London is very much the focal point of England. The nation’s capital houses the biggest businesses, is home to the largest population and provides jobs not only for its residents, but for others further afield.
And in football it’s also the superpower of the nation, with, if we were to hypothetically put together a single side made up of players representing clubs within it’s boundaries, London likely to triumph over rivals every time.
Although this mythical XI would be made up of Chelsea, Arsenal, Spurs and maybe even a few West Ham players, these individual sides may not be the strongest right now. Although it may raise some eyebrows, there’s an argument that Crystal Palace are the team to watch from London as things stand, with the group hailing from the south end of the city a very interesting proposition.
Okay, they’re unlikely to stay atop the London pile for the remainder of the campaign, but finishing position is not the only factor to judge a team on – albeit it is important. Right now the Eagles are a team on the up – excuse the pun – with Alan Pardew’s arrival having sparked a new era of fine football and results.
Since his arrival over the winter, ‘Pards’ has been a breath of fresh air at Selhurst Park, with 11 of his 19 league games in charge having been wins – the joint highest win tally of any Palace manager in the Premier League. Although he may be a somewhat unlikeable character, just ask Newcastle fans, there’s no denying the positive impact he has made, maintaining the Tony Pulis results while bringing in an easier on the eye style.
Further to this, his influence in the transfer market must be noted. Just a few years ago it would have been impossible to imagine a Palace side with Yohan Cabaye in the middle, but thanks, in part, to Pardew’s relationship with the playmaker, he’s now the creative hub of the team, and the statement made with his capture could signify a real change at the club. Add into the mix Bakary Sako and Wilfried Zaha, and things are genuinely exciting at Palace.
The Selhurst Park crowd should not go without mention, too. The Holmesdale Stand is one of the few blocks of genuine passion left in the Premier League, with the atmosphere electric on matchdays. Eagles fans have had lows to endure, but the highs are really being appreciated, and the noise created puts their opposite numbers at the Emirates Stadium and Stamford Bridge to shame.
Yes, Palace will not finish at the top of a London mini-league come May, but as far as the whole experience goes, they do have a genuine claim to the title of the best team to be aligned with in the city right now.
Things are changing south of the River Thames, and who knows how far it could all go.