BY ANDREW MCSTEEN
Anyone who has followed Crystal Palace since their return to the Premier League back in 2013 will be familiar with the phrase ‘safety first’.
All the managers since promotion – Ian Holloway, Keith Millen, Tony Pulis, Neil Warnock, Alan Pardew, Sam Allardyce, Frank de Boer and Roy Hodgson – have stressed the importance of securing top-flight status first before looking up the table. But with Patrick Vieira, that was never part of his thought process when joining the club.
“From my first day, I really believed in the potential of the squad, and we never talked about safety,” revealed Vieira to the South London Press ahead of their top 10 Premier League clash against Leicester on Sunday.
“There is a thin line between believing in the squad that we have and what we can achieve and putting something on that [rather] than just the minimum.
“We always talked about how we want to perform as a team and how, if we want to win football matches, we have to perform, and we have to play.
“Of course, there will be a time where you’re going to play well, and you’re not going to get rewarded with how well you’ve been playing. But I always believe that you have more chance of winning football matches if you play well.
“It wasn’t in my head to start the job talking about safety. This is something that I don’t have in my mind, and I don’t want players to have that in their mind.”
Vieira’s squad certainly do not have that in their mind, currently sitting in ninth in the Premier League table on 37 points, ahead of recent FA Cup winners and today’s opponents Leicester on goal difference.
And with just eight games to go, including the clash this afternoon, Vieira is challenging his squad, unbeaten in seven, in a FA Cup semi-final and with four successive clean sheets, to consolidate that spot.
“It’s about challenging ourselves,” added Vieira. “It’s about the team, about our organisation and about what we are doing on the field.
“The focus and emphasis is about how do we want to play the game? With the players that are shining and the players who are doing well, we managed to score goals; we managed to win games, and of course, the more games that we’ve been winning, the more you build the confidence and the belief of the team.”