraction.  The Anti-Wenger protests continued and videos emerging of Arsenal fans fighting amongst themselves continue to bring shame on our real supporters.

Most of the pre-game talk was around the Q&A session with members of 16 different fan groups, hosted by the club chief executive Ivan Gazidis earlier in the day.  The club were presented with the latest survey results from the AST (Arsenal Supporters Trust).  The results highlighted that 78% of its members were AGAINST Arsene Wenger being offered a new contract and communicated some of their qualms with the club.

Tim Payton of the AST was in the room and joined Jim White on Talksport this morning to provide us with an update of what was discussed.

Key points:

  • Ivan Gazidis told the supporters that the last 6 weeks had been a ‘catalyst for change’.
  • Gazidis was very cautious around discussing ‘personnel issues’ and was unclear on exactly what the changes would be.
  • He reiterated that the club has NOT put a contract offer in front of Arsene Wenger and a decision is yet to be made.
  • The board is actively reviewing the performances of the club on the footballing side.
  • Any offer made to Arsene Wenger will need to be reported on the stock exchange, Arsenal FC is a publicly listed club and so any stories suggesting he has already signed are to be taken with a pinch of salt.
  • Tim Payton does not believe Arsene Wenger will be the manager next season based on the fact he will be uncomfortable with the restructure the clubs hierarchy are currently cooking up.

Wenger – The Latest on his Gunner’s Future

Arsene Wenger is going NOWHERE…

Arsene Wenger is passed his sell by date.  Like a rotten egg, Arsene Wenger’s legacy is beginning to stink.  He has failed to deliver a league title since 2003/04 and a couple of jammy FA Cup’s in recent years have achieved very little in terms of relieving the pressure on the clubs longest serving manager.

The man is deluded and this is a consequence of being given free reign at the club by our incompetent board of greedy businessmen.  Arsene Wenger is a dictator, his own propaganda has been good enough to persuade large sections of our support that finishing in the top 4 is success but enough is enough.

It’s as clear as day, Arsenal Football Club has lost its soul.  In light of the recent ‘Wenger Out’ protests a number of ex-players have jumped to the Frenchman’s defence and John Cross (The Mirror) has reported that he is set to extend his stay beyond this summer.

Propaganda at its finest, ex-players (on the payroll) suddenly declaring their love for him and hours later, the journalist paid by Arsene Wenger to write his biography breaks the news that he’s staying.

Arsenal stand to lose their two most valuable assets if he stays, Alexis Sanchez has publicly displayed his frustration with the way things have been going of late and if you believe Mesut Ozil has been injured/ill in recent weeks you’ve fallen for Wenger’s propaganda too!

Reports are emerging today that the German approached the board three weeks ago, expressed his dissatisfaction at the clubs transfer policy and demanded to know what the future holds.

Both him and Alexis will want out come May and who can blame them?

His tactical naivity and failure to address the same old problems on the pitch are causing him all sorts of trouble off it.  He has to go!

If indeed he has agreed a contract extension you can expect uproar and AFC Fan TV ratings to go through the roof!


Head over to our Facebook Group  – “The Football Fan Network –” or Twitter @sofasportsnews_  to participate in our latest poll.  Will he stay or will he go?

Don’t just blame Arsene, blame yourselves!

Before the game it was Arsene Wenger, during it switched to Gazidis, moved on to Kronke, then after it was the players and then Wenger some more. All contributors to Arsenals current plight but the main culprits still avoid mention.
It’s you. You the Arsenal fans who have allowed this to happen. Arsenals fans for accepting a level for over half a decade that are below the standard that this club should be reaching. For being in Complete denial until now.
I told you this would happen, so did everyone, but you refused to see it.

You’ve caused this. By burying your heads in the sand as the downward spiral and stagnation set in and allowing the people who have made Arsenal their profession and business to fleece the club and yourselves further. By believing the dribble that has come out in press conferences following defeats. By looking for stats to defend consistent poor individual displays. By celebrating records that don’t pertain to anything like what the club are used to.

By allowing yourselves to be sold theories about how unfortunate draws have been the key factor behind European underachievement. By attributing shortcomings to a recurring injury list without ever questioning some players’ desire to get fit. By constantly referencing Tottenham when the heat was turned up in situations that were irrelevant and subsequently avoiding difficult issues. You’ve let your club underacheive because you were too proud to accept the demise and so as a result, instead of being one level below you’ve slipped further to 2 or maybe 3.

Other clubs haven’t necessary improved but at least they’ve tried something, and removed managers and players to demand more from their club. Arsenal haven’t even tried, as fans you have not demanded more from your football club. Instead, you’ve looked for an easy target to make yourselves feel better and the slope gets steeper and steeper everytime. The first 5 years is admirable and the loyalty warranted, but then 5 years becomes 10 and then 15 and gets to 20 & then 50 very suddenly, yet the arrogance continues. You’ve never really stopped to ask why the club have stopped challenging. You’ve never stopped to ask fellow fans why they looked down the table for comparisons instead of up. You’ve never bothered to realise the the manager who you say has stuck by his philosophy abandoned his philosophy almost a decade ago.


You’ve never wondered at what point after 1990 did Liverpool ever imagine they’d go 27 and counting without a title from a greater starting position than yourselves. The attitude that it could never happen to you, has stopped the symptoms being treated.
The only time you have ever challenged anything is when smutterings of your co-supporters have bothered to start to question, and now the group has got bigger and bigger you’ve probably not stopped to wonder if they were actually right when they began, and instead probably think they started too early and the time has come now. You probably still think they were disrespectful.

You probably think the fans of other clubs have no right to comment, and you’re probably right in that it’s not really their business, but you’ve certainly failed to acknowledge that all football fans have a right to share an opinion as an inheritance of being a fan of the beautiful game in a similar way, that you will do when a new manager takes over a big club and doesn’t hit the ground running. More importantly you’ve not ever conceded that they’re actually right this time, and that supporting a team that doesn’t win things doesn’t win as much as you did in the early 2000s and through your history doesn’t weaken their ability to interpret a situation, in fact it probably enhances it.

You’re probably reading this thinking that this is just a bitter fan of another club putting down the mighty Arsenal, and you’re right, except for the bitter part. No one else is bitter at all, they are just able to detach themselves from the emotion and see a situation for what it really is, using their wider range of footballing experiences from situations that they have seen before. I am putting down the mighty Arsenal, and I’m right. The underachievement has gone on far too long. You should be taking that as complement to the football club yet you’re probably not as there is still a bit of you that refuses to treat other teams fans as equals as the pedestal your club once sat on was so high.

What you’ve created is a culture of excuses, a culture of justification and a culture of doing the easy thing. Where looking down and laughing has taking priority over looking up and aspiring to improve and be better. A culture of doing the bare minimum, and the manager and the club and the board have taken the invitation and lined their pockets whilst never needing to improve as the level that was being reached was celebrated there was no requirement to invest or to risk.


You’ve convinced yourself there was no suitable alternative when managers have been and gone who all with the squad Arsenal have had would have made a better fist of a title challenge and a European campaign. Spurs have replaced managers who have achieved their record points total, Chelsea have sacked the special one, Liverpool have removed the man so close to bringing them the title, City have sacked two title winning managers, United sacked their manager one day after winning the FA Cup.

They all wanted more, whilst you didn’t want to change, they may not have achieved their wishes yet or may never will but they and their fans have still demanded the bar be set higher, you wanted to get to this point before the penny dropped. Now it’s gone to far, and the risk becomes bigger, at a time when the foundations for a new leader a weaker, and it could and should have been easy. A club now with divided fans that will make the next guys job nigh on impossible as with every knock he takes there will be the group of die hard wengerites still insisting he shouldn’t have gone.

The wedge has been driven by you as you’ve dismissed the group who saw the trouble first and now it may have to get worse before it gets better. Now is the time to accept you were horribly wrong and not allow yourself to sink back into the mindset that will undermine Wenger’s replacement or the recovery of the team to the top of English football will be daleyed even more, and the 12 will become 15, 20 then 50 in the blink of an eye.

All the while a great club servants reputation and legacy is pounded, he’s like a boxer taking punishment round after round but you sit in the corner not throwing in the towel. He’ll be gone next year and only then can the club start to properly move forward again, the board will have to act as, like you, their belief that the Champions League target will be achieved no matter what has waned.

If things stumble and splutter it had to be worth gambling with something that even the most delusional soul in north London can now see just isn’t going anywhere. So bad has it got that even a 2nd place finish and an FA Cup win is not enough to justify the last decade. You see that now, I know you do. A change has to happen, a risk has to be taken.

Whatever happens, Stick it out. Appreciate the parts of the game that you have not been exposed to for 20 years now. But do not blame anyone else. You’ve sold yourselves and your club short for too long. You’ve let them get away with it. You’ve let him reduce you to this. Deep down there’s no one to blame but yourselves.

Dan De Luca

Technology in Sport – The Big Debate


Technology has begun to take over. Gradually, it will completely take over. The below article is a combination effort by Sofa Sports News (SSN) and Tagpay to officially announce the start of what both companies hope to be a positive and fruitful partnership.

Artificial intelligence (or AI) is becoming ever present in our day-to-day lives, technology is being used to replace humans in jobs and whole industries are scrambling to adjust to our digital era.

From the voice recognition tech that is built into Apple iPhones called ‘Siri’ to ‘Otto’, Uber’s driverless trucks, technology is changing the way we live.
The sports industry, like many others, has seen the influence of technology change the game forever. Sports science has helped to bring sport into this digital age, changing the way we train, play and think about sport.

Let’s take a look at some of the different technologies that are helping to improve performance across the world’s most popular sports.

The Viper Pod
We’ve all seen images of professional footballers training in what look black like sports bras. Well, these black vests are called Viper pods and are developed by a company called STATSports.
This neat piece of technology is used by many of the top clubs including Manchester City, Arsenal and Barcelona. They help coaches track data such as distance covered and heart rate amongst other stats using a GPS tracking system, which can then be used to plan and adjust a players training to improve their performance.

This piece of tennis tech was developed by a start-up from Silicon Valley called TuringSense and has been created in partnership with Hall of Fame coach Nick Bollettieri.

The top of the range Pivot package comes with 14 sensors to monitor 360-degree motion and collect data on metrics such as footwork, body position, elbow bend and knee bend. All of the analysis can be watched back on the Pivot application.
So where are we at with technology and the decisions that govern a top tier football match?

Club World Cup
Video refereeing in football has long been a contentious topic as the sport has resisted change, but the recent Club World Cup (December 2016) has provided the most prominent case thus far in its favour. The semi-final between Atletico Nacional of Colombia and Kashima Antlers of Japan saw the referee give a penalty after consulting video replays of a Kashima free-kick being delivered into the Atletico box.

The referee consulted the videos displayed on screens housed in a small station by the side of the pitch . The need for review itself followed the video referee alerting the central match official, Viktor Kassai, to the coming-together that he had missed nearly a full minute earlier. The referee stopped play, consulted the replays, and gave the penalty; it is not clear how the match would have restarted if the referee had decided against awarding the spot-kick.

“This is the first-ever live trial with Video Assistant Referees at a FIFA competition, so this is something that is new for everyone – especially to see the referee run to the video replay area at the side of the field,” said Massimo Busacca, FIFA’s Head of Refereeing in response to the episode. “In the incident tonight, the communication between the referee and the video assistant referee was clear, the technology worked well, and ultimately the final decision was taken by the referee, which will always be the case since the VARs are only there to support.”

German League
The Bundesliga is set to introduce video assistant referees (VAR) from next season onwards after being successfully tested during the first half of the current campaign. VAR will only be used for clear matters and for irregularities in the case of a goal decision, penalty box situations regarding penalty calls, red card offences unnoticed by the referee, and in cases of mistaken identity over a yellow or red card. All other decisions in a match will remain unaffected, whilst the referee will continue to have the final call. “Only clear wrong calls can be part of the video evidence,” Hellmut Krug, a former FIFA referee and project head VAR added.

Hawk-Eye, the system already employed and well embedded into Tennis and Cricket, has been in the Premier league for a few seasons now and has been a resounding success. It uses a network of high-speed video cameras to track a ball’s position at a given time via triangulation. Knowing the ball’s position, Hawk-Eye will decide whether the line has been crossed and the associated software makes aware the referee of the outcome via a radio transmission to the referee’s watch.

Hawk-Eye has a margin of error of just 3.6 mm, better than the 3 cm required by football’s governing body, FIFA. However it needs to be able to see at least a quarter of the ball to work, which so far, has not been stumbling block. Just look at this recent Premier League example and ask yourself how a human would ever have been to make the correct call? Especially, given the speed of the modern game.



The Manchester United boss is and has long been adamant that trophies cannot be won and lost by human error. Jose remarked that video technology would provide “protection” for match official. He told : “We all need it. Professionals can’t lose or win matches and titles because of a refusal of this evolution. Sponsors, owners and investors must feel that technology is there. Also, referees especially need and deserve protection. They need the technology to help them, protect them and to support them. Jose, and the rest of the Premier League seem to be hugely in favour of video technology helping referees, especially after the success of goal line technology on decisions.

TagPay is a management solution aimed at youth sport. The tech started out in the football industry but has already expanded to tennis and gyms.
This piece of tech combines a smart-wristband and an app that allows sports clubs to safeguard players through its e-registration tool and player profile database. TagPay also offers payment protection for clubs by tracking payments using a traffic light system to show if payments are up to date, due or if a payment has failed. The app also allows a club to communicate key information with its customers through the newsfeed feature.

Off the pitch
The use of technology in sport does not just stop on the pitch. Fan engagement applications are now a massive part of the sporting culture with brands such as Uber, Waze and EE all doing their best to increase fan experience and engagement in stadiums for sporting events.

Taxi firm Uber and their partners Manchester United have confirmed that they will be offering ‘behind-the-scenes’ footage from Old Trafford on match days for fans in over 30 different countries.
“We’re thrilled to be partnering with Manchester United to not only make match day transportation more seamless but to deliver fans incredible experiences throughout the season, no matter where they are supporting from,” Amy Friedlander Hoffman, Head of Business Development and Experiential Marketing at Uber, said in a statement.

Digital communications company EE have also gone down the fan engagement route through their app and partnership with England’s Wembley stadium. The EE app allows fans to buy tickets and see the view from their seat before the game.

There is no doubt that this merger between sport and technology is just the start and the two will continue to overlap. This can only be seen as a positive because in recent years it has always been video games vs sport, sitting at home playing FIFA rather than outside playing football. Now it seems that technology is helping to bring the two together, whilst helping to improve sporting performance, administration and the overall experience of sport.

Everything’s gonna be alright – Crystal Palace

“Don’t worry about a thing, cos everything’s going be alright” and so sang the fanatics for the last ten minutes at Selhurst over a week ago and on the back of a further win at West Brom, you know what? For the first time in months they might just be right.

“This is a must win game, if we lose we’re down” is basically the conversation I had with my son as we walked to the ground prior to our game with Middlesbrough. But I’d heard it all before, I’d felt the same for Swansea and we’d obviously beat Sunderland…everyone beats Sunderland! You know the rest.

But that week was different. The crowd were different, the atmosphere was confident and supportive and it just felt right and believe me it hasn’t felt right or like Palace for at least 6 months.

I liked the side Allardyce picked, I loved the fact he’d chosen Puncheon to captain the side and I admired the fact he went with Tomkins and Sakho in the centre of defence and left Dann on the bench. I also then loved the fact he named an unchanged side at West Brom.

That’s a big call that (leaving Dann on the bench, regardless of whether he’s injured) because for anybody who read these blogs a year ago I was banging on about how disgraceful it is that Dann isn’t in the England squad. Well to be fair he wouldn’t be in my Palace starting eleven at the moment, so forget everything I ever said about England.

It’s interesting with Dann because he went downhill as soon as he was made captain so even if he comes back into the starting eleven I’d leave the captaincy with Puncheon.

I know Allardyce for whatever reason stopped Palace travelling to Dubai and spent two weeks on the training ground (with a break in the middle), but it was worth every second. We look a completely different side to the one that had been dismantled by Sunderland.

The three new players Van Aarnholt, Sakho and Luka (can’t keep spelling his surname) were outstanding. All three made such a difference to the way we played against Boro and West Brom and could be the difference as to whether we stay up or not.

Sakho was absolute quality in the centre of defence. He might not be the right fit for Liverpool but for Palace he’s the best centre back I’ve seen there in years.

There is nothing flash about what he does. But everything he does is simple, effective and looks effortless, which is the real key because it makes you feel like everything is under control. He doesn’t just launch balls forward, he doesn’t just think about putting the ball into touch (he did when he really had to as a last resort), he takes a touch, looks up and passes it.

Now I know I’m talking as if he’s just discovered….well I don’t know what. But my point being is that we now have a defender who knows how and when to defend, but also gives us the ability to start attacks from defence. So instead of heading a ball clear, he would take a step back and chest the ball down and pass it into midfield.


I probably sound ridiculous with what I’m writing, but for fans of Arsenal, Tottenham, Man City and Chelsea you see this every week. But this is Palace, we don’t do that type of thing in South London so forgive my enthusiasm.

Van Aarnholt is another class signing. He’s given us balance on the left hand side, links nicely with the midfield, is a good crosser of the ball and nicked a tidy finish with his right foot to win us the game at Selhurst.

With Tomkins alongside Sakho in the centre of defence I’d happily go anywhere now and think we can do a job.

Luka in the centre of midfield is top drawer. I love him already. He sits just in front of the back four and pings passes left or right foot and never gives the ball away. More importantly he wins it back. He’s the closest thing we’ve got to a Mile Jedinak but he’s a better passer of the ball, so that signing is off the scale as far as I’m concerned.

Wilf is Wilf. That is the biggest compliment I can pay him. I love him, always have and always will and forget the “he’s just too good for you” song, to be honest Wilf’s ” just too good for us”. But I’ll take what we can get until the end of the season when I’m sure he’ll move onto bigger and better clubs…and good luck to him.

What’s interesting about Wilf is that all of the pundits are saying he’s changed for the better. He’s better at this, he’s better at that. Well in all honesty, he’s Wilfried Zaha and nothing’s changed in the way he plays his football. Ask any Palace fan and they would say he’s the same player that left for Man United and we’ve now got that player back.

That period at United ruined him and I really don’t believe that it would have happened if Sir Alex had still been in charge. He knows a quality footballer when he see’s one and Wilf was let down by Moyes and Van Gaal who never got the best out of him.

It also makes me wonder about some of these pundits. Did they ever really watch him or did they just jump on the bandwagon. He can’t be that bad, Spurs want to sign him and they’ve got one hell of a good side.

His goal at West Brom on Saturday epitomises all that’s good about Wilf.


Townsend has worked his socks off the last three games and I believe it’s been noticed by the Palace fans and rightly so. He deserves credit for turning his game around. Like Wilf his goal on Saturday epitomised the change in his work-rate for us and he has to play each week, which isn’t something I was saying a month ago.

I loved Puncheons leadership as a captain – got the players into a huddle before ko, shouted, cajoled and instructed during the game and waited to shake every players hand at half time. A proper leader of men and should stay as captain for the rest of the season.

Good times are returning to Palace. Team and fans together, noise levels through the roof and players playing for the shirt. Can’t really ask for more.

To beat Boro and West Brom in consecutive weeks is a monumental shift from what had gone before and Allardyce deserves great praise for that. He’s taken us back to basics and the players confidence levels have visibly risen.

Watford, Leicester, Burnley and Hull will make or break us. We have to win every one. On Saturday’s performance it’s possible. Big Sam seems to have finally got his message across. I hope so.

If he has then…

“Don’t worry because everything really will be alright”