Crystal Palace are back in the Premier League after beating Watford 1-0 in the Championship play-off at Wembley yesterday.
The only goal of the game arrived in extra-time, as Wilfried Zaha was brought down in the penalty area and veteran striker Kevin Phillips dispatched the spot kick.
It was a deserved victory in the end for Ian Holloway and his team. The Eagles were the better team on the day and Watford never really came out the blocks.
In Watford boss Gianfranco Zola’s words, Palace had a player that made the difference in Wilfried Zaha.
Young attacker Wilfried Zaha is without a doubt one of the up-and-coming young stars of English football. He has shown in the last few seasons that he can be a match winner and the fact that he won the penalty that got Palace the win proved that.
His form and promise over the last few years could not be ignored by top Premier League clubs and Manchester United secured his signing in January. Palace co-chairman Martin Long has hinted that they may try to get Zaha back on-loan next season, a suggestion I made in yesterday article.
A lot will depend on whether new Manchester United boss David Moyes sees Zaha in his plans for next season. Palace boss Ian Holloway said that Moyes would be ‘silly’ to loan him back to Palace, although it is slightly more realistic with Palace now in the top flight.
Like any club coming up to the Premier League from the Championship Palace are going to need to strengthen their squad. Palace has not been in the top flight of English football since 2005 and their squad is very much a Championship squad.
The Eagles squad is even weaker when you factor in the loss of Zaha. He is the sort of player that can make a difference to a side coming up into the Premier League. The Eagles will also have to coup with the loss of this season’s top scorer Glenn Murray.
The striker scored 31 goals in the Championship before picking up a cruciate knee ligament injury in the semi-final first leg play-off game against Brighton. The injury will see Murray miss the start of next season and Murray may not return to action until next year.
It is a blow to both Palace and Murray. At one point this season, Murray was on par with the likes of Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi in the scoring charts, something that gave the striker a chuckle. This season was without doubt his most prolific and it is just unfortunate that he suffered such a terrible injury.
Ironically, the striker’s career path is similar to that of Grant Holt and Rickie Lambert. He is a striker that has been around the lower leagues for a long-time, and like Lambert played for Stockport. All three have also appeared for Rochdale.
Lambert and Holt made big impacts on their debut seasons in the top flight. Murray may not get much of a chance to prove himself in the Premier League next season though.
Palace boss Ian Holloway not only has to replace his two star players he will have to strengthen in other areas of the squad for next season. It could be a major task to make Palace good enough to stay up next season.
Holloway took Blackpool up via the play-offs in 2010 and the Tangerines squad was not quite good enough to keep them up.
The Crystal Palace board have a difficult decision to make, whether they take a gamble and spend big to keep their club in the Premier League, or play it safe and hope that Holloway has enough in his current team and can add some extra quality on the cheap this summer.
Reading decided to do the latter last season and went down because the Royals failed to add enough quality to the team. Southampton on the other hand spent big by their standards and ended up staying in the top flight.
For Ian Holloway and the Crystal Palace board the hard work starts now. They have to work together and create a team that will stay in the top flight next season. It is going to be difficult for Palace to survive, but with Ian Holloway in charge, anything is possible.
Can Crystal Palace survive in the Premier League next season?