Steve Parish has been surprised by the quality of football which Crystal Palace have played under Patrick Vieira – and hailed Jean-Philippe Mateta’s revival at the club as a “fantastic story.”
The Eagles secured their 10th consecutive season in the Premier League last Saturday following a 1-0 win against Roy Hodgson’s Watford side and have picked up victories against Manchester City, Arsenal and Tottenham throughout the Frenchman’s first campaign in charge.
Palace are in the top 10 of the Premier League with three games remaining and reached the FA Cup semi-final, losing to Thomas Tuchel’s Chelsea.
Vieira replaced Hodgson in the summer after the ex-England manager stepped aside following four years in charge at Selhurst Park.
The Eagles spent more than £60million to refurbish the squad and brought in Marc Guehi, Joachim Andersen, Will Hughes, Michael Olise and Odsonne Edouard. They also signed Conor Gallagher on a season-long loan.
Speaking to the press after the End of Season Awards in Croydon on Tuesday evening, Parish said that “the way we have played – not so much the results” had exceeded his expectations.
“I had every faith in the players we were recruiting, and we worked long and hard on that. We were all of a single mind but executing them and getting all the ones we wanted is pretty unique in a transfer window.
“We accept there was a bit of luck in that – we’re not pretending we are geniuses. Every now and then, things go against you.
“Over a period of time, I got more and more comfortable with Patrick coming in and being the manager, so I thought we’d do okay. The people writing us off, I have no animosity with, because I can understand why they did it – you look at lots of changes, a new manager and lots of young players, but it was never my concern.
“What surprised me was some of the football we’ve played, and again, all the managers we’ve had have done brilliant jobs for us, with the resources they have had.
“We’ve played in a way we needed to play to do what we needed to do, so there is no criticism at all about anyone who has managed the club, but [it’s great] to watch us outpass quality teams and keep the ball.
“As a chairman, when you don’t have much of the ball, and you’re down to 30 per cent possession, that is why you are on the edge of your seat most of the game. It [possession] doesn’t always mean you end up with different outcomes, but it is much more enjoyable to watch, and the fans have responded well to it as well.
“When we go behind in games, we don’t feel like we are down and out, you feel we can come back, and when we go ahead, you think it will be really difficult for the opposition.”
The second half of the season has seen French forward Mateta become the focal point of the side.
The 24-year-old, who joined on a permanent deal in the winter window after Palace managed to renegotiate a lower fee than initially agreed with his former club Mainz, has scored five goals in all competitions since the 3-0 win against Norwich in late December.
“If we can get a little bit more clinical and if some of the boys can get another year of football and get used to the Premier League, you have seen how people like Mateta have grown this season,” added Parish.
“He is a fantastic story and doesn’t get enough mention. If we are honest, when he first arrived, probably people were unsure, but he has worked so hard and makes the best of every attribute he has got.
“Any footballer who wants to watch somebody who has always got a positive mental attitude on the pitch and is encouraging people, spurring people on, keeps running and trying – he is a model professional. He does loads of extra work, is always looking to improve himself.
“Every year is difficult, and every year in the Premier League, there is a new story. We have got Leeds, Everton and Burnley fighting relegation, which is mind-blowing to me because their squads are good, their teams are good, and they are well-managed, so every year is tough.
“We will at least take some time to enjoy what we have achieved this year and all the great performances. We’ll try to finish really strongly and see if we can’t make ourselves better in the close season.”
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