This weekend's game against Aston Villa brings Tim Sherwood's newly re-shaped side to Selhurst Park. Jack Pierce takes a look at what Palace can expect.
As our famed song alludes to, supporting Palace is something most inherit from a family elder.
If, and I thank my lucky stars that it wasn't the case, I'd had the misfortune of being born into Aston Villa supporting stock, I think I'd have chosen a life of spending my Saturday afternoons in garden centres.
During the last five or six seasons, there's been something inherently boring about Aston Villa. They've, despite having some very average players, managed to stay up and avoid dropping into the second tier and Randy Lerner, in spite of making his wish to sell the club plain for all to see, cannot manage to find a buyer for what remains a sleeping giant.
Villa's fan base and infrastructure should make them a top six club or at least that should be the target. Yet a lot of pre-season talk about Villa has been about them battling to stay up again. Whether a group of new players will gel quickly enough for the team to get points on the board and alleviate pressure on Tim Sherwood - a man facing his first full season in charge of a club – might prove one of the stories of the season.
Sherwood was pretty much spat out by Tottenham a year ago and despite being linked with every managerial job that became available, including the one in SE25; it wasn't until the February of last season that Tactics Tim was appointed by Villa.
Having dismissed Paul Lambert for being Paul Lambert, they replaced him with his polar opposite. From dour Glaswegian to cheeky chappy; from shirt and tie to a gilet.
Sherwood has his fans, himself one of the most ardent, but there were doubts as to whether he possessed the tactical knowhow to guide Villa away from the threat of the drop. To his credit he did and despite finishing in 17th and just avoiding relegation, when he was appointed, Villa supporters would've accepted Premier League survival however it came. With a cup final to boot, Sherwood’s half a season in charge was actually relatively successful. However, having reached a cup final and beating Liverpool in the semi final on what was one of the club’s best days in a long time, their performance against Arsenal in the final was abject.
If players, the majority of whom will have never played at Wembley before, cannot get up for an FA Cup Final there is an issue with the changing room psyche. Sherwood, a midfield battler in his playing days, will have been embarrassed by the meekness of their performance that day and will demand a hardier spirit this season.
This season started with a heartening win at new boys, Bournemouth. Many actually viewed that as an upset and expected the Premier League newbies to see of Sherwood’s side so Rudy Gestede scoring the winner probably upset quite a few accumulators.
Gestede is one of many summer arrivals at Villa Park, but arriving from Blackburn, his signing bucked the trend. Much like Newcastle’s recruitment policy of 2010/11, Villa have looked across the channel to poach a few of Ligue 1’s best young talents. The trio of Jordans – Amavi, Ayew and Veretout - and Idrissa Gueye all flourished in the French top flight last season and Villains will be hoping that they adapt to the Premier League quickly. Big things are expected of Veretout in particular and he has been tipped as a future French international.
Most recently, Sherwood has added Adama Traore to his squad. A product of the famed La Masia academy in Barcelona, Traore made only the one appearance in Barcelona’s first team but has had a fair bit of experience playing for their ‘B’ side. Sherwood, in true Sherwood fashion, has tried his best not to raise expectations too much and referred to his new signing as a ‘mixture of Messi and Ronaldo’.
No pressure then, Adama, but anything less than 25 goals and leading Villa to the title and you’ll have been a flop I’m afraid, pal.
Sherwood most likely made the comments in jest but as with most of the stuff that comes out of his mouth, the press and social media jumped on it. With time he might mellow but for now Sherwood seems a man quite confident of himself in front of a camera and with that comes the possibility of looking a bit stupid at times. As the man himself may say, it’s only ‘banter’.
Villa haven’t just looked at the continent for additions. Micah Richards, new club captain, has arrived on a free from Manchester City after failing to make an impression while on loan in Florence last season and Scott Sinclair had his loan move made permanent. Both players, if they manage to recapture the form shown in years gone by, could prove very good acquisitions.
Despite the large numbers of incomers, Villa have started this season without, arguably, their three most important players of the last season. Ron Vlaar, one of the best defenders at last summer’s World Cup but ravaged by injuries during the club season, has been released, Christian Benteke was snapped up by Liverpool once they agreed to pay his release fee of over £30 million and Fabian Delph jumped at the chance to sit on Manchester City’s bench for the next couple of seasons. Having seen how the likes of Scott Sinclair and Jack Rodwell benefited from moves to The Etihad, who can blame Delph?!
Without those three players, Villa would most likely have been relegated last season. Such was the importance of Benteke, Delph and Vlaar, the players that the club have bought in as their replacements must prove their worth. And do it quickly.
Hopefully not by Saturday though…