BY ANDREW McSTEEN
James McArthur clocked up his 200th appearance for Crystal Palace in Saturday’s 2-0 victory at Bournemouth.
But the Scot was quick to rein in any talk about possible European qualification despite the Eagles clocking up a fourth win in a row to move them up to ninth in the Premier League table.
“It’s really good, there was a lot of hard work that went into it,” said the 32-year-old to the South London Press at the Vitality Stadium.
“A lot of fitness work went in behind-the-scenes just to get us in good shape and it’s one where we can look back at all the hard work and [see that] it’s all worth it now to get another three points.
“But it’s always each game as it comes. At one point in the season I heard a lot of talk of ‘Europe, Europe, Europe’ and we went on a run that we weren’t happy with. It bites you in the bum if you look too far ahead and start planning for things which aren’t there just now so all we can do is look at the next game.
“It’s going to be a tough game against Liverpool [but we will] try and get into that and cause an upset.”
Even in the warm-up, the Palace squad appeared lighter on their feet, fitter and more motivated than their relegation-threatened opponents and were rarely in trouble in the game as they breezed to three points.
The ease of victory came off the back of some hard work, with McArthur singling out the job Scott Guyett – Palace’s head of sport science and strength & conditioning – had done with the players ahead of the return to action.
“Scotty’s done an amazing job, not only when we came back [to training] but with the runs he gave everyone to do when we were off and not knowing when we would be back,” said the former Wigan player. “He’s let us rest at times when we need rest and pushed us when we need to be pushed, so he’s done a great job.
“But I think all of us would still want to be fitter – and [those] at every single club – because you’ve not got that match sharpness, but I felt we handled the game very well.
“We’ve got a lot of experience in that changing room, so when we did feel a bit tired, we sat out and protected and made sure they didn’t get any chances and we managed the game excellently. To come here and win 2-0 is a great result for us.”
The victory was played out behind-closed-doors as per the Premier League regulations under UK Government guidance, with a maximum of 300 people allowed to attend, and McArthur revealed that although it was good to be back, it was not the same experience as before with the players having to focus on themselves to ensure the points were taken back to South London.
“It felt good to be back, but, obviously, it’s not the same season [as it was],” he said. “But you’re out there to win a football match and I’ve got 10 other guys beside me when we’re playing and that’s all we were focussed on; trying to get that win.
“It was completely different, but it’s about adapting at this point and we did that well.”
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