Can Norwich drag Crystal Palace into the relegation mix? Dan Brigham talks to Eagles fan and Daily Mirror football writer Ed Malyon about the final day of 2004-05, Cameron Jerome’s overhead kick, European dreams, Cup runs and Saturday’s match
Dan: Hi Ed. Let's start with a spot of miserable reminiscing. Let me take you back to the last day of 2004-05 season, when we were both battling against relegation. For Norwich fans, it was one of the lowest points in our recent history, getting annihilated 6-0 at Fulham – Fulham! – when our fate was in our own hands. How do Palace fans remember that day? Were you at Charlton for Palace's game, or watching the horror unfold elsewhere, as Charlton's Jonathan Fortune equalised late to send you down with us?
Ed: Yeah I was at The Valley that day. It's worth remembering that the week before we were seconds from surviving against Southampton at home when Danny Higginbotham (curse him) slid in and equalised in stoppage time.
The weird thing about the Charlton game is that we have never had a rivalry with them and yet it became clear on arrival that it was a massive deal for them. They were singing songs about sending Palace down and the like, which must have been some bitter hangover from when we let them squat at Selhurst Park, but it was all very odd.
I remember Mikele Leigertwood's stupid foul like it was yesterday, and the resultant free-kick and goal. They honestly celebrated at the final whistle like they’d won the league. Odd little institution.
Dan: Like us, you’d come up from the Championship the previous season. Your promotion was bat-shit crazy, spending most of the time in the bottom three before Ian Dowie took over and somehow dragged you into the play-offs on the back of Andy Johnson’s goals (who’ll never be forgiven by Norwich fans for falling over in the penalty box in our 3-3 draw. Those extra two points would’ve kept us up…).
After shaking off the bruising of that 6-0 loss to Fulham, returning to the Championship didn’t seem so bad. Few had truly expected us to stay up, so there wasn’t really a sense of underachievement. How did you feel about relegation then?
Ed: Relegation didn’t bother me for that long afterward though as I looked forward to watching us win games again and hadn't predicted what would unfold over the following years.
That said, it was fun to go to Charlton and help send them down a few years later just to return the favour. It’s a shame for a club not to have any rivals but I guess they're just unlucky.
Dan: For you guys, this season has kind of been the reverse of your 2003-04 promotion year. A brilliant start, fifth at Christmas, and then you get sucked into a Relegation Black Hole. At Christmas you were 11 points ahead of us, and now you are just the three in front… despite us going 10 games without a win in that time.
At least you’re in the semi-finals of the FA Cup, though – something that hasn’t happened to Norwich since Mark Bright was leading your line and your chairman Ron Noades was being a bit racist.
The chance of only a second FA Cup final appearance must be a season-saver?
Ed: This season has been pretty bipolar. Fifth at new year was quite something and had me dreaming of Europe. The less said about the second half of the season, the better. Except, obviously, the Cup run.
The thing about the Cup is that losing that 1990 final is still a huge moment for many at Palace, so winning it would be huge. We have actually had a really tough draw throughout, with Saints, Spurs and Stoke before Reading so we have earned our place. It just sits weirdly alongside our league capitulation.
Dan: While those European dreams have disappeared in the league, and FA Cup win would take you there...
Ed: More than anything, I'd love to see Palace in Europe.
I love away games and going away every week for a while was a brilliant period of my life. I could happily not attend a single home game and just do the away set, so the very promise of a European tour makes me so excited.
The perfect group would be Sparta Prague – good beer and cheap city – then probably Ajax (nice stadium, big club, fun city) and then maybe a beach team to finish the group, like Valencia.
We would get knocked out but who cares? Some terrific trips in there.
Dan: Before that FA Cup semi against Watford you’ve got us, Everton at home and then Arsenal and Manchester United away. Are you worried that your loss of league form might end in relegation?
Ed: No, I don't worry about relegation. Lots of our fans are a little bit worried but I have always thought the gap is too big. Teams down the bottom are there for a reason and a glut of them don't suddenly start winning games at this point. Fortunately that awful bottom three have been unforgivably bad and will give both our clubs some room to stay up and reassess things over the summer.
If Palace don't sign a striker then they will be down there again next season though.
Dan: While you’ve had striker issues this season (join the club, with Patrick van Bamswinkle as AGM chairman), what else would you put your drop-off in form down to?
Ed: While the first XI is good, the depth of the squad isn't there and that's been really exposed. Pards' insistence on playing our third-best goalkeeper, Wayne Hennessey, is also not helping.
As we have seen with Leicester, West Ham and Watford, the Premier League's middle-class is richer than ever and can attract great players. Slip out of it, though, and the drop-off is huge.
Mid-table and a Cup win is our current seasonal goal and I'm happy with that for now – it makes a refreshing change from the cycle of relegation, promotion and near-oblivion.
Dan: When we did the first preview of the season for the Palace game (and the very first preview on The Little Yellow Bird Project – totes emotional), you went for 2-1 to Palace, and predicted Palace to finish 11th and Norwich to be relegated. Which was rather reasonable, really. I went for 2-2, which might’ve been correct if Cameron Jerome’s brilliant overhead kick had been allowed (as an aside, the eejit ref – Simon Hooper – who disallowed that goal was officiating in his first Premier League game. First and only, as it turns out, as he hasn’t been given another PL game since).
Seven months on, what are your predictions this time?
Ed: I think Palace can finally win now that Dwight Gayle might get his chance and some important pieces are fit around him. Maybe 2-1.
Aston Villa, Newcastle and Sunderland will go down so congratulations to you guys. Alex Neil has done a great job.
Palace will finish 15th I would say. Disappointing considering where they were on New Year's Day but if you don't win a game between Christmas and April then these things will happen to you.
Dan: Cheers Ed. I’m going 2-1 Norwich, with Jerome coming off the pitch to scissor-kick a 25-yard winner in the dying seconds.
I still can't bring myself to say Norwich will stay up out of fear of jinxing things, so I'm going to keep myself firmly planted on the fence there. But Palace will be safe, I think. Plenty of players returning from injury should see you win more than enough games.
Ed Malyon is a Spanish and European football correspondent and columnist for the Daily Mirror. He tweets at @eaamalyon