Five years on and Coppell is back at the club, we have sold our best players, and are poised for an ugly battle in the First Division. Yet still we talk of attractive football as "distinct from the long ball game", of ambition and of technical directors similar to Ajax, the best football club in Europe. If this is not chronic naivety, then Stan Collymore is a Palace reject. Whoops.
You see the irony of Coppell's comment is rich. Back then the intelligent man of the people's game got his wires crossed somewhat. His implication that naivety might be a positive thing for his young Eagles was misplaced. The naivety shown by bringing on Ian Wright at 71 minutes two games in a row when clearly he could have played in the latter, coupled with absurd tactics, surely contributed to eventual defeat when victory was so close. Subsequently Crystal Palace seem to have been riddled with this lack of comprehension.
The naivety shown towards the ruthless footballing media has allowed our image of a club in disarray and continual disharmony to fester. First Noades lets his half-hearted racist rhetoric to be distorted into fascist propaganda which forced the exit of probably our most talented player ever in Ian Wright. Consequently the multi-cultural catchment area is led to believe that blacks and Asians are shunned from what is, actually, a very friendly ground. More recently the most charming man in football, Alan Smith, innocently uses the press as agony uncles only to be shell- shocked when rumours of arguments between manager and chairman are splashed across the back pages.
Naivety in the transfer market is another predominant Palace strength. While possessing a childlike faith in players such as Paul Mortimer, Paul Williams and Lee Sinnott, or investing pounds l million in an 18-year- old, we choose to offload a series of likeable players with heaps of talent to clubs who will subsequently sell them on for vast amounts of money. Collymore and Simon Osborn are testimony to this.
Another marvellous show of loyalty to naivety is to devalue the price of our own players by refusing to sell them at ridiculously high prices at the beginning of the season (Geoff Thomas and Chris Armstrong), unsettle them throughout the season by publicly criticising their lack of commitment, and finally sell them at reduced prices come close season. This enterprising show of financial suicide would make any Barings banker proud.
But perhaps the area where naivety is really spiralling out of control is among the supporters, naive to the end. We revel in talk of fantasy speculation. In my volatile time of being a Palace supporter I have believed that the chairman has all of the fans' "best interests at heart", that we are now an ambitious club and that by the year 2000 we will be watching European standard football from a 40,000 all-seater stadium. Naive indeed. What makes matters worse is the club's confidently naive belief that we will all accept these ludicrous statements. And as we climb from the ridiculous to the down right absurd we the fans do believe this nonsense.
Coppell's prediction on the eve of our moment of glory could not have been more accurate. The next five years saw naivety constantly remain on our side. Please let my prediction that things at Crystal Palace won't change for the next five years be a naive one.Reuse content