In the opening passages of ‘When Eagles Dare’, the excellent documentary about Crystal Palace, chairman Steve Parish reflects on the struggles the club he supported as a boy has had to establish themselves in the Premier League.
“In the early 90s,” he said. “If you went to Selhurst Park and Highbury, you wouldn’t have had a different experience. We were in the same stratosphere. But we never seemed to grasp the moment.”
Such a comparison between Palace and Arsenal is a bit of a stretch given the respective histories of the two London clubs.
However, this season comparisons and contrasts will feel unavoidable.
Patrick Vieira is listed at number four on the list of Arsenal’s greatest players on the Gunners’ own website. But now he is a rival.
After spells with the Manchester City development team, New York City in Major League Soccer and Nice in France, the 45-year-old has returned to the Premier League as Palace’s new manager.
On Saturday, his first game in charge ended in a 1-0 friendly win at Walsall, Wilfried Zaha scoring the only goal.
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‘Blank sheet of paper’
Vieira looked purposeful and business-like throughout but also found time to pose for a selfie with a steward and sign some autographs.
He maintained that relaxed air for most of the first half.
It was 33 minutes before he left his seat in the dug-out – for a word with Zaha, who was on that side of the pitch – which suggested he was using those 45 minutes as an assessment of the strength of his established squad.
After half-time, when the entire Palace team was changed and given a far more youthful look, Vieira was a regular presence.