Palace's search for points after problems
With all the drama surrounding Crystal Palace this week, it's easy to forget there's actually a game this weekend, with West Ham visiting Selhurst for the Eagles' first home match of the new season.
It's a game that Tony Pulis & Co. would have looked down the fixture list in the summer and penciled in as one to get three points from.
Pulis has now gone, and his assistant Keith Millen is calling the shots -- the second time he's been the stepfather to the Palace players after daddy walked out in less than a year. The kids really like Millen. He's massively popular with the players and the Palace fans, having steadied the ship brilliantly last October after Ian Holloway left.
At that time, while chairman Steve Parish was looking for a new manager, Millen decided not to put his name forward, happy to be the stopgap. This time around he's tempted. But is he the right man for the job?
My heart says yes, but my head says ... maybe. Going from assistant manager, where you have to play good cop, putting your arm around the players' shoulders and generally being their best mate, to the top dog, where you have to cut players from the team and be the bad guy -- I really don't know if Keith can do that. When the manager tries to be the players' best friend, it rarely works out.
It would be terrible if he was given the job, Palace got relegated, and he was sacked, turning from a club hero to zero in a matter of months. I think most fans would rather his legacy was that of a cowboy riding into town, saving the day, and heading off into the sunset.
That win at Hull last November in Millen's last game as caretaker was a massive moment, and Saturday can be the same. The Eagles did the double vs. West Ham in 2013-14, and it's a clash of two very similar sides. Both like to be hard to beat, play rather directly, and look to counterattack.
To be honest, the game at Selhurst last season was one of the worst matches of the campaign from an entertainment point of view, but Palace did get a win. And right now, with all that's going on, Eagles fans will take three points regardless of how it happens.
I expect Saturday's game to be fairly similar to last season's clash in SE25. Both sides have been strengthened in the summer transfer market, but they haven't changed their styles. Hammers fans are growing frustrated with Sam Allardyce because his team don't play the "West Ham Way," but playing pretty football can be a gamble when you're scrapping for points.
Millen isn't a pioneer in sexy football, but he does know how to make his side compact, organised and solid. Right now that'll do.
There is a display in the Holmesdale Road stand being planned by Palace fans for the West Ham game that will help kick the atmosphere up a notch -- not that Eagles supporters really need much help with that. Their singing and displays last season were one of the reasons Selhurst became a place opposing teams didn't fancy coming to much.
Saturday is the first home game of the season and a chance for fans to show the world that while things are falling apart away from the stands, in those stands things are as good as ever.
A win against West Ham would boost Millen's credentials, but it would still be a bold move to give him the job. This isn't Hollywood, where no doubt Millen would lead the team to survival and become king of South London. This is football, which is a cruel mistress.
In an ideal world, Palace would beat West Ham and a new, experienced manager would come in, keep Keith as his assistant and keep Palace up. But a lot can happen in a week in football. And the season is only two weeks old. It's going to be a long season.