Crystal Palace and Arsenal – comparing the Premiership with the Championship

By Stefano on May 16th, 2013 8 comments

Arsenal fan Julius @OneGunn3r on the differences between life at the top of the Premiership and Championship.

It only really struck me last night just how sheltered a fan I am. I decided to get a ticket to the Crystal Palace vs. Brighton play off semi final, caught up with the romance of a big rivalry and the opportunity for both sides to get one over each other on a march to the big time that is Premier League football. It was always going to be a heated clash, but for me, the iron didn’t strike in the way I thought it would.

I have heard so much about the competitiveness of the Championship, and judging from the game on offer that viewpoint was certainly not without reason; It was a match of true heart, with full-blooded tackles flying in and incessant goading from both sets of supporters. The only times I’ve genuinely been exposed to an atmosphere like the one at Selhurst Park have been watching Arsenal get creamed at the San Siro and seeing Ronaldinho receive a red card at the Camp Nou.

It was a genuine throwback to the days before the modernisation, and some would say commercialisation, of football. There were fans without tickets crammed in the isles, wooden seats that were stood on, smokers, a camera team relying on crummy scaffold to keep them from falling into an abyss of South London smog. In all honesty, it was absolutely awe striking. The only real blotch on the show that the Holmersdale and Arthur Wait stands put on was the sheer amount of homophobic abuse towards the Brighton contingent.

Yet, the football was atrocious. Without the stereotypically brazen snobbery of an Arsenal supporter, there was so little to get excited about on the pitch it made sense that the Palace fans generate such a fantastic atmosphere. So much of the chanting is rolling, thundering around the ground whilst the ball is lumped back and forth to the apathy of thousands, so many songs sung to the theme of Peter Ramage and co. slicing the ball out for throw ins and corners.

The contrast between what I experienced at Selhurst Park and my day job as a Gooner is massive. Whether it’s in the comfort of Islington’s leather seated Emirates or standing up on an away day at Swansea, everyone is always watching the game, waiting for that spark of magic the team is capable of. There is a tangible reaction to what happens on the pitch, a smattering of applause for a Cazorla flick or groans when Sagna opts to pass the ball backwards rather than cross into the box. Palace’s contingent seems less reactionary and more relaxed than Arsenal’s about the state of affairs on the pitch.

It left me wondering why that could be. If Arsenal plays bad football, often there is not an aura that is negative so much as barbed and drenched in poison. As opposed to an acceptance that no footballer is perfect, there are cries and yells when someone cannot function in the way highly expectant fans crave. The high ticket prices at The Emirates surely contribute to the obsession with perfection on the field. My £30 ticket for the Palace game would have cost me about £90 had it been Arsenal vs. Spurs. The higher the price, the more significant the quality is.

To qualify the difference, I can point to two matches against the cash cows of England. Last season, a ticket for a League Cup game at home to Manchester City was on sale as cheap as £25, whilst this year, when Chelsea came to the Emirates, fans were paying up to £126. Whilst the side lost both matches, there was a marked difference in atmosphere. Against City, the fans were very supportive of the players, even when they failed to match the quality on offer from the away side. Against Chelsea, even at 1-1 and playing well, every little mistake was met with roars of discontent and frustration. This culminated with an own goal, the first loss of the season and a red exodus.

When comparing the dynamics of Crystal Palace fans and those supporting Arsenal and the like, genuine footballing factors also have to be considered. The Eagles have been in the second tier for the majority of the last twenty years, whilst Arsenal fans have been accustomed to the best football on offer in the country. Their fall from a position of such strength has resulted in frustration at the failings of 2013’s Arsenal; namely through means such of almost callow anger.

In my opinion, Palace aren’t brilliant, but they do they really care? Arsenal used to be fantastic, and they really do mind their relative fall from grace. There is an inferiority complex around The Emirates about the team’s shortcomings, whilst at Selhurst Park they welcome their side’s imperfections as a true reflection of themselves. There is a siege mentality at Crystal Palace, which I am sure is common amongst many sides playing away from the glamour and glitz of the Premier League.

Which mentality do I prefer? Well, it depends on what you’re looking for. If you want your wallet emptied several times over to be entertained but almost unfailingly disappointed, pick the Emirates. But if you prefer the good old days of being unfashionable and proud, pick Palace. For me, it is, and always will be, Arsenal. Then again, I’m just a modern football fan.

  • Canno

    Ramage and Co slicing he ball out?? You paid alot of attention didnt you.. Ramages didnt play!! Pointles article written by a clueless person.

  • Stevo

    Have to say that this is a typically pompous article from a Premier league football fan, who thinks he can assess Champioship football on the basis of seeing one game. I have been a season ticket holder at Palace for 10 years, and whilst I totally accept that the standard doesn’t match that of the very best games in the Premiership (and who would be surprised given the amounts that are spent on players in the PL), it measures very well against the vast majority that is on display. I have seen far more turgid games on TV in the PL this season than I have in the 35-ish games I have seen Palace play in this season. The first leg of the play off was indeed not a great advert for the Championship in terms of quality, but given the amount at stake and the fact that it was against our bitter rivals, that was completely understandable. The 2nd leg at Brighton was a much better barometer, and even that was not the best game Palace have played this season (although I think they planned and executed a winning gameplan perfectly). But in terms of passion, blood curdling excitement and tension, end to end chanting and singing from both sets of fans (albeit some of it a tad on the ‘agricultural’ end of the spectrum), it is ten times the value for money you get watching Arsenal’s pampered, mega-bucks superstars toil in a turgid nil-nil against Aston Villa….

  • arsenal palace

    I consider myself to be both an Arsenal supporter and a palace supporter (in a match between them i’d probably support arsenal – just because I’ve supported them for longer), but in the many matches i have watched there isn’t really a marked difference between the football on show, just two different playing styles, but many championship teams play with the same passing and fluidity we see at Arsenal, such as Swansea in the past and Wigan next season.

    Neither is there a huge difference in the passion and commitment of the support, just a small ground like Selhurst provides a bigger boost to the atmosphere than a new, spacious ground like the Emirates. That said i’m sure there are many quiet weekends at Selhurst and many great nights at the Emirates. Any football fan, no matter how big their club is, thirsts just as much as any other for success, so it is unfair to say just because Palace are smaller their fans are more passionate.

  • james

    modern fan. idiot.

  • Dee

    How can you possibly assess Championship football on just one match? Especially one that had so much riding on it between two fierce rivals in the first leg of a play off semi final, where there is everything to lose, so both teams are going to play more conservatively?

    Also, you’re judging Crystal Palace, an out-of-form team who was playing against the most in-form team in the whole league… Obviously Palace aren’t going to be playing free flowing football under these circumstances.

    Any intelligent football manager would have be weary of the threat that Brighton pose and try to counter it knowing that going into the away leg losing would be a massive disadvantage and would almost certainly deny us the chance to play at Wembley. Even then, under the circumstances, I thought ‘Ramage and co.’(even though Ramage didn’t even play, clearly thinking about this article too much to watch the game?) did fairly well against a team who were favourites for promotion before we stuffed them 2-0 at their place.

    Despite living abroad last year I still managed to get to about 15 Palace games last season but I admit I wasn’t too good at following the Premiership without having SkySports/MOTD as staple viewing on weekends. However, the one Arsenal game I did watch was the one where they lost 8-2 to Man Utd. Would it then have been fair to compare that Arsenal game with the various Palace games I’d been to and draw up a conclusion about the difference between Palace and Man Utd, especially seeing as later on that season, I witnessed Palace beating Man Utd 2-1 at Old Trafford?

  • Dee

    Sorry in the last paragraph I meant ‘the difference between Palace and Arsenal’ I wrote this all rather very quickly.

  • Paul

    Yeah, Ramage hasn’t played for quite a few games, your Article however well written has just become irrelevant. If we reach the Premiership you will see how passionate Palace fans are home and away, it will be a breath of fresh air

  • Holmesdaleupper

    What an amazing Tw@t! Did he disappear up his own backside after writting this self-opinionated rubbish. Having worked in North London I know that most Arsenal fans are not like this idiot.




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