Having been one half of the club’s greatest ever strike partnership and now a club ambassador, Mark Bright has Crystal Palace running through his veins.
But it’s not just the Eagles ‘Brighty’ covers in a wide-ranging and exclusive interview with news.bwin. England’s chances in the Euros, the progress of his home-town-team Stoke City and his unhappiness with the ownership at Sheffield Wednesday are all discussed as one of Britain’s most outspoken pundits has his say ahead of the season.
Mark Bright: Crystal Palace should be targeting Cup glory this season
Crystal Palace’s form under Alan Pardew towards the end of last season, coupled with the fanatical Selhurst Park crowd, has resulted in a buoyant atmosphere forming over south east London and Bright shed some light on expectations for the campaign ahead.
“A cup win, be it the FA Cup or League Cup, is well-within our reach. You only have to look at Stoke City and Wigan to see this is the case and with our history in the competition it would be great to do that for the fans and I think Alan’s happiest playing memories came from the cup, so he knows how magic that can be.”
“In terms of league ambition, over 50 points would represent real progress. We don’t want to be in that group of clubs looking behind us, we’re looking forward. I don’t want to burden the club with expectation, so I’m going to say European football is a tall order at this stage in our development. That said, players like Yohan Cabaye show our ambition to get in amongst the European playing field and the fans have lots of reasons to be excited.
Mark Bright: Puncheon’s versatility gives him England hope
With a few questionable call-ups in recent friendlies and qualifying squads over the summer, Jason Puncheon – one of last year’s best performing Englishmen according to OPTA – has reason to be disappointed at being overlooked by Roy Hodgson. With Euro 2016 on the horizon, Bright believes it is not just Jason Puncheon who Roy should be looking at.
“Jason’s versatility could be his biggest asset in terms of getting in that Euros squad. Roy likes versatility as we’ve seen with Phil Jones and James Milner, Jason can play on both sides and through the middle in the number 10 role and that’s a great asset for a tournament squad. My only concern is who comes out? If Sterling, Oxlade-Chamberlain and Walcott are all fit, I think he’ll struggle – but if he has a quality season, coupled with some injuries to others, he’s got every chance.
“Roy likes coming to Palace and enjoys the vibrancy, so our boys will have their chance to impress. Scott Dann is another who is in with a chance. England don’t have his position as well covered, so why not? He’s got the ability to have a great season and he’s a natural leader who is playing regularly. Again, great qualities to have in a tournament squad.”
Mark Bright: Stoke City in for an interesting season
Hailing from Stoke-on-Trent, Mark always keeps an eye out for The Potters and believes their new signings and new approach could make them one of the Premier League’s surprise packages this season.
“Stoke City are in a really interesting stage of their development. I think a lot of people wrote them off after Pulis left, but they’ve shown great adaptability to take on a new style and they should be targeting a top half finish at least, or maybe more.
“The key to their success is getting new signings to blend with their core, but still improve the squad. I think if you look at their transfer policy, they’re determined to do just that and if they keep on raising their own standards, I think they’ll do very well this season.”
Mark Bright: Jose Mourinho is Chelsea’s 12th man
Looking at the top half of the Premier League, Bright is convinced one man is the deciding factor – Jose Mourinho.
“If Jose Mourinho was in charge of the personnel that Arsenal or Manchester City have, they would win the Premier League, I think he’s that good. He never loses to the top teams and puts the win above everything else with his tactics. You’ll never hear a Chelsea fan say they play boring football – it’s winning football.
“If I had to pick a top four for this season it is Chelsea, Arsenal, Manchester City and Manchester United – I think Manchester City’s problems with Pellegrini will cost them this year.”
Mark Bright: Sheffield Wednesday’s owners have bought the club and are making the fans pay for it
Whereas Bright has nothing but praise for Mourinho, the same cannot be said of Sheffield Wednesday owner Dejphon Chansiri whose decision to raise ticket prices at Hillsborough has been met with dismay by the fans and Bright agrees;
“To be honest, it’s a very disappointing situation. Sheffield Wednsday is an amazing club with quality support and now they are being caned by the ownership. There have been a lot of big promises, but they are making the fans pay to fulfil them rather than investing straight into the team.
“It is not an affluent area and these people love and are committed to the club, so to charge them Premier League prices to get into a Championship game is wrong.”
Mark Bright: England arrogance means they ‘no chance’ in the Euros
With a European tournament comes expectation and England have heightened expectations with a 100% win rate in the group stages so far. However, Bright is certainly not buying into the hype and highlights English arrogance as the main issue.
“We haven’t got a chance of winning – we are a quarter-final team, semi-finals at best. There’s no denying we have the talent available, but keeping them all fit at the same time seems impossible and the pressure and expectation to perform is unbearable and always proves too much.
“We need to start treating ourselves as underdogs. We go into tournaments and international football in general with a bit too much arrogance and it makes other teams want to beat us. I have no doubt that other nationalities raise their game more against the English than they do against the likes of France and Holland. These are the players they see every week in the Premier League and want to bring them down a peg or two.”