Eagles columnist WILL TAYLOR admits he is still trying to come to terms with the reality of Crystal Palace’s predicament – guaranteed safety and a first ever consecutive season of Premier League football.
Blind faith usually guides supporters into the weekend but frustration and disappointment often lies in wait on a Monday morning.
That’s certainly how I’ve felt following Palace in recent years, with the club lingering on the periphery of success without ever checking in for an extended stay.
Every delirious promotion has been swiftly followed by relegation.
Every bright young prospect has been hastily lured away while every big-money replacement has failed to deliver.
But could all that be about to change?
With three games still to play, Palace were bestowed the two greatest words in the English language - mathematical safety.
And with safety comes the overwhelming potential for long-term stability, a cornerstone of success in the modern game.
After being written off by just about everyone that could count, Tony Pulis has masterminded a transformation that rivals Brendan Rodgers and his new title-challenging Liverpool side.
Fears of aerial bombardment and physical depravity were quickly abolished, replaced by an impenetrable defence and a counter-attack that continues to grow in confidence.
Pulis has married old-fashioned work ethic with new age training methods with a particular focus on opposition analysis, which has prompted a remarkable reaction from the squad.
Marouane Chamakh and Jason Puncheon have resurrected their ailing careers while Joel Ward has showcased unforeseen versatility across the defence and midfield.
While Pulis is keen to keep feet on the ground, he also refuses to standstill and is keen to move forward.
“If you start patting yourself on the back in football someone will kick you up the backside,” championed the new saint of Selhurst.
When Liverpool arrive in SE25 next Monday there will be no risk of complacency from either side.
The Palace squad will be hungry, eager for their chance to play a influential role in a Premier League climax.
Several players will even be playing for their future at the club with Pulis already outlining his plans for the summer.
Rumours of a £30m transfer budget have surfaced that will inevitably prompt giddy excitement, although not if suggested targets Connor Wickham and Steven N’Zonzi soak up a considerable chunk of that figure. Old habits die hard so while there is much to look forward to, a flicker of fear still exists in my mind.
The club remain vulnerable to second season syndrome, especially as the promoted trio from the Championship will boast sizeable squads of depth and untapped potential.
Joel Ward may seek international recognition elsewhere, Julian Speroni's expiring contract remains unresolved, while Yannick Bolasie’s solo brilliance will attract a queue of suitors.
Could Pulis be tempted by bigger renovation projects at Newcastle or Aston Villa?
Unlikely, yes, but not completely inconceivable.
Nevertheless there is a world of promise that awaits.
Back in October few couldn't wait for this season to end, now many can't wait for the next one to begin.
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