01.30.10

“Pragmatism Gone Mad” : Lacey On Palace’s Cash-Strapped Starting XI

Posted in Football, The Marketplace at 8:20 pm by

Neil Danns scored a pair of goals in Crystal Palace’s 2-0 defeat of Peterborough Saturday, a result that came days after the Eagles were docked 10 points in the Championship standings after falling into administration. The Guardian’s David Lacey considers the greater implications of Palace’s plight, and manages to do so without once calling chairman Simon Jordan (above) the sort of names that shouldn’t be employed in a family blog.

Palace represent the solid middle footballing class that not so long ago formed the backbone of the English leagues. They were never going to be as big as Manchester United but in a good season could live comfortably with Aston Villa. Clubs like Leicester, Southampton, Norwich and Charlton fell into the same category, providing the strength in depth of the top two divisions. In football terms Palace have not been doing badly, nibbling at the fringe of the play-off places with the promise of something better if they could start turning draws into wins. But now they have suffered the statutory 10-point deduction for going into administration and are in a relegation struggle instead.

Administration changes the conventions, including the one that presumes the manager picks the team. When Palace played at Newcastle on Wednesday their best player, Victor Moses, did not appear because it had been decided that he was too valuable an asset to be risked. The manager, Neil Warnock, was able to name only three substitutes. In the depressing circumstances Palace produced a surprisingly spirited performance before losing 2-0.

It is difficult to apply the logic of the balance sheet to a business in which success or failure does not depend on the number of widgets produced in a financial year but on the ability of one set of assorted human beings putting a ball into a net more often than another set while an independent arbiter intervenes from time to time if someone breaks the rules. Weakening a team in order to avoid the possibility of harm coming to a player who is likely to be sold, even though he might just have got them something from the game, is surely pragmatism gone mad.

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