Perhaps one of the more head-turning managerial switches of recent times is that of the ever-controversial Alan Pardew, who swapped from premier league top half side Newcastle United to relegation battlers Crystal Palace. The surprising yet admirable transfer has shot off to the perfect start for managerial veteran Pardew- recording a perfect 3 wins out of 3 in his opening games in charge of the London club. One player Pardew has to thank particularly is the application of in-form forward Dwight Gayle who has netted his 3rd successive goal under Pardew’s leadership in Palace’s weekend 3-2 comeback victory over fellow relegation strugglers Burnley.
Gayle started his footballing education in the youth system at Arsenal before being released as teenager. The Londoner then dropped down to the 9th tier of English football joining Stansted of the Essex Senior League. Unsurprisingly it didn’t take Gayle long to climb up the footballing ladder, joining Dagenham and Redbridge and then Peterborough United after a successful loan spell. Gayle then signed a 4 year contract for current side and newly promoted Palace in 2013, for an Undisclosed fee rumoured to be around £4.5M. Gayle really started to find his feet in the EPL towards the end of last season after injuries had disrupted his playing time, most notably scoring 2 goals in Palace’s 3-3 draw against Liverpool in which the Eagles had been trailing 3-0, effectively ending Liverpool’s title challenge. A couple more goals followed against Fulham leaving him Palace’s top goalscorer that season despite his lack of appearances. In August 2014 the flamboyant attacker netted his first Palace hat-trick in a League cup tie against Walsall.
So far this season Gayle had notched an impressive 10 goals, with numbers 9 and 10 coming in Saturday’s relegation 6 pointer, along with an assist for another one of Palace’s stand out players Jason Puncheon, who scored his 2nd successive goal under Pardew. Ben Mee had given Burnley an early lead with a headed goal from a corner, then Danny Ings finished smartly after some good work from Scott Arfield keeping the ball in play which left Pardew and co furious appealing for a foul. Gayle then finished coolly with a hard and low effort through a crowd of bodies to pull Palace back into the match midway through the first half. Gayle then tee’d up Puncheon who burst past a couple of players into space and dispatched a right footed effort along the ground inch perfect in Tom Heaton’s right hand post to level the scores just before the hour mark. The game remained tied until the last few minutes when Gayle cleverly brought down a diagonal cross in the box and showed an iron nerve and instinct to finish confidently on his left foot sealing all 3 points for the team from Selhurst Park.
An England call up may still be a little way off yet for Dwight Gayle but what is for sure is that for Crystal Palace to survive, Gayle will have to emulate his form for the remainder of the season. Pardew must first of all hold on his front-man in the January window- but after that, who knows what’s in store the 25 year old, expect bigger and better things.