Thursday, February 21, 2013

Unlikely Superhero – Crystal Palace’s very own Rambo!

When Peter Iain Ramage signed for Crystal Palace on a one-year contract in August 2012, even as a Crystal Palace fan I have to say I was left feeling somewhat uninspired!

I had witnessed the Whitley Bay born defender in action for ‘The Eagles’ during his five month loan spell with us during the 2011/12 season. To be fair to Ramage  during that time (which included 17 league appearances) he tended to be used by the then manager Dougie Freedman as a ‘utility’ player, and he flitted between the full-back and centre-half positions.
Ramage - In the form of his life!

As a result the 29 year-old had little opportunity to put a marker down, and establish himself in an ever changing back-four. In the first-half of the 2011/12 season Palace were in a defensive mess as they juggled numerous players in an attempt to find a settled back-four. By the time Ramage’s loan period had come to an end on the 15th January 2012, he had played with 11 different defensive partners in McCarthy, Davies, Tunchev, McGivern, Gardner, Clyne, Keinan, Eagan, Parsons, Moxey and Parr.

However Freedman had no hesitation in re-signing the Geordie lad for the start of the 2012/13 campaign. The signing of Ramage may have been initially as cover following the loss of Club captain Paddy McCarthy. McCarthy sustained a groin injury in the summer, and as I write is still sidelined and has yet to feature in a first-team game this season.
However it has proved to be an inspired signing as the player affectionately known as ‘Rambo’ has played a pivitol role in a wonderful season so far for the boys from SE25.

Rambo has established a solid, no nonsense central defensive partnership with Irishman Damien Delaney (right) this season, and his passion and desire is written all over his face during the heat of battle! Ramage has started 31 of 33 league games this season, come on as a substitute in another and since our opening day defeat to Watford at Selhurst Park, Crystal Palace are unbeaten at home this season, a run of 16 games at ‘Fortress Selhurst.’

It must be said that several of the reasons for the success on the pitch this season can be attributed to confidence, attitude, belief and fitness. But unlike last season stability in defence in terms of personnel has been crucial.

Before Palace signed Delaney from Ipswich on the 31st August, Ramage was paired at the heart of the defence with Aaron Martin a loanee from Southampton, but Palace lost their opening three league games of the season conceding nine goals in the process. Upon his arrival Delaney was immediately paired with Ramage and the two have been inseparable ever since, other than a three game suspension handed to the Irishman for seeing red at Huddersfield just before Christmas.

Despite the upheaval with the departure of the rather flaccid Dougie (the grass is not always greener on the other side) Freedman and the backroom staff to Bolton in late October, and the subsequent arrival of the flamboyant Ian Holloway as his replacement in the managerial hot seat, Rambo has rolled with it all, without flinching or suffering any long term heartbreak! In fact Holloway’s arrival has probably seen Ramage develop as a player due to the Bristolian’s style of play, which allows players to express themselves a lot more by playing a fluid passing game with the emphasis on getting forward more often, rather than strangling the life out of a 1-0 lead!

    Ramage (wearing 28) shows what it means to him after scoring against Watford this month!

Ramage has even contributed with some rare but vital goals this season. He has in fact scored twice as many goals for Crystal Palace this season than he has over his entire professional career, having made his first-team debut for Newcastle United as a substitute in a UEFA Cup tie on the 16th March 2005.

His first goal in the red and blue of Palace came at The Walkers Stadium in October, as the Londoner's turned over the then league leaders Leicester City 2-1. Ramage then bagged a consolation goal in a 2-1 defeat at Leeds in November, before netting a vital goal at Watford this month, followed by a second goal in consecutive games as Palace thrashed Middlesbrough at Selhurst Park last week. His smart turn and shot against Boro’ was a goal that any striker would have been proud of, and it was also his first goal for the club at Selhurst Park.

On the pitch Rambo is the consummate professional, whilst off the pitch he comes across as a great lad, a family man who will always takes time out to chat to the fans and someone who loves a bit of banter with his team-mates. I imagine he is an inspirational, yet calming figure in the dressing room and someone that all the lads, particularly the youngster’s look up to!

He is also becoming somewhat of an unlikely favourite among the fans. You cannot as a football fan fail to revere a man who gives everything, a player who wears his heart on his sleeve and plays for the badge on his chest.......and who always goes to, and applauds the fans at the end of every match!

Rambo you are a credit to yourself and Crystal Palace Football Club and you won’t be far off winning this season’s Palace ‘Player of the Year’ award as voted for by us, the fans!

You can follow Peter Ramage on twitter or find him after training at most good coffee outlets, with Damien Delaney and Andre Moritz!

Pictures courtesy of: and

Thursday, February 14, 2013

You can’t buy experience! - Why ‘Super Kev’ can shoot Crystal Palace to the promise land!

Kevin Mark Phillips, may be diminutive in height but he has a presence and aura that is both dynamic and effective, and Ian Holloway’s capture of ‘Super Kev’ on a transfer deadline day loan to Crystal Palace may be pivotal in ‘The Eagles’ attempt to successfully secure promotion to the Premier League this season.

Kevin Phillips comes off the bench to equalize for Crystal Palace at Watford last week

As numerous names and potential Palace targets such as George Boyd, Sylvan Ebanks-Blake, Albert Adomah and DJ Campbell were banded about during the hectic January transfer window, many Palace fans were bemoaning the fact that Kevin Phillips was even in the frame!
There were still a lot of furrowed brows when he signed for the South London Club on loan until the end of the current season. Phillips was seen by many as a footballing veteran at 39 years young, with over 450 senior starts spread over a career spanning nearly 20 years. Numerous fans questioned the signing of Phillips and the ambition of the club, in what many saw as a gamble on a player who was surely over the hill!

On his move to Palace Phillips was the ‘ultimate pro’ saying exactly what the Club and fans alike wanted to hear: "Every time I pull on a Palace shirt or a training kit I will give 100 per cent and I thoroughly look forward to it. Palace are an exciting team, I enjoyed working under Ian Holloway at Blackpool and I really look forward to working with him from now until the end of the season."

Since joining Palace, Phillips had made two substitute appearances and on both occasions he has been instrumental in a change in fortune on the pitch. Less than two weeks ago the Crystal Palace team trudged off the Selhurst Park pitch at half-time looking crestfallen, after a woeful first-half performance against London rivals Charlton. The visitors had dominated the first 45 minutes and deservedly led at the break. Palace were lacklustre and void of ideas. Holloway took immediate action and the former England striker was handed his debut as a half-time substitute.
Murray and Phillips (right) celebrate!

This change in personnel clearly had the desired affect as Phillips helped spark a dramatic turnaround. Two goals from the Championship’s top scorer Glenn Murray secured a dramatic 2-1 victory for Palace, with Phillip’s orchestrating a calm, creative and significant influence on the game.

The Palace manager was naturally delighted by Phillip’s debut and the social message boards were awash with praise for the Hitchin born striker. Sentences containing adjectives such as classy, sublime, nippy, polished and impressive were used to describe the impact Phillips had on the match. As a result many fans were forced to eat at least a little piece of humble pie.

A week later and he was at it again, as Palace rescued a point at high flying Watford, despite going into the break two goals down.

Phillips’ introduction at Vicarage Road 10 minutes after half-time culminated in a non-stop second-half onslaught by a rejuvenated Palace team with Phillips and teenage sensation Jonny Williams playing a father and son age defining double act, culminating in Palace coming away with a well deserved point. Phillips firstly providing a good foil for fellow striker Murray, and secondly getting the all important equalizing goal, as he made a wonderfully timed run into the penalty box to expertly dispatch Jazz Richards’ low cross at the far post - his 243rd career league goal!

I don’t think the first 80 minutes of football played by Phillips in the red and blue shirt should be underestimated, as his introduction on both occasions has been quite simply ‘game changing.’ Most players take a while to settle in at a new club, but not ‘Super Kev.’ He signs for Palace, moves down to the South of England, meets up with his old manager, his new team-mates, has a training session or two, and on match day he puts in a couple of performances that make him look like he has been at the club since the year dot!

Not only is a Phillips a class act on match day, but I am sure his experience and knowledge will rub off on the youth in a Palace squad with some outstanding young talent at its disposal.

Throughout his professional career Kevin Phillips has averaged nearly a goal every other club game and commanded transfer fees with a cumulative total in excess of £5million. Palace are his eighth club since he turned professional in December 1994, and he represented England on eight occasions making his debut against Malta in Ta’Qali in June 2000 under the stewardship of Kevin Keegan, before bowing out of the England set-up, against Holland in the Amsterdam Arena in February 2002 under Sven-Göran Eriksson.

In 1999-2000 Phillips was the Premier League Player of the Season, the Premier League top scorer with 30 goals for Sunderland, a tally which won him both the Premiership Golden Boot and the European Golden Boot. He remains the only Englishman to win the European Golden Boot.
Phillips was a Football League Championship winner and the Football League Championship Player of the Year with West Brom in 2007-08, and a Football League Cup winner with Birmingham City in 2011.

Last season at the tender age of 38, Phillips helped Blackpool reach the Championship play-off final at Wembley, and finished as the club’s leading scorer with 16 Championship goals in 41 appearances.

When speaking on his arrival at Palace, Phillips was visibly grateful to Ian Holloway for bringing him to the club and giving him one final hurrah. He said: "I don't want to let him down (Ian Holloway). He's brought me here and I want to repay the faith he has shown in me".............and believe me, he has already started to repay the belief Holloway showed in him!

Could Mr P be the transfer coup of the season for Crystal Palace? That one individual that brings a certain ‘je ne sais quoi’ to the table every day he is at the Club, whether it be on the training ground, in team meetings or on match day?
Time will tell, but for now it looks like a very shrewd bit of business on the part of Ian Holloway and the owners of Crystal Palace Football Club.

You cannot buy experience, so Mr Kevin Phillips welcome aboard the Crystal Palace rollercoaster! It’s never dull, so hold on tight and enjoy the ride!

# Photos courtesy of the BBC and The Sun Newspaper Group.

Wednesday, February 06, 2013

Going Going Vonn! Crash injuries end Lindsey Vonn’s season, but not her hopes!

One year and two days before the women's downhill at the Sochi Olympics in Russia, American Olympic champion Lindsey Vonn, whose record breaking ski-racing career has frequently mixed stirring triumph with frightening spills, suffered debilitating injuries to her right leg in a violent crash during a race at the World Championships in Schladming, Austria yesterday  —  putting her out for the rest of this World Cup season and potentially complicating the defence of her Olympic title.

Lindsay Vonn is hospitalized after this fall in a super-G race in Schladming, Austria on Tuesday

The United States Ski and Snowboard Association announced on Tuesday that Vonn suffered two torn ligaments in her right knee — the medial collateral and anterior cruciate ligaments — as well as a fractured lateral tibial plateau in the same knee after crashing in the super-G in Schladming.

Vonn, the Minnesota-born skier took a month off this season after being hospitalised for an intestinal illness in November, and had just regained her form with two wins last month.

Tuesday's race, the first of the World Championships, was delayed nearly four hours because of fog. There were more than ten separate delays as officials struggled to get the race in with daylight fading. Vonn led Slovenia's Tina Maze, the best female skier during this World Cup season after the first stage of the race.

Vonn who was the 19th racer out of the starting gate for the second stage, skied well at the top of the course. She led Maze by 0.04 seconds at the first checkpoint, and was just 0.12 seconds back at the second interval, and seemingly on her way to a medal, if not victory!

About 42 seconds into her run, as Vonn made a right-footed turn and arced her skis to the left, she navigated a jump at the same time. Vonn soared above the snow a little off balance with her hands behind her torso rather than in front of her chest, which usually ensures a more stable landing.

Returning to the snow, her right leg splayed briefly to the right and her knee hyper-extended inward and toward the left. She pitched forward at the same time and began to flip forward. Her right ski came off, cartwheeling down the slope after her. Vonn came to a stop a few hundred feet down the slope without making contact with the protective fencing, though she did plough through a gate. She was attended by medical personnel for 12 minutes on the side of the trail and airlifted to a hospital.

Christian Kaulfersch, the assistant medical director at the worlds, said Vonn left the Schladming hospital on Tuesday afternoon and will have surgery in another hospital. "She first wanted to go back to the team hotel to mentally deal with all what has happened."

The Olympic downhill champion will have surgery next week in Vail, Colorado. Due to intense media attention, neither she nor the U.S Ski Team would say when she's leaving Austria.

"She'll be heading back to Vail (Colorado) and I will be doing surgery on her knee early next week," team physician William Sterett told The Associated Press today.

Maze won the race, with Switzerland’s Lara Gut taking silver and American Julia Mancuso, Vonn’s longtime rival, winning bronze.

Vonn has enjoyed a significant amount of media attention for an alpine skier, making her the face of her sport. She has appeared on The Today Show, Access Hollywood, and The Late Show with David Letterman and has picked up endorsements from notable companies such as Head, Oakley, Red Bull, Rolex, and Under Armour.

Vonn appeared in Sports Illustrated's Swimsuit Edition that featured Winter Olympians in 2010. Her assets were estimated to be worth over 2.5 million dollars back in 2010.

Olympic skier Lindsay Vonn on the set of her Sports Illustrated swimsuit shoot back in 2010 

Vonn's list of injuries at major championships is long:

Two years ago, she pulled out midway through the last worlds in Garmisch-Partenkirchen, Germany, because of a mild concussion.

At the 2010 Vancouver Olympics, Vonn skied despite a severely bruised shin to win the downhill and take bronze in the super-G.

At the 2009 worlds in Val d'Isere, she sliced her thumb on a champagne bottle after sweeping gold in the downhill and super-G, forcing her out of the giant slalom.

At the 2007 worlds in Are, Sweden, Vonn injured her knee in training and missed her final two events.

At the 2006 Turin Olympics, she had a horrific crash in downhill training and went directly from her hospital room to the mountain to compete in four of her five events.

Lindsey Vonn faces yet another enforced break from her sport, but this one occurs with only a year to go before the Sochi Olympics.

Lindsey Vonn is on pace to become the most accomplished female skier ever. Her career resume is as follows:
  • 1984: Born: St. Paul, Minnesota, United States
  • 2000: World Cup debut aged 16 in Park City, Utah
  • 2002: Competes at Winter Olympics in Utah aged 17 in downhill and combined
  • 2004: Claims first World Cup race win at Lake Louise in Canada
  • 2008: Wins first World Cup title to become only the second American woman to lift the trophy
  • 2009: Wins World Championships in Val-d'Isère, France, and becomes first American to win women's world super-G title
  • 2010: Wins gold in the downhill and bronze in super-G at the Vancouver Olympics
  • 2012: Regains World Cup overall title
                          4 Overall World Cup titles
                        16 World Cup discipline titles, tied 1st all-time 
                        59 World Cup victories, the 2nd most all-time (3 shy of record).