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Fan Focus - The Eagles Beak Talk SAFC v Crystal Palace

To get a Palace perspective on Saturdays match, we spoke to Donogh Hurley from The Eagles Beak. Donogh fills us in on what's happened to Connor Wickham, whether or not Pards is still the right man for Selhurst dugout and how they'll approach this weekend's game.

When we spoke last season I was asking you about how Alan Pardew was taking you through a rough patch. A cup final to finish off last season and two league wins in a row this season - he seems to have weathered that particular storm. Happy with him still at the helm, then?

The sense is that he has come through the storm, but only just. Good performances at Boro and Stoke have managed to finally restore some calm to the stands, and alleviate, for now, worries about the months ahead. I think there is still a lot of caginess though. So bad was the run of form last year, along with some of the early season performances, that it is still fresh in a lot of supporters minds. As long as Palace are winning and playing well, fans will be happy. What is key for Pardew now is to show that he has the ideas to make Palace the solid mid-table/top-half side that most believe they can and should be, particularly with the significant investment we have seen in the squad.

Christian Benteke, Andros Townsend, Steve Mandanda, James Tompkins and Loic Remy (who has since gone back to Chelsea) certainly meant it was a summer of big business for Palace. Are you satisfied with your dealings, even when taking into account the loss of Yannick Bolasie?

It was a real statement of intent from the American investors by first breaking our transfer record to secure Townsend, and then later smashing it to pieces to land Benteke.

Benteke so far looks like the striker that we have been screaming for since the days of Glenn Murray scoring for fun in the Championship. Townsend really announced himself to Palace last week against Stoke, as did Tomkins with a debut goal, and Mandanda's performance against Boro and some fine saves against Bournemouth have demonstrated his outstanding quality so far.

Losing a player of Bolasie's ability was a blow, but with that £30million fee from Everton being wired straight back to their neighbours on Merseyside for Benteke's services, we've done well. We've added a lot of quality to the squad, and have come a long way since Florian Marange and Emmanuel Adebayor!

Former Sunderland man Connor Wickham seems to have plummeted down the pecking order at Selhurst, what's going on there?

Connor Wickham is an interesting one as to his credit, he hasn't done that badly when played. Ultimately though, he simply doesn't score enough goals. Palace play at their best in a system with one up top and while his hold up play, work-rate and ability to bring players in to the game is decent, his goal rate is what stands out. Injuries haven't helped him. He missed a huge chunk of games just after the start of last season, and then another shorter spell in the New Year.  A brace against West Brom in the league last season and that great header against Watford in the Cup Semi Final were moments where he showed his top level quality. But they're exactly that - moments. He definitely has a future at Palace, but just needs to show that he can be more clinical when given the chance.

Palace have only kept one clean sheet so far this season, although you haven't exactly been leaking goals all over the shop in fairness. Even so, could Jermain Defoe be in for an enjoyable afternoon if we actually provide him with some service?

It's fair to say Jermain Defoe would cause any team problems if he can get the service, and that seems to be Sunderland's problem. Steve Mandanda has been required on more than one occasion to demonstrate his huge ability, and I expect no different against Sunderland. Although the 4-1 hammering of Stoke last week on paper looked like a breeze, Palace at times still looked shaky at the back, and any team but Stoke would have punished us with the guilt edge chances that were on a plate for them. Defoe certainly would have.

Off the pitch, people like to give your 'ultras' a bit of stick. Personally I think any supporters who are making an effort to get a good, positive atmosphere going deserve credit. Do you have any strong opinions on them either way?

Any group of supporters actively doing their bit to generate atmosphere in a stadium need to be commended, if they do it in the right way. How many grounds, especially new builds, across the country are static, lifeless and soulless? The HF/Ultras do great work, and put a lot of time and effort into some great displays throughout the season, but there is more to the atmosphere at Selhurst than just them. In the Arthur Wait Stand alongside the Ultras, there is an equal if not greater number of supporters keen to drum up atmosphere and singing regularly. The misconception from non-Palace is that it stems just from the that corner of the ground. It's a collective effort at Selhurst. But anyone moaning about people making an effort to create atmosphere at grounds should probably seek out a different past-time.

As I've mentioned Defoe, anyone you're worried about in Sunderland ranks aside from him?

It is hard to pick someone out, outside of Defoe. Before Januzaj lost his head last week, he might have been one with enough quality to produce something for Defoe to get on the end of. Hopefully Jordan Pickford has exhausted his full quota of worldies last week and will be a bit more penetrable than he was at White Hart Lane. Palace won last week on the strength of their midfield performance, so Jan Kirchhoff having a quiet one would play in to our hands also.

How will Pards approach the game and how do you think he'll line the team up?

As you were. Palace looked good last week, particularly in midfield, so Pardew is very unlikely to ring the changes. We'll play with pace on the wings, creativity through Puncheon in midfield, and look to supply Benteke with balls to play to his strengths. If all goes to plan, expect Papy Djilobodji to have another nightmare for you at the back!

Can we have a prediction as well?

2-1 Palace.

Thanks to Donogh for his time.You can follow him on Twitter and check out The Eagles Beak on their website.