Hangeland an improvement at Palace
The strange case of Damien Delaney makes for an interesting little story. Two years ago the Irishman was approaching the wrong side of 30 and considering quitting football. He was approaching the tail end of a journeyman career and was having a terrible time at Ipswich, managed by his boyhood hero Roy Keane, who had taken a dislike to the player and was setting about trying to destroy his Portman Road future.
Strangely, a career in cross-county running was in the cards, or maybe a switch to America to try MLS. But Delaney was given a chance for one last shot with Palace. He arrived on a free transfer to literally zero fanfare in August 2012, the least exciting of a trio of signings that included Brazilian luxury player Andre Moritz and Yannick Bolasie from Bristol City.
A year later, Delaney was crying tears of joy on the steps at Wembley as he helped Palace win promotion via the playoffs. The following season, he was a major surprise as the Eagles defied the odds to finish midtable in the Premier League.
Regular call-ups to the Irish national team are now in Delaney's diary -- proving current Ireland assistant Keane very wrong, and perhaps making for awkward team meetings in the process ... and making those cross-country thoughts a very distant memory indeed.
But the future at Selhurst Park doesn't look quite as rosy for Delaney with the arrival of Brede Hangeland. There's no question the Norwegian is an upgrade in almost every meaningful department, and it's clear to most that Hangeland will almost certainly oust Delaney from the starting XI.
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It would be sad to see Delaney's journey with Palace end here after all he's been through with the club, but any Eagles fan who lets head rule over heart knows that in a sane world Hangeland would start. The Irishman must know that, too. It was the same when Danny Gabbidon arrived at the club. Nobody wanted to see Peter Ramage lose his place in the side, but it was clear that's what should happen. It did and Palace won promotion.
Gabbidon was replaced by Scott Dann in January, and now it looks as if Delaney will lose out to Hangeland. It leaves the already-mean Palace defence looking even stronger indeed.
Hangeland wasn't first choice in the summer transfer window for manager Tony Pulis; that honour went to Steven Caulker, who opted for Queens Park Rangers. Hangeland is perfect for Palace, though. A classic Pulis player: big, uncompromising, experienced, not the best-looking. He's aging, yes, but will organise the back line alongside Dann.
It's the sort of centre-back partnership that a few years ago would have seemed possible at Palace only on Football Manager -- and even then only after you'd cheated and given Palace lots of money to get promoted.
If there is one reservation, it's wondering why Hangeland never got the big-club move most thought would happen a few years back. Arsenal were desperate to sign Hangeland when Fulham were succeeding in Europe, but a move never materialised and he remained at Craven Cottage.
It brings Palace's spending for the summer to a grand total of 600,000 pounds for three new faces, two of whom are highly experienced top-flight players, which in anyone's book is excellent business indeed.