Eye on the Opposition: Crystal Palace vs. West Brom (13.08.2016)

Written by Jack Pierce

Jack Pierce is back with his look at Saturday's opposition, West Brom - as Palace fans could bid farewell to one of their most exciting players in Yannick Bolasie. 

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It’s back.

If a rather tepid European Championship left you longing for the return of the hustle and bustle of Palace, the wait is over.

A new goalkeeper, a new centre half, a new winger and the chase for a new striker continues apace but as I write, we’re all concentrating on the potential exit of a precocious winger.

Where will Sullay Kaikai end up on loan?

I jest. Yannick has quite possibly been shown holding up the royal blue shirt of Everton and Sky Sports News have asked a 65 year old Evertonian wandering past the club shop to say ‘KAAARM’ in his thick Scouse accent into the camera by the time you read this.

His exit is one tinged with sadness. He is a member of a squad that has inspired a huge change in the club’s fortunes in the past four seasons and his dynamic while unpredictable style has kept us on the edge of our seats. That said, the rumoured £30 million is big bucks for a player who it might be fair to suggest has plateaued in the last 12 months.

He might not be the last big name to go. If Jedi leaves, I’ll be in the corner if anyone wants me.

Yes, he’s technically limited. Yes, he’s by no means a first team regular. Yes, Scott Dann is now the owner of the armband. But, it’s Mile Jedinak and the idea of him leaving is one that I’m not quite ready to grasp just yet.

Anyway, enough of own insecurities; what have West Brom, our first opponents for the new season, been up to?

First of all, I’m writing this on the Thursday before the first weekend of the season. There is by no means any certainty that Tony Pulis will definitely be West Brom manager at 3pm on Saturday.

In terms of pre-season activity, The Baggies have been fairly dull. The much mooted takeover by Chinese investors is nearly complete but in terms of investment into the first team squad and new faces, Matt Phillips, he of the very impressive belter at Selhurst a few season ago, arriving from QPR is about it.

On his day, very exciting. Unfortunately, his days don’t come about often enough. Palace have sniffed about him during both his Blackpool and QPR days but big, big fees have put the Palace hierarchy off.

Enter Tony Pulis; not exactly a fan of value.

If the prospective Chinese owners aren’t aware of Jonathan Walters or Peter Crouch, they will be as soon as Pulis storms into the boardroom demanding £25 million to launch a joint bid for the pair.

One transfer ‘saga’ involving West Brom that has gone on for most of the pre-season is that of Saido Berahino. A supposed upstart and Palace target, Albion and Pulis’ approach to the management of their striker seems no clearer than it did this time last year. While a move to Spurs stalled this time last year, there appears to be genuine interest in Berahino from our lot as well as Stoke. However, despite being heavily underused last season and only having one season left on his contract, Albion are standing by their £20 million plus valuation and in spite of the transfer market going absolutely berserk during the summer, are Palace or Stoke likely to meet the steep valuation for a player that hasn’t exactly lit the Premier League up taking into account his obvious talent?

By the end of the month, we’ll know.

From West Brom’s perspective, they’re starting the campaign with a player that might prove pivotal to their fortunes for the rest of the season or one that will be gone in the next three weeks. Not exactly ideal. Salomon Rondon and Rickie Lambert remain options for Pulis and the Venezuelan in particular did on occasion last season demonstrate that he is capable of plying his trade in this league.

All in all, it’s likely to be another 12th – 16th place finish for Albion when we get to May and we might not be far too far off that ourselves depending on the business the club does between now and the end of the month.

When the cold and rain of November to February sets in and we inevitably go on the Pardew-inspired run of losses, it would be nice to look back at the dawn of the season which was greeted by that convincing Palace win in the sunshine at Selhurst, wouldn’t it?

A rather uninspired West Brom might just be the perfect opponents for that to happen.

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