IT’S hard to think of a sillier quarrel than Gilbert and Sullivan’s famous fall-out about a carpet. But Crystal Palace owner Simon Jordan and Croydon Advertiser editor Ian Carter may run it close after coming to blows over . . . the club’s kit.
Football clubs do fall out with their local papers. It’s a bit like falling out with a flatmate: however well you get on, you’re bound to get hacked off with each other every now and then because you spend so much time in each other’s company.
Sometimes, these quarrels quickly blow over, and you soon become mates again. Sometimes, things get so fractious that you can’t even bear to cross in the hallway.
Gillingham chairman Paul Scally, for instance, banned Kent Today from the Priestfield Stadium altogether for five years after the paper misquoted him in an article. (The paper’s photographer had to cover games from the rooftop of a nearby house.)
It’s not that bad for Palace and the Advertiser, but their row is incredibly silly.
What happened was this: The Advertiser ran a story stating that Palace’s proposed kit designs for next season weren’t very nice. The piece included quotes from a couple of fans offering to put forward their own designs.
Palace chairman Jordan, showing a rather thin skin for someone who once claimed that Steve Coppell was “so negative that he interfered with the signal strength on my phone”, took exception to this, and banned the Advertiser from speaking to any of the club’s employees.
In addition to this, he then produced the online equivalent of the note pinned to the fridge with a statement on Palace’s website. (I won’t go through it all, but basically he was saying: “The Advertiser always leaves its dirty plates lying around and never cleans the fridge.”)
Carter, determined to stand up for the Advertiser’s rights to make caustic comments about Palace’s strip, responded by stating: “It is high time the club hierarchy realised that the Advertiser’s loyalty does NOT mean we will simply act as their mouthpiece – now or in the future.”
Like Gilbert and Sullivan’s carpet quarrel, the tensions between paper and club have a bit of history. Last year, Palace slapped a two-week ban on the Advertiser for what it claimed was an unfair report about a player’s alleged involvement in a fight. Carter blamed a sub-editor for “unsympathetic” editing of the piece.
Nonetheless, there’s a strong temptation to get Jordan and Carter into a room, bang their heads together and tell them both to shake hands and make friends. (And not to take any of that “well, he started it” nonsense from either party.) After all, the Advertiser needs the club, and – despite what Jordan might suggest in his statement – the club need the paper too.
You can maybe – just maybe – afford to fall out with your local paper if you’re doing well; winning trophies season after season, healing the sick with just a touch of the hand, stopping wars, that kind of thing. But Palace aren’t doing well. They have failed to build on last season’s run to the Championship play-offs, and are now stuck in mid-table.
Jordan hasn’t managed to find a buyer for Palace since announcing he was prepared to sell last July, and manager Neil Warnock has had little to spend on players. Warnock has responded by bringing through several talented Academy youngsters into the first-team squad; notably right-back Nathaniel Clyne and striker Victor Moses.
Both impressed against Sheffield Wednesday at Hillsborough today, but neither side looked as if they’ll be going anywhere fast.
Then again, it was a poor game. So poor, that the Wednesday fans couldn’t even rouse themselves to give former Sheffield United manager Warnock much verbal abuse.
Even so, Palace should have won. Moses hit the post in the first half, left-back Clint Hill did the same with 20 minutes to go. But Palace started to drop deeper after losing on-loan centre-back Claude Davis to injury midway through the second half, and were caught out twice in the last 11 minutes.
First, midfielder Sean McAllister fired in from close range after Palace made a mess of defending Frank Simek’s long throw. Then, deep into stoppage time, Jermaine Johnson raced down the right and crossed low for Leon Clarke to steer a shot into the far corner.
Warnock, a lifelong Sheffield United fan who loves to get one over on Wednesday, looked gutted.
“Frustrated Palace boss Neil Warnock believes Palace turned a potential victory into defeat at Sheffield Wednesday,” reported the Advertiser’s website.
That was a fair assessment, given that Warnock’s first post-match comments were: “Well, we had to work hard to lose it, really, didn’t we?”
Wednesday boss Brian Laws, meanwhile, hailed his side’s makeshift defence, which featured the outstanding Richard Hinds – making only his second appearance since recovering from a broken leg – and the capable Simek making his return after a horrendous run with ankle and hamstring problems that have seen him play barely any football in 14 months.
“Even before the game, our back four was put together with some glue, sellotape and sticky back plastic,” he said.
“Richard Wood had to pull out before the game because he wasn’t quite what we wanted to be. We were very, very stretched. But having said that, we defending very well.”
Glue, sellotape and sticky back plastic, eh? Sounds like an idea for a new Palace kit, there. Only kidding, Simon…