James Tomkins & Mamadou Sakho: The Best Defensive Partnership in Crystal Palace’s History?

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12 games played together. Nine wins. Three draws. Just eight goals conceded. Ever since Mamadou Sakho arrived on loan from Liverpool in January 2017, the Frenchman and James Tomkins have blossomed into an impervious partnership at the back for Crystal Palace. 

For a team battling relegation more often than not, the aforementioned record is simply outstanding. Furthermore, if it wasn’t for the pair’s ongoing injury issues, that record may look even better, and the Eagles perhaps wouldn’t even be in a relegation battle if the two stayed fit. 

It is no secret that the partnership of James Tomkins and Mamadou Sakho is a formidable one, but is it the best in the club’s Premier League history? Let’s compare the duo to some other rock solid partnerships seen in south London over the years…

Damien Delaney and Peter Ramage 

In rather desperate circumstances, Peter Ramage and Damien Delaney both found themselves in south London back in August 2012. The Eagles had almost no transfer budget to help them build on their 17th placed finish from the previous campaign, so the out of contract duo were quickly snapped up by Palace simply to bolster the playing staff. 

What was to come, however, would’ve blown the minds of any Palace fan. The partnership of Ramage and Delaney laid the foundations for an unlikely promotion push, including a 14-game unbeaten run. Palace won the Play Off final thanks to the pair’s efforts, and they will be held in high regard by Eagles’ supporters for a long time. 

Clint Hill and Paddy McCarthy

Whilst these two may not have been the most talented, their commitment to the cause is almost unprecedented in Palace’s history, and football in general to be honest. 

Administration had plagued the club. They had been docked 10 points and found themselves suddenly battling relegation after pushing for the play offs previously. The players hadn’t been paid. But even then, they rallied together to save the club. 

The partnership of Hill and McCarthy was a proper Palace one; blood, sweat and tears given for the cause, even when they weren’t receiving their wages. The club survived on the final day at Hillsborough, where relegation surely would’ve seen them liquidated. 

Gary O’Reilly and Andy Thorn

The centre back pairing that almost led the Eagles to FA Cup glory has to get a mention in this discussion. Gary O’Reilly and Andy Thorn were instrumental in Palace’s run to the FA Cup final, with the former also getting on the scoresheet against Manchester United in the showpiece event at Wembley.

O’Reilly and Thorn were a key part of what was arguably the Eagles’ golden period, and should rightly be considered as one of Palace’s best defensive pairings. 


With all of the aforementioned taken into consideration, can Tomkins and Sakho still be considered as the best in the club’s history? What must be considered a factor in the decision is the level at which these partnerships have operated at. 

For all their contributions, can the Championship duos of Ramage and Delaney, and McCarthy and Hill actually be compared to Tomkins and Sakho who deal with Premier League attacks weekly? Probably not. 

It is because of that, and the fact that Ramage, Delaney, O’Reilly and Thorn were part of a more feared side in which Palace had the majority of the ball, and consequently less shots at their goal, that they aren’t comparable.

Tomkins and Sakho come under the cosh weekly as the Eagles deploy a deep lying, counter attacking based side. They face a lot of attacking play from the opposition, and come through it unscathed. 

They may have cost a combined £36m, but the current pairing tops the lot. James, Mamadou, keep it up lads.   

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