Palace Preview - Away, Aug 9th
Crystal Palace Away
H: Watford 0-2 Palace
A: Palace 1-3 Watford
FAC: Watford 2-1 Palace
Ins: Flahavan [Southend; Free], Fonte [Benfica; Undisc], Carle [Bristol City; £1million], McCarthy [Charlton Athletic; Undisc], Ertl [Austria Vienna; Free].
Out: Bostock [Spurs; Tribunal Ruling - 700k + further clauses], Mark Kennedy [Cardiff; Free], Tony Craig [Millwall; Free], Jeff Hughes [Bristol Rovers; Undisc].
The first fixture of the season, normally, normally brings hope, joy and expectations for both sides. However, this hasn`t been the normal Summer for Watford with talk of administration, stand closure and departure after departure of key players. Palace on the other hand head into the season with renewed optimism after a Summer spent strengthening their already strong side.
The arrival of Neil Warnock galvanised The Eagles last season, though not immediately, the Warnock-factor was felt as the South Londoners reached the Play Off Final only to be beaten by a late Bristol City goal.
However, last seasons heartbreak - for both sides - might be just what the doctor ordered, motivation, inspiration and reason not to end up second-best. Palace have gone out this summer and strengthened. Aussie midfielder Nick Carle is the biggest addition having arrived for the sum of £1million from Bristol City. Signed just last January by Gary Johnson, Carle impressed Warnock enough to spend his first transfer fee of the summer to bolster his already strong midfield. Carle could however be seen as a direct replacement for the 'Ginger Prince` Ben Watson who is subject to interest from Queens Park Rangers. Indeed, it seems unlikely that Watson will feature after stating his intentions to leave Selhurst. Tom Soares adds further depth in the creative department and has international experience with the England U21`s. Shaun Derry is a totally different option in midfield with his snarling, bullish attitude to the game as he protects the Eagles backline.
On the flanks, Paul Ifill offers direct thrust down the right, but young Eire cap Sean Scannell might be preferred after an impressive debut season last year. Neil Danns offers another option but the former Colchester gem has hardly featured since arriving from Birmingham City last January.
Arriving from London rivals Charlton Athletic is Paddy McCarthy. Former of Leicester and Manchester City, the Eire cap is a direct replacement for Mark Hudson. The former Palace skipper left on a bosman for Charlton after establishing himself as the mainstay of the Eagles backline last term. Clint Hill impressed hugely after he joined from Stoke in a swap deal with Leon Cort who 'didn`t have enough scars or bookings` for Neil Warnock`s liking.
If there is a weakness in Neil Warnock`s latest side, then it is surely in the striking department. Clinton Morrison failed to negotiate a new deal despite several advances from the club, and has today [Thursday 8th] signed for Coventry on a free. James Scowcroft and Shefki Kuqi remain at Selhurst, but neither is capable of leading the clubs goalscoring charts. Scowcroft notched a hat trick on day one last term [here`s to no more of that], but failed to impress for the rest of the term whilst Kuqi joined Fulham and Ipswich on-loan, failing with before returning and falling out with the fans!
Other summer captures include Southend 'keeper, Darryl Flahavan on a free transfer and defender and Austrian cap, Johannes Ertl. Like many teams, this transfer window has been a busy one for Neil Warnock and co, and also akin to many other sides, the Eagles are likely to swoop again before it closes in 24 days time and Warnock will be searching for that missing piece up top before September comes - hopefully by then, we might have a striker, let alone one that can score goals!
Watford: Loach; Mariappa, Bromby DeMerit, Sadler; Williamson, Eustace (c), Harley; Smith, Priskin, McAnuff.
Crystal Palace: Speroni; Butterfield, McCarthy, Fonte, C.Hill; Scannell Soares, Derry (c), Carle, Moses; Scowcroft.