Crystal Palace have looked reinvigorated since Roy Hodgson returned to manage the football club in March – do you think that he will be able to maintain that momentum throughout the 2023/2024 campaign?
Jay Crame: That is the question, isn’t it? His ten game stint after Patrick Vieira was relieved of his duties last season was a lot of fun. Got us clear of any trouble and we had a lot of fun doing it with some great results and plenty of goals. Seeing Eberechi Eze enjoying his football again was a joy and that has continued into this season, even if some believe he was not backed in the summer.
It has been a good start to the season, but we got the points we arguably should have got so it is time to push on and see what we can achieve. It is slightly surprising without Michael Olise to call on and exciting new signing Matheus Franca has yet to show us what he can do, so there is a lot of hope around their introductions as we head into October.
Two key players in Wilfried Zaha and Luka Milivojevic left Palace in the summer – was there ever any concern within the fan base in regards to how players of this quality would be replaced?
JC: Luka had been a great servant to the club, but his last couple of seasons have been interrupted by injury and off field issues, which has seen his contribution dimish somewhat. With the Serbian only being a bit part player last season, it was clear he was heading out the door in the summer, and while it was a shame to see him go, we bid him a very fond farewell.
As for Wilf, well, this is the first season we face in the Premier League without him. The good news is that we had managed to cope without him when he was missing games over the last couple of season, but it is exceptionally hard to replace such a player and icon at the club. He is certainly the best player we have seen play for the club and for him to have come through the ranks and do that is very special indeed. We will always have a soft spot for him, but it felt that he was not given the send off he deserves with the way that he left the club in the summer. It really felt like he was staying, but of course that is history now.
There is always a worry as to how do you replace such a talented player, but the hard work had already been done with Eze and Olise. Adding Franca to that mix is exciting and hopefully he will follow their lead. Only time will tell though.
With the likes of Dean Henderson, Rob Holding, and Jefferson Lerma joining this summer, what have you made of Palace’s transfer business as a whole?
JC: For me, it was unspectacular, but solid. We have already seen how good an addition Jefferson Lerma has been, certainly the best free transfer signing of the season by quite a way! Franca was a player we had been scouting for some time so he was destined to come to South London and with Zaha coming to the end of his Palace career, while he is young and needs time to settle, he is an exciting talent and we are looking forward to seeing him play. Dean Henderson was a surprise addition, but a very good one.
Palace have always done pretty well with keepers and while we expected this money to be spent on the forward line, the minute Vicente Guaita went on striker to force a move, we were going to be left short, so that kind of forced the clubs hand. Rob Holding was a surprise on deadline day, but a pleasent one; you cannot buy that kind of experience, but at the rumoured £2 million up front, it is a no brainer. Backs up the defensive unit and can play centre and right-back. Seeing how disappointed Arsenal fans were to see him leave says a lot - a wellliked player.
Aston Villa and Crystal Palace split the season series with a win a piece last term – with both sides currently sitting within the top half of the Premier League thus far, what sort of match are you expecting to see this weekend?
JC: I am expecting very similar battles to be honest. Villa had a very good season last time out and have the reward of European football for this capmaign, something that we are very jealous of if I am being honest. Maybe our time is to come, but it will interesting to see how Unai Emery manages that, with all his experience in European competition.Palace fans are really hoping to see us push on this season in similar fashion to you guys, so I expect two very tight and competitive games between the two sides.
What sort of lineup should we expect to see from a Crystal Palace perspective on Saturday?
JC: Roy and Ray have remained faithful to the players that have started the season well, so other than for any knocks on international duty, you will see the same side that beat Wolves at Selhurst Park.
It’s never easy to predict a result when these two sides meet, but we’re going to be bold and ask anyways – what is your score prediction for Saturday’s match at Villa Park?
JC: As I already mentioned above, the two games between us will be tense, tight affairs and I am looking forward to them both. I sense the quality both sides possess are in danger of cancelling each other out, but I do wonder whether you guys will have one eye on your opening group game away from home next week (great to see Villa back in European competition by the way!) With all of that being said, I suspect a 1-1 draw and will probably take that away from home this weekend.