Crystal Palace: Why the Eagles Can Stay in the Premier League Next Season

Ryan Bailey@ryanjaybaileyFeatured ColumnistJune 28, 2013

On the final day of the 2004-05 Premier League season, Crystal Palace needed a victory at south London rivals Charlton to survive their first top-flight campaign since 1998.

With eight minutes to go, the dream was still alive until Charlton equalized, helping West Brom become the first Premiership team to survive after being at rock bottom on Christmas.

Eight seasons after losing that heartbreaking dogfight, the Eagles are back in the big time, after getting the better of Gianfranco Zola's Watford in the Championship Play-Off Final.

The mood in Croydon is buoyant. Palace are close to selling out their season tickets, having sold nearly twice the amount they managed last season.

Defender Peter Ramage seems confident of survival, insisting they've got "as good a chance as any other team that's gone up" in an interview quoted by Soccerway.

And in his Mirror column, manager Ian Holloway says he is "much better prepared for the Premier League" than he was when he guided minnows Blackpool through the 2010-11 season.

There are plenty of reasons why Eagles fans should feel they have a fighting chance at staying up.

The last two teams to win the Championship Play-Off Final—West Ham and Swansea—have stayed up, with both managing a top-half finish last season.

In fact, of the last five Championship Play-Off winners, only Blackpool and Burnley failed to stay up the following season. Unlike Palace, they were both Premier League newbies, punching well above their weight.

While the bookmakers expect the three promoted teams to immediately drop down, Holloway and Co. will be encouraged by the fact that six of the last nine promoted teams have stayed up.

The Eagles are currently the 4/9 favorites to drop with the bookies—a damning indictment that will surely inspire Ollie to prove the doubters wrong.

Holloway might just be Palace's greatest asset in the fight. Aside from all the goodwill the hilarious Bristolian garners from his peers, he boasts recent experience of trying to stop a small side from  becoming a one-hit wonder.

In 2010-11, his Blackpool side were minutes away from surviving, earning a tally of 39 points. In every other season in the past 10 years, this would have been enough to guarantee safety.

Having earned a promotion worth a reported £120 million, Palace now find themselves at a crossroads.

Do they invest in facilities to safeguard the long-term prospects of the club, or do they throw the dice and spend their way to safety in the transfer market?

In this writer's opinion, they must take the gamble and strengthen the squad. Quite simply, Palace will need to score goals to stay up.

Last season, they relied far too heavily on striker Glenn Murray, who managed 31 goals and six assists. The next biggest scorers were precocious winger Wilfried Zaha, who only found the net eight times, and Kevin Phillips, who scored seven.

Wilf is now a Manchester Utd player, Murray's knee injury may keep him out of the game until Christmas, and Phillips is pushing 40.

Furthermore, there is no guarantee that Murray will take to the Premier League in the manner of Rickie Lambert or Grant Holt, and he will need an understudy for the first half of the season regardless.

Holloway doesn't need to spend eight-figure sums to stay up. He just needs to spend smart and look carefully at the loan market. In this respect, both West Ham and Swansea can be used as positive examples.

Last summer, The Hammers dumped 19 players from their Championship squad and brought in 11 new faces, including James Collins, Mohamed Diame and Andy Carroll. Of those first-team regulars, only Collins actually cost them any money.

In their first season up, Swansea invested in the likes of Michel Vorm and Danny Graham. The following season, they spent much more and strengthened the squad further, including the acquisition of some chap named Michu.

According to the Daily Mail, Palace are already looking to improve their goalscoring chances with the signings of Peterborough striker Dwight Gayle and West Brom's Jerome Thomas.

There's also a glimmer of hope that Zaha may be loaned back to the club, depending on whether he features in David Moyes' plans next season.

It sounds obvious, but with goals, Crystal Palace will stay up. With some smart loans and shrewd transfer activity, Ollie can keep the Eagles flying high.