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By Simon Campbell, London24’s Crystal Palace blogger
Friday, October 12, 2012
It was as a player that Dougie Freedman first captured the hearts of Crystal Palace fans. But now as manager of a side on the back of a seven-game unbeaten run, playing attractive attacking football, he is making them fall in love all over again.
Name: Simon Campbell
Twitter handle: @Si_Campbell_
Regular attendee/Viewer from abroad
Favourite player: Current, Wilf Zaha
Most memorable game: Crystal Palace 5 Brighton 0
Predicted finish: 8th
Freedman was a striker of finesse and unpredictable finesse. Not so perceptible was a steely side to his character that protected him from burly defenders but would also, on occasion, get him into trouble.
It has taken some time but, after a season-and-a-half in charge, he has crafted a Crystal Palace side playing in a manner that recalls something of Freedman the player. There is flair, fast breaks, quick passing and long dribbles. There is also steel.
In recent years Selhurst Park regulars have become used to anti-climatic defeats. Heads would drop at the slightest misfortune, both on and off the pitch. More often than not Palace tended to lose when they went behind, and the crowd would berate them – not anymore.
Before this season you had to go back to 1969 to find the last time Palace overcame a 2-0 deficit, but under Freedman they have done it twice in two weeks. When his Palace side are on the ropes they come out swinging.
"The Crystal Palace glass jaw is a thing of the past"
Last Saturday Burnley boss Eddie Howe could have been forgiven for feeling comfortable with his side two goals up after 30 minutes. This barrier did not faze the Palace players though - they struck back with forceful purpose.
What was notable against Burnley was the composure – from the players, from the bench, from the stands – no one was moaning. You could sense the confidence in the players, with hard work and belief, victory was theirs for the taking. And take it they did.
Eighteen months ago Crystal Palace offered the cherubic Howe the chance to be their manager. He opted to leave Bournemouth for the Clarets instead and the Eagles directors turned to Freedman - a decision that appears increasingly foresighted with each passing day.
When the Scot took over at Selhurst Park, Palace were floundering. After advice from fellow Glaswegians Kenny Dalglish and Alex Ferguson, he concentrated on strengthening a porous defence. Once his side were harder to beat he eventually introduced more attacking license.
While Howe has spent considerable sums assembling an expensive squad, Freedman has worked with relatively meager resources, but by trusting his instincts in the transfer market and adhering to his tactical beliefs, he has slowly built a side with a creditable chance of contesting promotion this season.
Palace’s current situation is all the more remarkable given their dreadful start to the season where they lost their first three league games and were spanked 4-1 by League One Preston in the League Cup.
It takes a strong manager to emerge from such a sequence with the squad, board and supporters still on side. It takes an even stronger one to then take his team on their best run of form in years.
Where once consecutive defeats would have been the catalyst for a season of strife, this Palace side seem galvanised by setbacks. Like their manager, they have their steely side. The Crystal Palace glass jaw is a thing of the past.