“Woo-oo we’ve got Ollie Palmer, woo-oo he can’t win a header, woo-oo we’ve got him on a two-year deal.”
The song rang out around Gresty Road after a lacklustre first half display by City. Ollie Palmer was starting his third game in a row, but he was without a goal in ten games. As a team, we were struggling to find a shot on target, let alone a goal having drawn blanks against Crawley and Wimbledon. Another 45 shot-shy minutes had done nothing to appease the fans.
The second half was the stuff of dreams, four goals completely blew away any notion we couldn’t score. Crewe were beaten 4-1, Palmer went off without a goal on 74 minutes. Two games later Ollie lasted just 45 minutes of a woeful first half against Colchester. He’s not started a league game since.
Rewind to June or July, I forget which. I’m at Sincil Bank judging the Impvasion book on the same day a raft of new signings are announced. The first comes into the room we’re working in, a huge lad called Ollie Palmer. He stoops to get in the door and there’s not a single ounces of excess fat on him anywhere. Danny describes him as a fine physical specimen and I wouldn’t argue. I sure as hell wouldn’t argue with Ollie.
He made a debut of sorts in the match against Lincoln United and didn’t impress me with a lack of aerial ability. surely, for a big man, he should be dominant? I think we got off on the wrong foot, me and Ollie. Luckily, he didn’t know it otherwise I might have been in trouble. Anyone with a huge tattoo on his upper thigh is going to be a concern to me, if he kicks off.
Lets head back to Gresty Road and I’m belting out the rather derogatory song with the rest of the crowd. It isn’t abusive to the player, it’s a bit of fun. I didn’t have a problem with Ollie’s work rate, but he wasn’t for me. When he got on the ball it was head down and run at goal, no thought of team whatsoever. That’s all well and good if you’re Messi, but not when you’re a six-foot four striker in League Two. All too often it led to nothing. I was still carrying a bit of anger from the Chesterfield game at home, where Palmer could have squared for one of my favourite players, Matt Green, for a tap in. Instead he wriggled around a bit, lost the ball and Green’s goal drought continued.
In the last issue of A City United I ran an open apology to Ollie, I held my hand up that he wasn’t the player I’d hoped he might be because of his size, but his strengths were evident and I’d perhaps overlooked them. He’s certainly a handful from the bench, an impact player impossible to defend against. He has a knack of getting into the right place at the right time, Rochdale being a case point. It might have been a tap in he scored to win the game, but he had to be there to tap it in. By then I’d warmed a little to Ollie, I didn’t hold him as a scapegoat for other failings. For my sins, I think I made Ollie accountable for our goal drought, thoroughly unfair on my part.
Yesterday, after scoring a wonderful finish with the outside of his boot at Chesterfield, the fans called his name in an altogether different way to earlier in the season. He’s gone full circle, from a figure of fun to a serious fan favourite. That tends to happen when you score late goals against two local teams in succession, especially when one of them is a great strike and the other snatches a draw from the jaws of defeat. His passionate celebration earned him a yellow card, perhaps foolish but if he’s fined it is one that each and every one of us would happily chip in to cover. Yesterday, Ollie Palmer arrived.
Some argue he’s been that way all season, I know I’m not alone in my belief he’s been walking a road to redemption, I know plenty who suggested he might leave in January. He put paid to that with a warm and relatable interview early in the month, stating he was staying put whether we wanted him or not. In truth, whenever he’s got a microphone in front of him he comes across as a decent bloke, grounded and humble.
I’ve felt bad that I seem to have been labelled as an Ollie hater, hate is such a strong word and one I don’t like to use anymore and I never label a player and stick by that decision. Football is a fluid game, always changing and that gives scope for changing of opinions. Anyone who keeps the same opinion about everything to do with the game, all of the time, isn’t a proper scholar of football. I love to be proved wrong and should I see something that changes my mind, I’ll always do so and hold my hands up. I did that in the magazine last month and I’m underlining it right now.
I don’t believe Ollie has the same impact from the start of the game, much as he won’t want to be labelled as a ‘super-sub’ I really believe that is what he is. When he gets thirty minutes at the end of a game, the unpredictable nature of his approach makes things lively and interesting. You never quite know what he’s going to do or how he’ll impact proceedings, but as the days roll by he’s becoming more effective. Yesterday’s goal, in context of the game, meant very little. We would have won 2-1, in theory, but it settled the lads down, it gave us a nice cushion and secured the final period. It was also incredibly well taken, showed nice posture and poise as well as a predatory instinct.
I get it now. I get Ollie Palmer. I identify with him, I see the human side, a decent man with proper family values and a desire to play football. He seems committed and passionate, not the best footballer we have at the club, but effective and worthy of wearing the shirt. When he used to come on for the final ten minutes I’d turn to my Dad and shake my head, once even likening him to Drewe Broughton. I was wrong. Now, when I hear he’s coming on I perk up, wondering which Ollie we’ll get, wondering exactly what he’s going to do. I imagine he’s wondering the same thing, such is his approach to the game.
Thank you Ollie, the red and white suits you and long may you continue surprising fans, opposition players and perhaps sometimes even yourself.