Things can only get better

Say hello to Crystal Palace, if you really have to.

Crystal Palace at home. It is, as you get reminded every season, not as bad as Crystal Palace away. That’s not really saying much, is it?

I know there’s a lot of snobbery in football where supporters of Big Clubs look down on smaller ones but really, has there ever been a more pointless existence than Crystal Palace? They must be the only club in history where rising to the dizzy heights of nondescript would be an impossible dream. They’ve been going since 1905 and they still haven’t managed it yet although they were the Team of the Eighties. Last season we played them the day after the cup final, this time at least it’s at a proper time.

Their manager was a great player and they’ve got Jordan Ayew, who seems to have been there forever. They’ve also got Sam Johnstone, who did well for us before a dizzyingly steep descent in form and fortunes. Many keepers go through something like that; some come back better, others carry on descending into oblivion. Which way he’ll turn out to go depends on whether you think the Hawthorns is a better place to play football than Crystal Palace reserves. Also turning out for them will be Wilfred Zaha, a footballer so odious he wouldn’t be made worse by playing for Manchester United.

They also have a pack of ultras, and if that lot think English football’s got anything to learn from the continent then they should go and bloody well live there with their fancy foreign ideas. If they try to bring any of that nonsense to Villa Park let’s hope the West Midlands’ finest will revert to their own eighties ways, and perhaps reform the Serious Crime Squad as well.

We’re back on form, no more injures yet this week, Europe still a vague possibility. They haven’t won this year. Turn up, do the job, go home. No problem.