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Crystal Palace owe Mile Jedinak for establishing them in Premier League

Mile Jedinak and Scott Dann
Mile Jedinak was stripped of the captaincy this season.

It is a testament to Mile Jedinak's leadership qualities that when former teammates speak about him, they do so in glowing terms that highlight his qualities as a person and a player.

For most Crystal Palace fans, Jedinak has been an iconic leader -- up there with greats like Jim Cannon and Geoff Thomas -- as an establishing force in the side. It might also be why his current manager feels it's time for him to move on.

The Australia international arrived at Palace in 2011 with the club in serious transition. It had recently been brought out of administration by the CPFC2010 consortium and striking legend Dougie Freedman was tasked with managing a side that struggled under previous manager George Burley. The little-known Jedinak, singed from Genclerbirligi in Turkey, was one of the first arrivals.

His first season was one of a personal transition, too. It took Jedinak the best part or the 2011-12 season to adjust to the pace, physicality and qualities of the English game -- and it wasn't until the following season that he truly imposed himself on the side. With captain Paddy McCarthy the victim of a series of long-term injuries, Jedinak was handed the armband -- a decision that set the tone for the four years that followed.

The 2012-13 season showed just what the player was capable of. A run of wins which saw Palace propelled to the top of the table convinced Bolton Wanderers that Freedman would be the man to turn their fortunes around, and a club that for once seemed to have a sense of calmness around it was once again thrown into a tumultuous situation.

Jedinak was one of the elements that ensured that the squad didn't fall apart at that time. His work ethic and demand for high standards established a unity that ran throughout the squad -- meaning that whoever the manager was, the players would at the very least be prepared.

Ian Holloway arrived and, despite a significant late-season dip, Palace continued a push for promotion that saw the Eagles defeat staunch rivals Brighton & Hove Albion in the playoff semifinals and Watford in the final.

The next three seasons of Premier League football followed a similar pattern. Managers left, new ones arrived -- and in all of that, Jedinak was a constant. Whether it was Tony Pulis, Neil Warnock or Alan Pardew, Jedinak retained the captaincy. In doing so, he established himself as the club's iconic hero.

A bearded colossus of a midfielder who directed play and dominated defensively, he didn't just help secure promotion, his presence established the club as a Premier League team.

By being such a leader, however, Jedinak can also be a bit of a threat -- especially if there is only room for one Alpha Dog at the club -- and when it comes to choosing between a player and a manager, the decision is likely to be a clear one for the owners. Pardew is well known for his managerial style -- he likes to pick his own leaders, rather than to adopt them -- and Jedinak is one he's clearly found difficult to adopt.

Pardew's appointment at Palace came at a time when Jedinak was on international duty at the AFC Asian Cup, a competition he went on to win, while Palace were on the brink of toiling in another relegation battle. While Palace fans expected Jedinak to return from his international duty and slot back into the side, his manager had other ideas and persisted with a Jedinak-less midfield.

The Australian's cause wasn't helped when he did play, receiving a red card and a subsequent four match ban for elbowing West Ham's Diafra Sakho in his first game back -- at a time when his defensive qualities were most needed.

Jedinak won over plenty of managers but not Alan Pardew.

That unease between the manager and the captain seemed to be apparent for the season that followed, too. Despite being club captain, Jedinak wasn't a regular in the side, with James McArthur and Yohan Cabaye the preferred midfield pairing. Injuries saw to Palace's impressive start however, and Jedinak took the opportunity handed to him, helping to lead the club to safety and a narrow FA Cup final defeat to Manchester United too.

But just when you thought that he might have won over his manager, the previous trend of discord was further underlined by Pardew's decision to strip Jedinak of his captaincy this summer, handing it to centre-back Scott Dann instead. It was clear from that point on that Jedinak's time at the club would come to an end.

In defence of Pardew, a midfield featuring Jedinak is often defensively stronger but also less fluid. The Australian's greatest weakness is his passing and movement -- qualities that most Premier League midfields struggle without -- and by preferring McArthur or Cabaye, he immediately improved the side's ability to retain the ball.

But what Jedinak brings to any side he plays for is focus, unity, and an indomitable approach to the midfield game. He was a central figure that helped Palace establish their Premier League status. His strengths as a player and as a person make him the ideal player for a side like Aston Villa, one that was so spineless in relegation last season.

On the pitch and off it, he could be the signing to change that club's fortunes. Just as he did with Palace.

Robert Sutherland is ESPN FC's Crystal Palace blogger. You can follow him on Twitter @RoDuSu.


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