It’s Transfer Deadline Day and, quietly, some Palace fans are worried.
Their side is exactly mid-table in the Premier League, a seemingly comfortable 10 points clear of the drop zone.
Yet they haven’t won in the league since December 19, and have secured just two points in their last six league games. In all those games, they’ve scored just one goal.
They have a worryingly busy physio room, with too many injured players for a small squad. And there’s suspensions, too.
The manager’s gone out and signed a striker known for having “issues”, and who was so toxic or pricey for other clubs that he’d been out of the game since the summer.
And now the manager’s taking man-management advice from Tim Sherwood. Oh…
Saturday’s FA Cup win over Stoke was a welcome break from the league travails, and the fifth-round draw away to Tottenham might excite some. But by then, after league games against Bournemouth, Swansea and Watford, alarm bells for Palace’s Premier League status could be sounding louder if there’s no appreciable change in form.
Enter Emmanuel Adebayor, an enigma wrapped in a riddle, who has played at some of the biggest clubs in the world, but who had to look-up Crystal Palace on Google when deciding to sign for the Eagles.
“If we have signed a fit, focused and motivated Adebayor then I agree it’s a great signing. There is a pretty big ‘if’ in that sentence though. It’s a gamble but one worth taking,” one fan posted on the Holmesdale bulletin board.
“I think it’s a great move for us and him,” another chipped in. “This is probably his last serious crack at the Premier League and he’s still got a few things to prove.”
“Could either be a massive waste of money or one of the best strikers we’ve ever had. I’m excited,” was another, and typical of the thread.
Because that’s the thing about Adebayor. You’re never quite sure what you’re getting with him.
At least the owner’s happy. “We have just signed a world-class striker,” co-chairman Steve Parish said. “We aren’t expecting any trouble,” said stalwart coach Keith Millen.
“I have had difficulty with players before, I had to deal with Hatem Ben Arfa at Newcastle,” Alan Pardew, the Palace manager, said. “If I can deal with him, I can deal with anyone.”
Adebayor turns 32 this month, having been let go in September by Spurs, where even the home fans sometimes booed his disinterested and lacklustre performances. But under Arsene Wenger at Arsenal, he scored 46 goals in 104 appearances, and in his brief stay with the Manchester City all-stars and when initially loaned to Tottenham, Adebayor managed to keep close to that goal-almost-every-other-game ratio.
And that’s what Pardew must be hoping for between now and May, under a deal in which Tottenham still pay some of the player’s wages and with a contract which is heavily incentivised. For an international striker, that can only mean one thing: goals. With service from the likes of Zaha, Cabaye and Bolassie, Adebayor’s surely got a licence to print money.
If he fancies it, that is. And that has long been the criticism of the Togo striker. It was not long before rumours began coming out of the Beckenham training ground of an ankle injury, threatening his Eagles debut against Bournemouth tomorrow night. And goals, and points, against the Premier League’s new boys must have been what Pardew had in mind when he signed the mercurial striker.
“I see in him a desire to get his career back on track, and I think I can help him,” Pardew said last week. “I’m hoping that’s a win-win situation for him and for us.
“We’ve incentivised his contract to do that, in terms of him being a success.” The Premier League’s TV deal is too valuable an arrangement for any club not to be part of it from 2016 onwards. With new American interests at Selhurst Park, any money spent on Adebayor will be regarded as an “investment” if he can end their goal drought.
“You cannot underestimate the quality he has,” Pardew said. “I’ve tried to sign him twice before, once at West Ham, when I came that close, and at Newcastle we talked long and hard about him.
“He’s a character that needs to be loved and the group I have… he’s going to get that.
“For us it’s about bringing in a striker to give everyone a boost. We all felt sorry for ourselves, no Bolasie, Connor is now suspended, so it’s great for us.
“You can see in the training ground there’s a lift already. He’s done the first part of his job because everybody is really pleased he’s here.”
But even Pardew acknowledges that there are risks involved in bringing someone with a Billy Big-Boots reputation into a dressing room where the team ethic is strong and there are few, if any, “stars”. “The only risk is if he doesn’t play well. I can’t see any other risk. I think we discard players quite quickly, and sometimes too early.
“You sometimes cannot get the kind of quality that Adebayor can bring. We’re very fortunate to have him, I make no bones about that. Our fans should be very optimistic, because I am.
“If I can get him anywhere near his best, it’ll be more than good enough for us.”
Listen to Eagles boss Alan Pardew after Saturday’s FA Cup fourth-round win over Stoke City here:
[Apologies to Apple users – the audio is available in Flash format and therefore not compatible with your iPhone or iPad]
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