Why is Jason Puncheon locked in the Crystal Palace dungeon?
By Rockybiggs (CC BY-SA 4.0)
Crystal Palace midfielder Jason Puncheon has endured a bad year on and off the pitch. He suffered a serious knee injury at the start of 2018, was found guilty of assault when the season came to a close. He was nearly forced out of the club the following campaign, has endured a lack of playing time at Selhurst Park after the move away eventually broke down, and now finds his career at Selhurst Park in tatters.
Out of favour under Hodgson
At the start of last season (2017/18), Puncheon was Palace captain and a regular under Frank De Boer until the Eagles boss was sacked after losing his first four games in charge. His replacement, Roy Hodgson, kept faith with Puncheon until the 32-year-old skippered Palace to a 5-0 defeat against Manchester City and a 4-0 defeat to Manchester United a week later.
The midfielder lost his spot in the side, was replaced by the fit-again Wilfried Zaha, and would be handed just three more league appearances for the remainder of the season – failing to score or make an assist in his ten league outings. Being frozen out of the side should have served as a wake-up call to Puncheon, as the Englishman featured in 138 of Palace’s 152 league games in his first four seasons but has managed only 12 in the last 18 months.
It wasn’t all his fault, however, as the attacker ruptured his cruciate ligament in January 2018 and spent the remainder of the campaign recovering. A combination of poor form before his injury, where he scored and assisted just five league goals since May 2016, and a lack of match fitness always meant Puncheon would have a tough task reclaiming a starting place at Palace, but his off-field conduct killed any chance of a reprieve.
Assault charge was final nail in the coffin
Just weeks before pre-season, Puncheon was found guilty of assault in a nightclub on December 2017, having used his belt to whip a bouncer and fellow partygoers he was arguing with. Hodgson wanted little to do with the midfielder and attempted to loan him out to Middlesbrough before the summer transfer window shut. Puncheon opted to stay, but his situation remains precarious at Selhurst Park.
The Englishman has made just two league appearances this season, racking up two minutes of playing time. He’s featured in every EFL Cup game as captain but has had to be patient for opportunities in the league. Puncheon has been an unused substitute in nine of Palace’s last 12 games and may have a difficult decision to make on his future in January.
Puncheon’s last season at Palace?
Signed from Southampton in January 2014, Puncheon has gone on to make 166 appearances in all competitions, scoring and creating 38 goals. He’s been a good servant for the club but could be on his way out in one of the next two transfer windows.
The 32-year-old is out of contract next summer and looks unlikely to be handed an extension, so he may be open to leaving Palace in January to get himself more playing time, or he could wait until the season comes to a close before departing. He’s sure to be given a good send off from supporters, but 2018 won’t be year he’ll want to remember.