Scott Dann: Seven years of the perfect professional 
 (Photo by Matthew Childs - Getty Images)

In Scott Dann’s seven-year stay in south east London, his committed performances, authoritative leadership skills and courageous winning mentality have been pivotal aspects of the Eagles’ top-flight status.   

It was the last day of the 2013/14 January transfer window and Tony Pulis required reinforcements to strengthen his army ahead of the battle of Premier League survival which Crystal Palace were poised to experience.   

Joe Ledley, Wayne Hennessey, Tom Ince, Jason Puncheon and Scott Dann arrived, all playing a role in carrying the Eagles to a momentous 11th place finish come the end of the melee of fixtures.   

Ultimately, Tom Ince was a disappointment, failing to dazzle Palace fans into a frenzy in a similar vein to the man he replaced, Wilfried Zaha.

As for Joe Ledley and Jason Puncheon, two players who are championed for their commitment to the club, both would look for a fresh challenge following their loss of a regular first team spot.

Despite Wayne Hennessey still being a Crystal Palace player, his intermittent performances opened the door for Vicente Guaita to become the undisputed first choice.   

Seven years, five managers, and three short innings in the hot-seat from Keith Millen later, Scott Dann remains an indispensable stalwart of the Crystal Palace squad.  

At 33-years-old, he remains a tenacious, constant, central component of the south Londoners’ Premier League success.  

Becoming a fan favourite   

Signed from Blackburn Rovers for a fee in the region of £2.5 million, the centre back rapidly established himself as one of the mandatory names on the team sheet, forming an indestructible, durable relationship alongside Damien Delaney.  

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The pair would keep five clean sheets in the final ten games of the season to help the club to the aforementioned 11th place finish at the first time of asking.   

Despite the core of the club rocked to its foundations after Tony Pulis departed 48 hours prior to the first game of the 2014/15 season, it was reassuring for the Palace faithful that a dependable character, such as Dann, was one of the remaining pillars who would keep the Eagles standing tall as they went into the unknown of their second season in the top-flight.   

Dann’s determined performances during the 2014/15 campaign, in a defence built around his instinctive timing for a tackle, his innate reading of the game and his intimidating attacking threat from a set piece, saw the centre back pick up the Player of the Year award, as the Eagles soared to a Premier League top-10 finish.   

Fending off interest and becoming club captain  

Dann’s Premier League natural ability had not gone unnoticed. Everton, who finished below Palace that season, presented Ronald Koeman with a war chest to break the establishment and take the club to the next level. The former Barcelona and Dutch international centre back recognised Dann's prowess and saw him as the seamless fit to replace the outgoing John Stones on Merseyside.  

In order to keep at bay any potential suitors, Palace rewarded Dann, who had become the main backbone and the organisational leader of the team, with a new five-year contract at Selhurst Park.   

Dann was his ever-consistent, exceptional self in the first full season under Alan Pardew. It was a season where his defensive initiative was equally matched by the aerial threat that he posed in the opposition box. Dann’s crucial goals against Liverpool, Everton, Swansea and Aston Villa earned the Eagles vital points in their fight for survival.   

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He would finish the 2015/16 campaign as the highest scoring defender in the Premier League, and Palace’s second highest goalscorer, with Dann’s five goals only two behind striker, Dwight Gayle, making up for the constant failures of the forwards. 

Picking up the Players' Player of the Year award at the end of the season, Dann’s reliable exploits meant there were external voices who called for a deserved England call-up.   

Now de facto club captain, as Mile Jedinak found game time hard to come by under Pardew, Dann flawlessly commanded a resolute leadership role in the squad, playing a pivotal part in Palace’s FA Cup assault.  

Despite losing in the final to Manchester United, and although clouded at the time by the heartbreak, there was a tremendous sense of reassurance at how far the club had come in such a short space of time, and Dann’s instrumental figure was one of the flickers of light guiding the club back onto its ascending trajectory. 

The following season, Pardew would reward Dann with the full-time club captaincy, which was another endorsement towards his impressive rise since joining the club.   

An injury hit season  

Alan Pardew would fail to galvanise his squad following the cup defeat, which brought his tenure to an end. Sam Allardyce fought the relegation fire then vanished, and Frank de Boer, who would partner Dann with an inexperienced duo in the shape of a 19-year-old Timothy Fosu-Mensah and a 20-year-old Jaïro Riedewald, in a back three, would be relieved of his duties no sooner the ink had dried on his contract.   

When Roy Hodgson first arrived, Scott Dann was once again asked to be the centrepiece of the defensive structure upon which the club's safety would be delicately balanced.   

Dann provided his ever-present, tireless work ethic to stabilise the Eagles, after seven straight defeats bound the club to the worst start any team had made in Premier League history.  

However, midway through the 2016/17 campaign, and no sooner had the players started to find their groove under Hodgson, Dann would be stretchered off after 20 minutes as he suffered an horrific ACL injury against Manchester City. It was a harrowing collision that would see the then 30-year-old miss over a year of football, plunging his Palace future into dismay.   

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He was denied an immediate return to the line-up, arriving back from his injury to a new-look Palace side that contained a partnership at the back of James Tomkins and Mamadou Sakho, as Dann was forced to settle for a spell on the sidelines, gaining valuable match sharpness in spurts.   

Enjoying his swansong  

There was a time not too long ago when Fulham and Burnley were circulating to gain his valuable top-flight experience, which is critical to any side’s Premier League status. However, with Tomkins and Sakho unable to maintain the appropriate level of fitness needed for the ferocious schedule of the Premier League, Scott Dann has been needed more than ever by his club. 

When asked by VAVEL UK about the role Dann has played under his tenure at the club, Roy Hodgson said, “He has been very good and very solid.”   

He continued, “Once again, a good professional. There have been times when he has found himself out of the team and yet his training performances and the way he approaches everything has been 100% spot on. When he has been in the team and had his chances to play, he has never let us down.”   

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He has had his brushes with injury, which happens once you get a little bit older, but I think he will look back, when the day does arrive that his Crystal Palace career ends, although that may not be for some time, he will look back with immense pride on what he achieved at Crystal Palace.   

He has been a stalwart of the team and he can definitely say, ‘When I was asked to play, whenever the manager said to me, ‘this is your time, your moment. I need you,’ I always stepped up and did a good job.’ I have nothing but good things to say about him.”  

On his 176th club appearance, during Palace’s recent 2-1 away triumph at Newcastle United, Dann demonstrated his reassuring, composed mastery to take all three points back to south London, along with his own personal accolade of Man of the Match. 

Pound for pound, in a transfer market that has become riddled with excessive transfer fees and inflated wages with very little return, Scott Dann’s influence on Crystal Palace’s extensive lifespan in the Premier League must go down as one of the shrewdest signings of the Steve Parish era.   

Whether he is paired alongside Tomkins, Sakho, Martin Kelly or Gary Cahill, who has captained England and Chelsea, Dann continues to instantly command the defensive solidity in the squad, bellowing orders from the first minute, right through to the last.  

His contract is due to end come June 30th, but the opinion, which has become the consensus, is that Palace would be foolish to relinquish such a key component and influential piece of their Premier League jigsaw.