Things all out of sorts at Palace
You know that moment when you realise you're in trouble. That cold sweat suddenly starts seeping out of your pores, as you start to apprehend that everything is going wrong. Whatever reason you had for optimism has dissipated. You're in hot water.
That's exactly how most Palace fans felt at 4:45 p.m. on Saturday afternoon after West Ham had visited Selhurst and ruined any cause for hope that had swirled around the ground prior to kickoff. They crashed the proverbial garden party, overturned tables, smashed mugs and poured tea just everywhere.
It had been a hard week for Eagles fans leading up to the first home game of the season; losing a manager and losing the first game of the campaign, but having taken plenty of positives away from the Emirates. The search for a new boss has been messy; plenty of candidates linked with the position and then the club's favourite, Malky Mackay, being embroiled in a text scandal.
It leaves Palace still without a man in charge, still without some players in key positions, and still without any points. And yet there was still an air of optimism around Selhurst on Saturday. Maybe it was because it was the first home game of the season and Selhurst had been far more profitable for the Eagles in terms of winning points last season.
This was partly down to the brilliant, partisan, passionate home fans, who made the ground into a cauldron that away teams feared to visit and away fans expected nothing from. It was also partly down to the traditional, old English stadium style of Selhurst, with its boxy stands, wooden seats and hoardings that are so close to the pitch it felt at times last season that the home fans were on the playing surface.
But come kickoff against West Ham on Saturday something had changed. That fervency that dominated the stands wasn't there. Instead it was replaced with an air of trepidation. The fans sang of course, but it didn't quite have the same feel to it.
That organisation in the Palace team wasn't there. The solid, bullish approach to games seemed to have evaporated. Every tackle seemed weak, every shoulder-to-shoulder saw an Eagles player come off worse. The effort wasn't lacking, but something was.
Even the wooden seats weren't there, they'd all been replaced by swish new plastic backside-protectors in the Arthur Wait and the Whitehorse Lane stands. Obviously, having new plastic seats isn't where the problem lies, that would be a ridiculous thing to say, but change sometimes can take awhile to feel right. Even the snazzy new video board -- a giant screen replaying the match placed on top of the Whitehorse Lane end -- didn't work. A small green glitch on the screen was a reminder that you can buy lots of expensive new toys but it doesn't solve all your problems.
In the end it's only a defeat at home to West Ham. It's not the end of the world (although Palace did allow Carlton Cole and Stewart Downing to score, which is surely an ominous sign). The flat display on the pitch and in the stands is probably symptomatic of everything that is going on at the club at the moment. Get a new manager in soon, get back to doing what the team do best and there is plenty of time to recover.
We all know what Palace do best: they are hard to beat, organised, passionate and never give up. The comeback against Liverpool in May proved that. They can still easily get back to that sort of unit with enough time left to earn points.
The defeat on Saturday did prove that Palace lack squad depth in quite a few areas still, with Joe Ledley's injury in the warm-up allowing Stuart O'Keefe to show he might be out of his depth. Scott Dann was massively missed at centre-back too. That's only two players, but it hurt the side badly.
It still feels a bit like Palace fans are staring into the abyss right now. They can't see the wood for the trees. It hurts. But there is still time, and lots of it. It's going to be a long, hard season, but they've turned it around before, I wouldn't bet against them doing it again.