Five reasons Palace could go top half
Last season was special for Crystal Palace. The aim -- well, the hope really -- was to stay up, and when Ian Holloway left with the club on four points after 11 matches it looked like a swift return to the Championship was on the cards. So to finish 11th really was a huge achievement.
While there is a tiny pocket of Palace fans who would see anything lower than 11th again this season as a failure, for most of the Eagles supporters, simply surviving again will do. It would mean three-consecutive seasons in the top flight and give the club a massive chance to build an exciting future.
I'm definitely in the second camp, but there's no reason why we can't dream of finishing even higher, and I actually think it is possible. Here are five reasons why:
1. Tony Pulis
I don't believe in destiny or fate -- although I did once watch the movie Serendipity, and it was all right, I guess -- but the former Stoke manager really was the perfect man to take over at Palace last season. He can get the best out of any group of players, which is how he managed to drag the Eagles to 11th with a very average squad.
But ability isn't everything, and with a high ambition mixed with drive and work ethic, anything is possible. If there's only one man in the world who believes Palace can get a top-half finish you know it's Pulis.
2. Brede Hangeland
Palace stayed up last season thanks to their strong defence -- in the second half of the season. In the opening 11 games, they were more generous than The Secret Millionaire, but when Pulis came in he shored up the back line, and it was probably the main reason the team stayed up. Scott Dann was introduced in January and proved to be class, and now Hangeland is here.
Hangeland is an upgrade from Damien Delaney and has the experience of playing plenty of seasons in the top flight. The Palace defence will be even meaner now that he's here and once again should be the reason they will pick up points.
3. Selhurst Park
The atmosphere at Selhurst Park last season has been widely applauded, and with good reason. And that will likely continue this season, although it will be as tough for them to reach the highs they did last campaign as it will for the players.
But there's already a massive display being planned for the first home game against West Ham, and I suspect Selhurst will once again be a place other teams don't particularly enjoy coming to. That definitely could equate to a few extra points.
4. Sell, sell, sell
A lot of Palace's rivals down the bottom of the league have been forced to sell star players this season. There's been a lot of to-ing and fro-ing among most of the teams in the league. Palace, meanwhile, have not had to let anyone go -- with out-of-contract stars Marouane Chamakh and Julian Speroni signing new deals -- and have strengthened in two areas.
It often takes teams with new players a while to settle, but Palace can get on with it, meaning they have a chance to hit the ground running and pick up points early on in the season.
5. Fixture list
The fixture list has been fairly kind to Palace this season. Last campaign, the Eagles were handed a very tough September and October -- which resulted in no points picked up and ultimately Holloway resigning -- but this time around there are some winnable games in almost every month. The first three home games are against Burnley, West Ham and Leicester, so you'd like to think there will be points on the board there.
Some big teams come to Selhurst in May, meaning Palace will need to have survival sown up by then. Even last season, however, Chelsea and Liverpool found that a trip to Selhurst is by no means three easy points.
So there's plenty of reasons for Palace fans to be confident this season, although it will still be a slog. But the best things in life aren't worth having without a fight, right?