by Jack Stevens
After the wonderful turn around at Selhurst Park last season, taking place once Alan Pardew was put in charge on the 2nd of January, Crystal Palace seem to be going from strength to strength, following up their highest ever Premier League finish with the sensational signing of Yohan Cabaye, a player Pardew knows a lot about.
While his time as Newcastle will be remembered by Magpies fans for the turmoil of the second half of his spell rather than the success of his first, it shouldn’t be underestimated or appreciated just how well Pardew did do in the early years of his north-east reign. There was a range of reasons for this success, such as the tenacious attacking duo of Demba Ba and Cisse, the weekly defensive masterclass of Cheick Tiote and Fabricio Coloccini or even the nonchalent displays of Hatem Ben-Arfa. One of the big underlying factors was the consistency of excellence from midfielder Yohan Cabaye. Showing the ability to ping a ball 50 yards with ease, win 50/50 tackles against the likes of Yaya Toure, and even rifle one in to the top corner from 30 yards every few months, Cabaye quickly and quietly established himself as one of the finest central midfielders, not only in the league, but in all of Europe. After a few windows of close moves to Arsenal, Tottenham and other league rivals, Cabaye eventually returned to his home land of France to Paris Saint-Germain. It was from this moment on, with Cabaye never really being replaced, or any further investment into the club with little protest from Pardew, the fans quickly turned on him. A poor year of results didn’t help matters, and his time at the club looked to be coming to an end during the festive period of 2014.
While this was taking place in the north of the country, down south Crystal Palace were attempting to establish themselves as a Premier League club and rid themselves of an unwanted reputation for being a yo-yo side. It didn’t look good half way into their first season in the league, with the club rock-bottom in early December, which led to the board turning to Tony Pulis. At Stoke the man who has set back baseball caps by a good twenty years was certainly not known for his exciting style of football, but no one could doubt the will to win that he instilled into the players, with the impressive accolade of never being relegated on his resume. The tried and trusted method worked to perfection, with Palace managing an 11th place finish and Pulis claiming LMA Manager of the Year, but alas leaving the club just two months later. After a poor spell from Neil Warnock to start the 2014/2015 season, fate seemed to take place, as the club Pardew had become a cult hero playing for, now needed a manager, just as he needed an escape from Tyneside.
Much like he did at Newcastle, Pardew has started brilliantly at Palace. In what seems like a match made in heaven, the club managed to go from relegation strugglers to finding top four form as they finished a record 10th place. Again similarly to how he did at the Magpies, Pardew has built the side around exciting wing play from Wilfried Zaha and Yannick Bolasie, solid defensive displays from Scott Dann and Joel Ward, and an uncompromising midfield, but not on the level of Cabaye. So how did Pardew go about fixing this? Easy, he signed Cabaye.
The Frenchman had struggled to ever really break into the first team of PSG, mostly due to the exciting midfielders from around Europe the club had bought such as Verrati and Pastore from Seria A, and homegrown talent such as Blaise Matuidi, so a move back to the country where he truly established himself seemed to make the most sense. Unlike years before, the big boys no longer seemed interested, and most of the lower clubs couldn’t afford his high wages. Fortunately one club had a mix of money and trust that Yohan could be the one to launch their club into the upper exiles of the Premier League, and that was of course Palace. Now with the signing being completed in the early hours today, many are viewing it as a statement of intent from the London club, a coup that has excited the fans and will potentially kick the team on to the next level.
I have a sneaking suspicion that this could be Palace’s best year yet, and they could mirror Koeman’s Southampton last season, with Cabaye, naturally, being at the centre of it all.