Sam Smith’s Crystal Palace Team of the Decade: Zaha’s obviously in…..but who else??

With the end of the decade nigh, we asked SAM SMITH for his Crystal Palace 11 for 2010-19.

Here it is:

GK: JULIAN SPERONI

For individual moments of brilliance and for contributions to great Palace memories, none of the other five goalkeepers who have featured in the 2010s have done as much as Speroni. He was effectively ousted by a mixture of Wayne Hennessey, Steve Mandanda and Alex McCarthy midway through the decade but still fought back to break the club-record amount of appearances for a goalkeeper – 405.

Vicente Guaita is now a fans’ favourite but is yet to make a sufficient enough contribution to keep the Argentine out of this team.

Crystal Palace’s Aaron Wan-Bissaka (left) and Watford’s Roberto Pereyra battle for the ball during the Premier League match at Selhurst Park, London.

RB: AARON WAN-BISSAKA

That Wan-Bissaka’s transfer fee of £50 million is a world-record amount for a player with fewer than 50 appearances at the time of the deal is testament to just how easily he adapted to Premier League football.

Within a year he had gone from being a last-resort thrown into the starting 11 because of an injury crisis, to being one of the division’s best full backs. The 22-year-old deserved his move to Manchester United where he has continued to thrive.

Scott Dann, Crystal Palace

CB: SCOTT DANN

The Eagles’ back four prior to Dann’s transfer from Blackburn in January 2014 was leaking avoidable goals on an almost game-by-game basis.

Despite Hennessey, Tom Ince and Joe Ledley being the bigger-name signings that month, Palace’s eventual survival can largely be pinned on the addition of a player who played to a standard several levels higher than any centre-back at the club.

It is this position that Palace have had their richest depth of talent this decade, with many capable of playing for the elite clubs, and Dann was the first of that calibre.

Crystal Palace’s James Tomkins before the Premier League match at Vicarage Road, Watford. PA Photo. Picture date: Saturday December 7, 2019. See PA story SOCCER Watford. Photo credit should read: Tess Derry/PA Wire.

CB: JAMES TOMKINS

That West Ham fans scoffed at the £10 million Palace spent on who they claimed was their fourth-choice centre-back says far more about their then-manager Slaven Bilic than it does about Palace. If the same transfer were to happen next summer, Tomkins would probably cost three times more.

The 30-year-old has gone on to form one of the greatest centre-back partnerships in the club’s history with Mamadou Sakho, who Tomkins just about pips to this place based on consistency and more appearances. He will play for Palace for the 100th time against Norwich.

Joel Ward, Crystal Palace

LB: JOEL WARD

The club’s longest-serving player could stake a claim to have been the best player in both full-back positions this decade.

Although having played more at right-back since signing in the summer of 2012, there is an insufficient depth of options on the left. Clint Hill departed in 2010 and Patrick van Aanholt’s inconsistency means Ward takes the spot in which he performed so well under Tony Pulis and latterly Neil Warnock.

Ward is one of five players in this team who helped Palace to promotion in 2013. His late clearing header off the goal-line which kept Watford at bay in the play-off final and his winning goal against Chelsea stand out as key moments.

Crystal Palace’s Yohan Cabaye acknowledges the fans after the final whistle during the Premier League match at Selhurst Park, London.

CM: YOHAN CABAYE

Perhaps one of the most technically-gifted players to ever play for the club. Palace have missed Cabaye’s range of passing and his ability to start attacks ever since he left in 2018.

The Frenchman was key to the revolution which saw Alan Pardew utilise a more attacking style between 2015 and 2017. Was harshly criticised for not scoring or assisting as much as he did for Newcastle, but there was so much more to Cabaye.

Crystal Palace’s Mile Jedinak throws his shirt into the crowd after the match

CM: MILE JEDINAK

The Australian arrived at Palace as a scrawny midfielder and it seemed he could barely complete a pass in his first season.

By the time of his departure in 2017, he was a bulky, no-nonsense midfield general who had captained the club to promotion and had led the club into their most successful period of the Premier League era.

Crystal Palace’s Luka Milivojevic celebrates scoring his side’s first goal of the game from the penalty spot during the Premier League match at Selhurst Park, London. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo.

CM: LUKA MILIVOJEVIC

The Serb filled the gaping hole that Jedinak’s departure had vacated in midfield.

Like Dann had been four years prior, Milivojevic was a January signing whose immediate contribution was key to top-flight survival. Two and-a-half years on, the 28-year-old is still just as important.

Crystal Palace v Liverpool, Premier League, Selhurst Park, 23 November 2019

WINGER: WILFRIED ZAHA

There is so much to debate around this topic and so many players to choose from, but there is one certainty: Wilfried Zaha makes every Palace supporter’s Team of the Decade.

What Palace have achieved this decade, Zaha has more or less been involved. He had made his debut a few weeks before the 2-2 draw with Sheffield Wednesday which kept Palace in the Championship in 2010. He was man of the match in the play-off final success.

The 27-year-old was there for the tenth-placed finish under Pardew. He was there for the FA Cup final. He was there for all the wins against the likes of Chelsea, Manchester United, Manchester City, Arsenal and Tottenham. Palace could not win a league game without Zaha for over two years.

The only season he missed was 2013-14 when he was being misused by David Moyes at Old Trafford.

Crystal Palace’s Joel Ward (left) and Yannick Bolasie (right) celebrate after the final whistle

WINGER: YANNICK BOLASIE

There were few things more enjoyable in the 2010s than watching Zaha and Bolasie on opposite wings.

Stop Zaha and you still had to deal with Bolasie. Stop Bolasie and you still had to deal with Zaha.

For doing something completely out of the ordinary – such as the improvised flick against Tottenham – Bolasie was probably more exciting to watch than Zaha. And there are not many more bigger compliments than that.

STRIKER: GLENN MURRAY

Murray was certainly not the most technically gifted striker but he was good at two things: finishing and finding space in the penalty area.

They were the strongest assets of any Palace player in that 2012-13 team and Ian Holloway optimised them to the extreme. Murray ended the season with 31 goals in all competitions and no Palace striker has got near that tally ever since.

Following an ACL injury, he proved he could cope well in the Premier League by scoring seven times in the second half of the 2014-15 season.

That he was sold to Bournemouth and has gone on to do so well in a second spell at Palace’s rivals Brighton should be one of the club’s biggest regrets of the decade.


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