How are the team doing in terms of injuries?
Nothing new to report, really. The only piece of good news for me is that Joel Ward is able to come back into the squad after having missed out on the last game against Leeds. But apart from that, all the players – the seven or eight that we’ve got injured at the moment are unfortunately all missing at the moment so we’ll crack on with the ones we’ve got.
Do you have a closer date on Wilfried Zaha’s fitness at the moment?
No. It’s only one week, maybe slightly longer than one week into his muscle injury. We’re anticipating it’ll take more time than that to recover. The same applies to McArthur, McCarthy. The same applies to James Tomkins, Jeff Schlupp. We’ve got Sakho still out of course, Connor Wickham hasn’t recovered yet. So it’s a very, very long list we have.
You’ve had some impressive home form since the turn of the year. Up against a Burnley team coming into form, how do you get yourself ready for this weekend?
Burnley are a very difficult team to play against because they’re very well organised, they have a clear game plan always when they take the field and they execute it so well because all the players stick to the game plan and all the things the coach asks from them. They do it well. They’ve been doing it for a long time, have great confidence in it and of course it gives them good results. We prepare for the game as best we can to make certain the players still understand this is a game where they’re going to have to be at their very best, that they don’t make mistakes and do their very best to counter what Burnley are going to throw at us. We could find ourselves having a very difficult afternoon. Really, just get on with our game now. I think Burnley are confident, I’m sure they have had some good results, but we are reasonably confident ourselves, we haven’t played so badly of late. Hopefully it will turn out to be a good game.
Before the turn of the year you were asking for more from your team especially at home. Are you happier with the upturn in results?
Well in actual fact we’re pretty equal, I think we’ve won four at home and won four away, so at the moment we don’t have a particular preponderance of better results at home than away. I think quite frankly in this league, it would be a mistake to suggest ‘well we’re going to get all our points at home’ or ‘we’re going to get our points away’. I think you’ve got to take it much more simply, try very hard in every game you play to prepare for it properly and try and get the best performances you can out of your players. Then to hope that if you need a bit of luck along the way that it is on your side.
Facebook have responded to the ongoing campaign against online hate, saying it might be worth people being given a chance to learn from their mistakes and not be given a ban for racist abuse. You, first hand, having had a player suffer racist abuse – what do you make of that?
I don’t quite understand what argument you are going to put up when you’ve been guilty of racist abuse. That you didn’t understand or realise what you were doing and deserve a second chance? Of course that would apply to minors, but if we’re talking adults – I don’t think in the year 2021, there can’t be too many adults – most of whom would have gone to school at some stage in their lives, or watched television or read newspapers – who don’t understand that racial abuse is not to be tolerated. It’s not to be sanctioned in any way. When it happens, it has to be stamped out, and part of the way of stamping it out would be to punish people. I don’t fully understand the online business. But I can’t really get my head around that you can open accounts and be completely devoid of any responsibility for anything you put out there because you can’t be traced. So, anonymously, you can abuse and say whatever you like, make as many vile comments as you like without really being taken to book because perhaps no-one knows who you are. I don’t understand that. There are people out there I’m sure who understand social media much better than me who can explain why that has to be the case. But I’m afraid I find it hard to get my head around that. I understand people wanting to open accounts, be online and to put out messages and contact friends, but I don’t understand how people are being allowed to do that totally anonymously – and therefore they are allowed to put out any vile messages that crosses their mind.
How is Ray Lewington doing? Is he back yet?
He’s back now, he’s been back the last couple of days. He’s full of beans, full of life and very happy to be back after his imposed isolation. So we’ll be benefiting from his knowledge of course, and benefiting from his enthusiasm on the touchline, where I’m sure he’ll be helping me bark out any orders that need to be barked out.
What did you make of Jean-Philippe Mateta’s performance at Leeds? And how has he been in training? Is he getting up to the pace of the Premier League?
Well it’s a difficult performance to analyse. Because I don’t think it was a case of not being up to the pace of the league, I think we were playing against a team that gave him and us so little room and time on the ball that really, the service he received and the chance to show what he can do was extremely limited in that game. That was largely down to the fact that Leeds dominated the game to such an extent and didn’t give us the time we needed. So I’m not judging him too harshly on that performance, I think that it’s good that he got that game under his belt. That was very, very useful for him. I think we’ll see him coming to terms with what’s required from him in the Premier League from tomorrow. I don’t have any fear for that.
It’s been a bit of a strange season, but a Palace win against Burnley would make it the club’s best ever return in the Premier League after 24 games of the season. That must be pretty satisfactory?
I didn’t know that fact. It doesn’t feel that way. This season’s not felt that way at all. It’s been very strange this season. I don’t think it’s just us finding the season strange, I think we’re in good company. There are plenty of teams in the league who will be saying a similar type of thing.
It’s been a difficult season to get a handle on, a) because to finish off the last one we had to play nine games in very quick succession, then there was a relatively short break, then we started again. For me to some extent the seasons have merged into one. That’s what has made it a little bit difficult to work out if it’s this season we’ve done ok, or was it last season?
But I’m very pleased to hear that a win tomorrow would give us that satisfaction, if you like. But I think it’s so important in the Premier League, and so important for clubs like us to consistently keep our feet on the ground. When you get a good result, enjoy it, but don’t think that now the swallows are going to swarm around the training ground or your stadium.
By the same taken, if you lose a game, don’t feel that there’s never going to be another win, that your team’s got no chance.
It’s trying to establish that basis for knowing what you can do, what we can do, knowing what we’re good at and what we’re capable of, and then believing, as I do believe, that will give us the points we need at the end of the season to look back and say: ‘That was a satisfactory campaign’.
A strange season. Something else that’s been strange has been Palace’s defensive record this season – the second worst in the league, which is very unlike Palace. What’s been going wrong at Palace in that department this season?
We conceded seven against Liverpool. That’s what it is. Take those out, it wouldn’t be quite so bad, would it? You know, a lot of the bad ones – you lose a game by seven goals, and we’ve lost a couple by four goals. I’ve just named fifteen goals in three games, unfortunately we’ve got a very bad defensive record, a lot of goals against. If in those games you lose all three by a single goal, you’ve got 12 goals on your side which would probably put us around zero, I think. It’s as simple as that. Trying to suggest that the whole of the team’s defensive record is bad because a lot of goals have been scored – you’ve got to look a bit more closely at how those goals have been scored, where you conceded them, when you conceded them. And unfortunately all the time, as a club when you’ve conceded 15 goals in three games when only 23 games have been played, it’s going to be a pretty poor defensive record.
Burnley have had a pretty poor run in front of goal – the lowest scorers in the league. Is that a bit of a surprise given their squad?
Well, Sean, like ourselves has been suffering a period of injuries. Sometimes when you’re Burnley or Crystal Palace, you do need your top players available to you. They are the ones that can help you get results. And sometimes when they are missing, teams find it hard to keep up the same level of performances. I think they are a team more than capable of scoring goals. And before the end of the season, all they need is a 7-0 win and I think you’d be saying they were one of the best attacking teams in the league.
Expecting a tight game? The last two have ended 1-0, both been quite tight affairs.
Yes, I mean it’s hard to score goals against Burnley, that’s why they do so well in the league. If you are that good defensively you don’t concede that many goals, you’ve always got a chance because as long as it’s 0-0, all you need is a goal to come away with the three points. So we understand that, but I’m still not firmly believing that tomorrow is going to be that sort of game. It will likely be a game with very few goals. I’m prepared for anything, I think both Burnley and ourselves are capable of scoring goals, have the type of players, the type of team performance that leads itself to goal chances. So who knows, next time we meet you might be saying: ‘Was that the best 5-5 game you’ve ever taken part in?’
Just on Joel Ward – what was the problem?
He came on as a substitute against Wolves and did it in that game. He came on with about 10 minutes to play and landed badly. Attempted to block a cross, fell awkwardly and damaged one of the muscles close to his hip. Not a major muscle, but it was enough to keep him out of the next couple of games.
With Wilfried Zaha – do we become a bit fixated on him and his influence on the team? Is that a bit unfair to the rest of the squad?
I don’t know. I don’t know that you can say it’s unfair because statistically you can prove that we win less when he’s not playing, there’s not much to be said about that. And as a result he deserves the plaudits he has quite rightly received during his time at the club for helping us get the results that we get. But in all those situations, if people want to do something about that, you know if you are a player who is not playing every week, watching Wilf get the plaudits, then he doesn’t play and you do play and the result’s not gone the way it should go, you have to read: ‘they’re missing Wilf Zaha, they can’t win without him’, then I think it’s up to those players who are on the receiving end, if you like, of those comments or criticisms, to get out there and prove that we’re good enough ourselves and of course we love having Wilf with us, it’s a big help when he’s there, but we aren’t totally dependent on him. The way that’s going to happen is if we start winning games when he’s not there. The players that take his place start showing what they can do and replacing him in the right manner – the manner that enables us to win the game.
Is that a mindset thing for the players?
Well I think it’s a very simple mindset. You have a squad of 25 players, only 11 can play and if you’re one of the 14 that’s not in the first 11, your mindset should be fairly simple. It should be: ‘I want to play football. I want to show what I can do. I want to prove that I’m a very good Premier League footballer as well, which presumably I am, otherwise the club wouldn’t have signed me.’ So the mindset for me is not a difficult one to achieve. It’s the mindset which all players throughout the years have always wanted, that is: give me my chance and I will show you what I can do.
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