End of season report: Crystal Palace
The expectation for Palace ahead of the season was to cling on to life and finish just above the bottom three. In October, though, things changed and many were happy to go down with dignity and avoid Derby’s record low points total in the Premier League.
To have finished 11th is incredible and more than any of the fans had hoped for. For what Palace fans have been through -- two administrations in the past 15 years -- it's almost unbelievable to realise where the club is now. The 1-0 home win over Chelsea and the unforgettable fight-back from 3-0 down to 3-3 against Liverpool are the highlights.
Plenty of contenders, but my vote goes to the man who picked up the Player of the Year award at Palace, Julian Speroni. The Argentine has been absolutely incredible and has been responsible for a considerable amount of points in the league. He has a deep affinity with the fans, having spent 10 years at the club, and supporters are desperate for him to stay.
It is hard to pick a pupil for detention, but my vote goes to Jimmy Kebe. He was bought by Ian Holloway on transfer deadline day back in August but only played a few games and looked like he couldn't be bothered. He has since gone on loan to Leeds and even they don't want him. Most Palace fans were hoping Leeds would go up as it triggered a clause in his contract where they had to sign him. Alas, no such luck.
He's only been here six months, but I think Tony Pulis can lay claim to being one of the best -- if not the most influential -- Palace managers ever. Not only has he managed what no previous boss has by keeping the club in the Premier League after one season, he has laid the foundations for the next few years and given Palace something they can really build on. Perhaps, finally, they will stop being a yo-yo club and establish themselves in the top flight. To also win Manager of the Year tops off a brilliant season and shows just how respected he is in the game, seeing as it was voted for by his peers.
This is like the thick kid in class somehow storming his exams. No one expected it and most are even wondering just how much he cheated. How can Palace improve? If they can first keep Pulis and then add a decent striker who can score more goals to the resolute and organised defence for next season, then I think it's going to be another enjoyable campaign.