I’ve been sober now for just over six weeks. I’m well and I’m putting more effort in mentally. It’s helping me. If I’m not feeling so good, I’m taking time to think about it. I’m not thinking about going to the off-licence! So my health is going very very well.
It’s also great for me to be back at Palace on match days. As I said on my Life Story DVD, I was so pleased to join Palace as a kid. It’s a special football club and they are very good to me. It makes me feel great when the fans are so pleased to see me. The club and fans know my problems and they make me feel so welcome. I’m their hero and people are very appreciative, it makes me feel very happy.
I’ve been to all the Palace home games so far this season and I’m honest before games about what I think will happen. It’s hard to predict results, when people ask me, as I don’t think we have played to our full ability. Afterwards, I do a post-match talk in the restaurant Speroni’s. The audience is the hospitality fans, maybe 80% Palace fans, 20% the other team.
I was given some paper after the Swansea defeat and it was suggested to me that I write down positive things. There wasn’t much positive to say, so I held up two blank pieces of paper. That got a laugh! I was just being honest. Fans don’t usually get upset too quickly, but they know when the team and individuals are not playing well. You can tell that the Palace players are not happy.
I know the game, I look at the players and I can tell that they don’t look as if they know what they are doing. Only two years ago, Leicester players had a grin on their face. To make 11 happy is not an easy job. Palace don’t look a happy team and so every side playing against them will fancy their chances. I know the Palace fans, I know how they feel.
In the Huddersfield game, 3-0 sounds a bad result, 3-2 might have been fairer. It wasn’t a 3-0 game, but at least Palace came out fighting in the second half. The other games have been a lot poorer. I sit next to Jim Cannon and we can see the simple things the players are not doing, which is frustrating.
It’s important that Frank de Boer listens to his coaches. At times like this, you need your coaches to have an opinion, people who will tell you the truth. If I am the manager and my coach says “Ken, you’ve got to play four at the back” and then I play three at the back, then I’m not listening. You need to listen to the people around you. That is a massive thing in football.
I honestly believe de Boer must play two up front and get the ball in the box. At times, Benteke has had balls coming in and four defenders to deal with. You need people in the box. Two strikers and a midfielder coming in too. You’ve got to have two strikers that you can aim for.
There’s an old saying in football: ‘go back to the simple things’. Say to your winger, “I want you putting in ten crosses, that’s your job. Strikers: get into the box and get on the end of the crosses, that’s your job”. Strikers must cause their defenders problems. Don’t give their defenders the day off. “Defenders: don’t let them get their crosses in.” Goalkeepers, must shout “Keeper’s!”, so the defence knows it’s their ball. You go back to basics. Everyone must do their job.
The game of football is an individual game: if I don’t do my job, I can’t help my teammates. If everyone is doing their job, that is when you become a team. If you have two or three that aren’t doing their job, that’s when they don’t perform. In a pub, if all of your bar staff are doing their job, you will take a lot of money! I’m concerned for Palace. Hopefully with the internationals on, the other players can come in and work on things, like tactics. It’s massive for everyone at the club. Something has to change. They can’t keep performing like that. Everyone at the club feels it, everyone is involved.
With Arsenal, at the minute, like Palace, nobody knows what is happening. At Liverpool, it could have been 6-0 without Cech. Poor Sanchez was having to come back and try to get the ball from the centre-halves. Giroud only came on late, but at least he was chasing around. Ramsey? What was he doing? You have to put effort in, every game, against any team. We certainly didn’t defend well. You have to give Liverpool credit, but I’ve never seen Arsene Wenger biting his nails quite like that. I’ve never seen him so worried.
With all the players that want to leave Arsenal, you don’t get a good feeling about the whole club. It doesn’t look like happy times, which is a big worry for the fans. As an ex-player, you can see that something is wrong there. Coaches, players, owners, it’s a team game. Like Palace, Arsenal have to get together, then you have more possibilities to get a resolution to whatever is going wrong. Get together as a group and thrash it out.
When George Graham came in, we worked on the defence every Thursday. “If you don’t concede, you don’t lose”. Arsene Wenger inherited very good players. The back five, as a group of players, were very good players. Before them, I was in the back five with Tony Adams, David O’Leary and Viv Anderson. They’d know how many sugars I had in a cup of tea. We knew each other and sometimes when I watch games now I look at some players and think “you don’t know each other”. You need ability, but knowing each other helps success.
It’s an international week coming up and England are in a great position. We’ve got Malta away and Slovakia at home. With Slovakia playing Slovenia, two wins would put us well on the road to qualifying for the World Cup. With Malta, everyone expects us to win, so we must put the right team out and win. The manager should think “this is my best team, I know that they will win”. Play Malta first, don’t think about Slovakia. Monday’s game against them is like a year away.
Beat Malta first, impress doing that, then think about Slovakia. Southgate needs to pick a very good team and know that they will win. I think it would be nice for Southgate to say things like that, all positive thoughts and a positive team. Then the players get the win and look to Slovakia. “Get the job done – and then you can have, well, nice of cups of tea!”
It’s a smashing position for us. This is where you need the manager to be the manager. We can’t have nonsense like we had against Iceland. You’ve got to go with your best team, in both games. We should win in Malta, of course, but pick your best players from the start. Keep the team that you can see can play the best for their country, in each game. You can make some changes once you’re winning, but play your best team from the start, don’t keep changing the side. Everyone expects us to beat Malta, but we’d get slaughtered by the press if we don’t. And we don’t want to get slaughtered by Malta!
As told to Simon Rose