Speroni the key as Palace battle the drop

Crystal Palace goalkeeper Julian Speroni performed heroics to single-handedly earn a vital point for the Eagles against Barnsley at the weekend.

The Argentinean won huge praise for his performance at Oakwell on Saturday from Palace manager Paul Hart and in my opinion he is the finest stopper in the Football League and up there with the best of them in the Premier League.

Speroni joined the Eagles prior to Palace’s Premier League season in 2004/05 under Ian Dowie but after a series of blunders as number 1 was dropped and replaced by Gabor Kiraly.

But since the Hungarian’s departure from Selhurst Park Speroni has stepped up and become easily one of Palace’s best and most consistent players in recent years. He has won back-to-back player of the year awards to firmly cement himself in the hearts of Palace fans.

While many players’ form dips and troughs under different managers Speroni has continued to be at the top of his game under four different managers.

There is no question that the 31-year-old will provide a crucial role in the upcoming weeks as the Eagles battle for survival. I feel that Speroni is the player that will make the difference between Palace beating the drop come May.

Palace’s goal difference of minus one may be sniffed at by teams occupying the top spots in the league such as Newcastle who boast plus 40. But I find Speroni’s record impressive because of the lack of defensive quality he has in front of him.

The Eagles have suffered since Paddy McCarthy’s shoulder injury and Jose Fonte left for Southampton in January with Matt Lawrence or Clint Hill, both preferred full backs, stepping in alongside Calvin Davies.

Both Hill and Lawrence are defenders that I would consider a risk and wouldn’t put too much faith in if they were defending in front of me, especially compared to Newcastle’s solid centre half partnership of Fabricio Coloccini and Stephen Taylor.

However it is no coincidence that Palace’s goal difference looks distinct fully healthier than the teams in the bottom half bar Watford who have England under 21 international Scott Loach.

Loach was reportedly chased by Tottenham Hotspur boss Harry Redknapp in January and I feel that Speroni is on par if not better than the Watford number one.

While the Crystal Palace January transfer window itinerary focused around the departure of Victor Moses there were many Palace fans hoping that the race to sign the Nigerian born winger would over shadow the signings of other players.

And I feel that no other member of the squad was more important to hold onto than Speroni, who left Dundee United to join the Eagles when the Scottish side were suffering financially. The attention on Moses proved a blessing in disguise without a club coming within a sniff of Speroni.

Written By Sam Ross