(actual posting date – 4 December)
Match fifteen – Southampton (home)
Won 3-0 (yes, really)
Total mileage 3,266.4
I had an eventful few days between getting home from Swansea (via the Christmas party) and the home match on Saturday.
On Thursday morning I spoke about the challenge at Culvers House, a local primary school. I used to be a governor at Culvers (before I ‘transferred’ to the school my children go to). The deputy head is a Palace fan and asked me if I’d speak at an assembly. This was the second time I’ve given a talk about the challenge. The previous one had been to the Croydon Welsh Society. It was far more nerve racking talking to a hall full of five to eleven year olds: it certainly reinforced my admiration for teachers. (Ironically, I was introduced at the Croydon Welsh Society meeting by my very first teacher.). I think the assembly went well. The children seemed interested, and certainly asked intelligent, relevant and, in some cases, difficult questions!
I had been supposed to be going to the Palace training ground on Friday for some publicity photos with the manager and players. However, I got a call from the club just before setting off for Culvers House on Thursday. Training was being moved to Selhurst Park and, given the circumstances, unfortunately the photo opp would have to be postponed. I can’t say I was surprised. The plan is to re-arrange for January.
When I got back from Culvers House I had another phone call. This time it was from Contact a Family. They had been contacted by the BBC. The Today programme on Radio 4 wanted to have me on the show on Friday. This was exciting news, although it needed some quick work from Janet to find someone who could take Hannah to school so that I’d be able to go (and thanks again Helen!) The (now ex-)editor of the Today programme is a Palace fan. I’d sent him a cheeky tweet a couple of months ago asking him if he’d feature me on the show. Friday was his last day before moving job within the BBC, and I think he was being allowed to have me on as a leaving present!
A cab picked me up shortly after 7am. It was a slow cab journey into the West End, and as we approached our destination my phone rang. The show was overruning and they might not have time to have me on. When I arrived at the BBC, it was confirmed that there wouldn’t be time; but the new plan was to pre-record an interview with me to broadcast during the next day’s show. And so, at about 7.29am on Saturday morning, I featured – extremely briefly – on the Today programme. They didn’t use all of the recorded interview – including (I’m glad to say) my answer to whether Alan Pardew should be sacked…
Saturday morning saw the organised chaos of the Christmas fair at the children’s school. I, at least, was able to sneak off before the end to get on the bike to Selhurst Park. Annoyingly, I found that – despite the new tyre fitted in Bristol on Sunday night – my back tyre had again lost pressure. I didn’t bother changing the tube, but just gave it a quick pump before setting off. This worked fine for the return journey, but this recurring problem does worry me for the upcoming trip to Hull.
And so to the match. It was a completely different Palace to the one that had played at Swansea the previous week. We weren’t great by any stretch of the imagination, but we looked far more organised and resolute. An awful error half an hour into the game by Southampton goalkeeper Fraser Forster gifted birthday boy Christian Benteke with the opening goal. Three minutes later, Palace-esque set piece defending from Southampton allowed James Tomkins to make it two nil. Palace then weathered a fair amount of pressure from Southampton, before another Benteke tap in made the points safe. Just as importantly, Palace kept their first Premier League clean sheet since about 1832. And Janet won the raffle at the fair: all in all a pretty good day.
So, it may just be that Fraser Forster has saved Alan Pardew’s career. Though I’m not counting any chickens yet; if we lose next week to Hull we’ll be right back in the mire. But if we could win that one too…
James Tomkins makes it 2-0 (pic: Hy Money)