Pardew targets landmark season
LONDON — Alan Pardew wants to lead Crystal Palace to their “best season ever” after Martin Kelly’s FA Cup winner meant Tottenham Hotspur cannot now pull off a domestic double.
Kelly’s strike in first-half stoppage time turned out to be just enough for a 1-0 fifth round victory at White Hart Lane on Sunday.
The Eagles will appear in the last eight of the competition for the first time in 21 years, and they will take on Championship side Reading — one of Pardew’s previous clubs as a manager.
Palace’s Premier League form may have been dipping since Christmas but Pardew, who had taken his squad to Spain to prepare for the Spurs game, was confident Eagles fans would remember 2015/16 fondly.
“We can still have the best season Crystal Palace has ever had in the Premier League,” he said. “We can still finish higher than 10th - that was our best last year.
“We can do that and we’re in the quarterfinals of the Cup.
“At the start of the season if you’d offered me that I would have taken it. If you’d have offered me it at Christmas I don’t know, because we were in a great position. That’s the Premier League.
“It’s unrelenting and unforgiving. We had a lot of injuries and it’s cost us important points in the league.”
The South Londoners have only reached the FA Cup final once in their history, in 1990 when Pardew was a player and they were beaten 1-0 by Manchester United in a replay following a 3-3 draw.
Pardew, who was West Ham manager when they were beaten by Liverpool on penalties in the 2006 final, again after a 3-3 draw, was confident Cup success would spark an upturn in Palace’s league fortunes.
“Let’s hope so,” he said. “I genuinely think it can. I’ve seen it in players. I said to the players in the changing room ‘ you won’t know the effects and the impact the FA Cup has until you reach the quarter-finals, the semi-final and the final. Then you understand this competition and the romance of it’.
“That 1990 Cup run gained us more fans than at any other time and they’ve stayed with us, even though we never won it.”
Nevertheless, the stakes remain much higher for Tottenham, however, as they are currently second in the Premier League and still in the Europa League.
Spurs have not finished top of the pile in England since 1961, when they also won the FA Cup, and they will know today if they will be left with only Premier League fixtures to contend with, like leaders Leicester.
That is the night when their Europa League round of 32 tie with Fiorentina is to be decided in London following a 1-1 first-leg draw.
“We feel very disappointed because it (the FA Cup) was a competition that was very exciting for us to go far but we are in a very tough period and every game seems like a final,” said Tottenham manager Mauricio Pochettino of Sunday’s defeat.
“We need to be ready for Thursday as we have another final. The next game is the most important now.”
Tottenham had been fighting on three fronts for almost the entire season but Pochettino denied a hectic schedule, coupled with his insistence on high-intensity training sessions, had taken its toll.
“No,” he said. “Against Fiorentina we ran seven kilometres more. Today our effort was bigger than Crystal Palace’s but it is about winning or not.
“There is nothing to complain about. We had good chances to win the game.” — AFP