January: The Piers Morgan of the calendar. We all accept the fact that it has to be there – although nobody quite knows why – and communally sit back grimacing as it rears its ugly head with invariable regularity.
As if the month wasn’t bad enough, some members of our society actually take the insane step of giving up alcohol for the entire 31 days of its duration. That means a large percentage of the population walking around highly strung and others heading to the pub only accompanied by Dave, before realising 30 minutes into the venture precisely why they never see him alone. As Dave finishes his third pint and the lengthy introduction to his Brexit-inspired, pro-Trump monologue, we’re left thinking: Why, January?
For Crystal Palace though, this isn’t the case. Sure, one or two of the board members might have had to endure long nights in the pub with Big Sam as he downs pints of wine and delivers his latest diatribe on referees, but on the whole it has been positive.
Not that the January started that great. In fact, league defeats to Arsenal, Swansea, West Ham and Everton had everyone feeling quite glum. Then, in the final week of the month, everything changed.
Up until the last week, Palace’s transfer window had been more or less a failure. They had completed the signing of Jeffery Schlupp from Leicester, but failed to bring in anybody else and looked to be losing Andros Townsend. Big Sam must have been sweating like he was dancing in the South of Spain.
The signing of Patrick van Aanholt was the first piece of news to cheer Eagles’ fans. The former Sunderland wing-back is hardly the most reliable defender in the world, but offers an attacking outlet that will be crucial as they look to supply Christian Benteke with crosses so he can head them into safety.
Speaking of these crosses, Rafa Benítez wasn’t able to pry Townsend away from London, meaning he will remain a dangerous option on the wing for Allardyce. It is thought that the manager isn’t a huge fan of the 25-year-old – no doubt frustrated by his tendency to balloon the ball over the bar from 30 yards when there are better options all around – but Townsend is undeniably an alternative that any manager in the relegation battle would love to turn to. Especially Marco Silva, as that would mean he might actually be able to field 11 players.
The £12.5m capture of Luka (Copy&Paste) Milivojevic was another piece of exciting news for Palace fans on the last day of the window, but it is the man who came in with him that will generate most enthusiasm.
Scary man/koala lover Mamadou Sakho is a player much too good for a relegation battle. Indeed, if the player hadn’t fallen out with Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp, he could have been part of potentially the league’s most formidable centre-back partnership alongside Joel Matip. This is a defender who, despite his awkward style, could easily be the difference between safety and relegation. To get such a player on loan, with competition from bigger sides, is a major coup.
And as if all this wasn’t good enough, Big Sam notched up his first win on the same day! A convincing 2-0 away win against perpetual conceders Bournemouth (a description probably motivated by bitterness due to having had at least one of Eddie Howe’s defenders in Fantasy Football since the beginning of the season) will have a profound effect on the side, reestablishing the initial belief felt following Allardyce’s appointment.
So, January doesn’t have to be terrible for everybody. Crystal Palace may be in the relegation zone, but now have the players to survive with ease and sit only one win away from 15th. With Wilfred Zaha soon back from Africa Cup of Nations duty, the opportunity is there for Signore Allardici to show the world once more what he can do.
The Premier League XI that need to grow some balls