Delaney Embodies The Palace Spirit
I feel I need to confess something straight away… my favourite current player is Damien Delaney.
I don’t think it is anything to be ashamed of but judging by the criticism he’s been receiving on social media recently it’ll certainly put me in the minority. I doubt very much you’ll see many shirts with ‘Delaney 27’ across the back if you walk around Selhurst on match day.
Why is Delaney my favourite player? Well, it isn’t because I think he is the best player at the club or even the best defender. He’s my favourite player because of what I think he represents on the pitch. A leader, a trier, he doesn’t show respect to the ‘stars’ he comes up against, he’s someone who isn’t just disappointed when we lose, he hurts and above all, he’s honest!
Take, for example, in his first season with us when we got promoted. Once the final whistle had blown and he’d received his medal he went off into the tunnel to have a cry on his own. It was just nine months earlier he had ‘retired’ from the game after failing to win his place back in the Ipswich Town side. He’d been out for a few months injured after a blood clot in his leg almost saw it amputated.
His retirement lasted one day when he received a call from Dougie Freedman and convinced him to do a days training with Palace. He came in, trained and loved the feeling at the club so much he agreed to the deal. The rest is history!
Fast forward to this season and he was honest in his opinion that signing Christian Benteke wasn’t the answer to our problems. He famously said “he isn’t Lionel Messi, he won’t fix things on his own!”
Delaney gives me the impression that he doesn’t give a
sh care about what anyone thinks, he’ll tell the truth as he sees it and that resonates with me. He doesn’t show any more respect to Manchester City players than he does to Burnley players. He is a tough competitor and one I think is very underrated in our team and recent calls for him to be dropped are, I think, wrong.
Sure he makes the odd mistake and maybe they are becoming more common but what he gives us in fight, determination and the fact he has a good left foot is very much understated. I truly believe he has come in for some unjustified stick so far this season and though at times he can be a little reckless in a challenge, he doesn’t take any prisoners.
Who would you rather have in the back four? Damien Delaney or Gary Cahill? I’m not even sure I’d swap him for John Stones. Ball playing central defender? No thanks, give me an enforcer any day of the week!
I got the bulk of my footballing education when Steve Coppell came to the club. Back then we had players who had a lack of skill but had an abundance of fight. Those players, in particular Phil Barber, Coppell often referred to as a “Mr 110%” which was typical of the Palace team in the late eighties.
I quite often say that I can forgive a player for a lack of talent but I can’t forgive a player for a lack of effort. This is an ideology that has served Palace well during the years as we have over achieved at different times during the last forty years.
The funny thing is Delaney is now in his fifth season with us after signing from Ipswich at the start of our promotion season but it feels as if he has been the club his whole life because he gets what we are all about.
Delaney isn’t alone in this, there have been other players like Glenn Murray, Mile Jedinak, Peter Ramage, Julian Speroni and James McArthur who are all imports to the club yet all embody what Crystal Palace is all about.
With the greatest of respect to them I doubt Yohan Cabaye or Christian Benteke will be thought of in the same way in five years time, if they are still with us.
Speaking of Glenn Murray, an exchange between him and Damien Delaney has cemented his place as my favourite player because of his Palace fan banter with Glenn Murray at the start of the season.
Glenn Murray had just seen his new kit laid out in the Brighton dressing room when he posted on Instagram.
The instant reply from Delaney was four snakes (a reference to our rivalry with Brighton) and a good put down.
The Irishman might not have come through our youth system but as far as I’m concerned he is one of our own, along with Speroni. It isn’t easy for a player to win me over like this and it will be a sad day when we lose him, probably at the end of this season.
If my piece isn’t enough to convince you then I’d like to point you to this brilliant interview with Delaney by The Guardian’s Dominic Fifield, a Palace fan. The interview was in the lead up to the FA Cup final about his life and how he came to play for us. I recommend it to the house Guardian article.