Back from the Brink
The Old Enemy
Standing on the edge of greatness
Back on 20th February 1992, twenty of the top teams in England came together to form what would later go on to become the most-watched and lucrative footballing league in the world. The illustrious history of the English game speaks for itself, and since that time the landscape of football has constantly changed and evolved.
As a consequence, teams like Coventry, Ipswich, Nottingham Forest and Blackburn have been relegated to the recesses of the lower divisions, and in the case of Wimbledon, even changed their name to MK Dons in 2004.
Among those founders is Crystal Palace, a club with an illustrious history that boasts some of the most passionate and lively fans in England. Despite never winning a trophy, the grit and determination of this club is palpable, typified by a record holding the most wins in a playoff final – until Blackpool usurped that title earlier this year.
Say what you will about the Premier Leaguer and La Liga though, anyone with knowledge of the EFL will tell you that the Championship is not only the hardest league in the world, it’s also the most exciting and unpredictable.
Many of the teams in this second division have had a stint in the Premier League, or have a long history that includes bursts of brilliance while up there. Some teams even managed to solidify a reputation for yoyoing their way up and down the two leagues. Through all of that though, Crystal Palace have always been on the cusp of greatness and never quite fulfilled their true potential.
Back in 2010, Crystal Palace faced an unprecedented moment in their history. They were close to going into administration and needed a buyer to avoid the whole club being disbanded. After narrowly avoiding relegation after a disastrous 10 point deduction, lifelong supporter Steve Parish formed a consortium to prevent it from going out of business.
What followed is a remarkable journey of a phoenix rising from the ashes, with exclusive footage captured between 2010-2013, with specific emphasis on the incredible 12-13 season the eagles experienced. All of this is split across 5 episodes, ranging from 40 minutes up to around an hour. The season covers all aspects of the club’s running, with honest interviews from many of the club’s instrumental drivers for success.
Dougie Freedman and Ian Holloway lend their views on the management side of things, while Yannick Bolasie and Wilfried Zaha reflect on their creative flair and ability to carve open defences on a regular basis.
The real star here though is Damien Delaney, who reflects passionately on his journey from club hell to club heaven, becoming instrumental to Crystal Palace’s season of success in 2013. I won’t go into details if you’re unaware of the outcome, but there are several goosebump-inducing moments that you can’t help but get emotionally invested in – regardless of who you support. Unless you’re a Brighton supporter of course!
As someone who lives about 20 minutes away from Brighton, the rivalry between the Seagulls and Crystal Palace is well known down here and it definitely gets a lot of coverage in this docu-series. It also helps that some of its origins are explored too, explaining just why these two clubs have such a heated and intense match-up on the pitch.
There’s a lot of in-game action shown here, with some slick montages during the middle chapters. One example comes in episode 3, with multiple TV screens slowly panning across to highlight the different results Palace managed to cook up across the year. It’s a clever way of quickly showing a lot of different games – and there’s no denying that the Championship has a lot of games that come thick and fast.
Football is ultimately a sport driven by emotion and big, career-defining moments. Crystal Palace’s journey from financial ruin to promotion-chasing contenders is one of those David VS Goliath moments and it’s undoubtedly a moment many Palace fans will have fond memories of.
This documentary does an excellent job capturing that and all the highs and lows along the way. Any football fans should definitely check this out.
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Verdict - 8.5/10