Thanks to Stephen Bridle from Five Year Plan Fanzine for joining us.

After the international break, Championship football is back. Are you looking forward to Saturday’s game?

Of course! As a fan of Championship football I don’t have as much of an affinity with the England squad as most of the ‘plastic’ fans around here do. Personally, Elland Road is a place I’ve never been to before – and with Leeds’ famous support at home and on the road and the likelihood that Palace’s travelling contingent may be quite large considering a ‘Leeds ticket stub’ was needed by most to make the trip to this year’s biggest away game – Brighton’s new Amex branded ground – I’m looking forward to the atmosphere. It should be a good one, we’re just hoping the break won’t disrupt our form!

The last time we met was a miserable day for us Leeds fans – back in April when you beat us 1-0 at Selhurst Park. Has much changed for Crystal Palace since then?

A lot has changed. That result had a massive effect on us; it went a long way towards saving us from relegation and ensuring we could still compete in the Championship this year – so thanks for that!

The tail end of last season was a troubling time for most Palace fans with the prospect of relegation looming on the horizon for the second year in a row, the turmoil of the sacking of George Burley after a horrendous 3-0 loss to local rivals Millwall and the installing of the much-loved, but untested, Dougie Freedman as Palace manager – thankfully Freedman guided us out of the relegation zone and into safety with results such as the 1-0 win over you guys last year. His ability to hang on to vital points at home made all the difference.

This year the club has a new found sense of direction “a young manager, with fresh ideas,” as one Palace player recently remarked in an interview with us – and an air of confidence in the dressing room that has been lacking for far too long now. This can be seen in our current league position, what a difference a year makes – and long may it continue!

You’ve had an impressive start to the season, what are your expectations for this season?

I’d be happy with a boring mid-table finish, with no sleepless nights to come in April worrying about playing in League One the following October, of losing all of our best youngsters to corporate Premier League clubs as T.V. revenues disappear along with the more fickle amongst our fan-base.

Though it’s extremely difficult at this point not to – albeit secretly – hope for a bit more given our current form in the league; If we can keep it up until the end of the season, who knows – play-offs? Is that such a farfetched dream? Perhaps, but we’ll just have to see how the next few games play out before we can really start getting excited. But for the minute everyone in, around and connected to the club is in high spirits.

Dougie Fredman is regarded highly by Leeds fans after his loan spell here in 2008 and obviously he was a legend at Palace. What have you made of him so far as Palace manager?

He’s young, and a bit inexperience but he seems to be doing something right for us at the moment.

He’s saved us from relegation three times – once as a player with a last minute life-saver against Stockport in 2004 and for the last two seasons as part of the managerial team down at Selhurst Park.

He’d been criticised by many fans last year for playing “negative football” at home, where fans perhaps would have enjoyed a little more flair and attacking intent – but it certainly did the job and we lived to tell the tale.

He wanted to, and did, turn Selhurst Park into a fortress. Though our away record was absolutely appalling! Something which I’m sure he’ll be working hard to turn around this season – with the 1-0 win at Hull a few weeks ago already equalling last season’s embarrassing record of one win on the road I’m sure there’ll be more to come and hopefully we can get a result come this Saturday – but we’re not kidding ourselves. Leeds are a strong side in the Championship, even if Max Gradel has buggered off the France, you’ve still got plenty of attacking talent and we’ll have to be mindful of that.

Neil Danns got the winner for your lot last time out, but has since moved on. Who should we be looking out for in your side on Saturday?

The thing about Palace, and it’s a thing we’re very proud of, is that we’ve got a lot of young players being introduced into our side from the academy. Partly because we can’t afford to buy players, but mostly because we’ve an excellent academy that has produced some top-class players – especially at Championship level – in the past.

There’re a few you should look out for. Sean Scannell has really come in to his own leading the Palace attacking line this year after coming back from a major injury last season. He’s got pace, strength and an eye for goal and shouldn’t be scoffed at. Especially if partnered up-top by new signing Glenn Murray – who scored 22 goals for arch-rivals Brighton before seeing the error of his ways and signing with a proper club.

Wilfried Zaha is another academy graduate to look out for. He hasn’t been starting as many games as he did last year – but he’s really proved himself to be an excellent impact sub and off the back of scoring two goals in our recent League Cup win over Crawley he should be confident and ready to play; his pace and trickery add a different dimension to our front line when he’s introduced.

Jonny Parr is also one that you should be watching – it’s unclear where he’ll start as he’s so versatile and we have a few “full-back issues” at the moment. He can attack and defend in equal measure already netting himself a goal this season and providing a stunning assist in the aforementioned away game against Hull. A new signing this year from Norway – with whom he plays at full-international level – we’re expecting great things from this young player.

If you could sign any current Leeds player for Palace, who would it be?

Well, it would have been Max Gradel! But since he’s gone I’ll go with Becchio – after he came back to secure you all three points at home last season scoring two goals I’ll have him simply to remove the threat he poses us! Not all Palace fans will agree but I believe we’ve got enough strikers in the squad already – but there’s always room for a player of that quality. Even if he’s not to everyone’s taste.

Finally, what’s your prediction for the game? I’m saying 2-1 Leeds.

I think I’ll join you in predicting a 2-1, but for Palace. We don’t get a lot of chances to be optimistic here in Croydon, and certainly not of late! So I’m not wasting this one. With our form we really have to expect the three points – though you are a tough side to play home or away so let’s call it tentative-optimism.

We’ve proven this year that we won’t roll over after going behind as can be seen from our last-minute win against Coventry and a point earned against Blackpool as the clock ticked down (after going 1-0 down at the end of the first half). So don’t write us off just yet!

Thanks to Stephen for taking the time to answer our questions. Don’t forget to add your predictions for this game in our Leeds United Forum.

  • TSS

    More positive than last time Stephen. Glad to hear Dougie is doing well. Will see you at Elland Road for a couple of beers. 

  • Stephen Bridle

    Looking forward to it! Though now I’ve seen you’ve got hold of Mikael Forssell my confidence in ebbing! We have a habit of shipping goals against former players… Still, up the Palace! See you there.