Pleased with that win?
Yeah, absolutely. It was as tough a game as I expected. We knew what West Brom were going to throw at us, in particular because they must have been seeing this as a real opportunity to get closer to the teams above them. So I’m really delighted with the way the players did their job, really, and dealt with what was thrown at us. And in the meantime, just do enough going forward to ask questions of them. Fortunately, one of those attacks brought the penalty that won us the game. It was always going to be a difficult game, so to come out on the other end of it with three points and be that much further towards the total we’re aiming for, I can’t be anything but delighted.
Zaha was back and didn’t take the knee, your thoughts?
I read his statement which I thought was very well put together and very articulate and I think it is a statement all of us would agree with. That basically is what we are trying to get across and we are trying to get it across by taking the knee, but Wilf is not alone now in being a person who thinks maybe taking the knee has become a bit of a ritual rather than a massive statement. So he has chosen himself to take this step which puts him out of the bubble of the knee-takers if you like and a chance to make the statement he made to show how strongly he disapproves of what has been going on and what is still happening unfortunately in terms of abuse and racial abuse in particular. We are all behind that, he cleared it with the rest of the players and the rest of the players decided ‘we will still take a knee to show we care too but we fully respect that you want to go in your eyes one step further and we are more than happy for you to do that as long as you accept publicity will come your way and questions will come your way.’
International break coming up and you have a fair few injuries. Are you worried that will put extra pressure on your squad?
No, in fact I rather hope the opposite, although we are still without five, I think, players that we regard as regular players in our squad. I’m really hoping that three of those will be back after the international break. All that can happen now is we’ve got to through the international matches and hope the guys that go away come back in one piece. But if they do I think our squad is going to look a bit stronger after the international break because at least three of the players who have been injured will become fit again, and the two that probably won’t be will be the two centre-halves, Tomkins and Sakho, but we’ve long-since accepted that their injuries are long-term ones and we’ve got to be patient.
In the build up to the first goal, you played a short free-kick down the line to Zaha. It’s the second time you’ve done that this season against West Brom that’s led to a goal. Was that something you analysed as a weakness, or was it an off-the-cuff moment?
I don’t think that scoring a goal of that type suggests a weakness in the opposition. It’s a different ploy, if you like. Dean Kiely, who spends a lot of time on our set-plays and making sure the players are prepared for them, is always stressing the option in particular because we have some good headers of the ball and we require the opposition to take care of those headers of the ball. Sometimes it opens up a little bit of space for a shorter space into the feet of someone like Wilf or Eze who we believe if they get the ball into feet near the box can turn and look at a one v one situation and create chances for us. So we’re happy it worked up at West Brom, we’re happy it worked today. But it wasn’t necessarily that we highlighted that as a particular weakness of West Brom. It was just something we thought might occur by dint of the fact that we set up to play the ball in a different area and then played elsewhere.
You’re on 37 points now. Do you think you are safe?
We are looking for more points, of course we are. Do we think we are safe? No, because to be safe you need more points than the games remaining so we certainly won’t be thinking we are safe now. But of course we are a lot safer thanks to this victory. Defeat would have had us looking over our shoulder a lot more, but nine games is a lot of games. Last season we went into that lockdown period and we couldn’t handle three games a week with the injuries we had and I had the worst run of my football management career. We are aware that we don’t want that to happen again, but I am hoping we will have a much stronger squad without the injuries we suffered after Project Restart and more importantly than all we will have a game a week which is something at Crystal Palace we are more used to rather than three games a week which places great stress on the guys you are putting out there – especially when you don’t have the squad depth to cover and give them a rest.
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