Mother writes heart-warming letter to Crystal Palace thanking club for helping her autistic son

Written by Matt Woosnam

Crystal Palace is a club which strives to be inclusive and make football a fun day out for all the family, and this letter from the parent of an autistic child thanking the club for helping him to improve his social skills goes to show that the little things can make a huge difference. 

To all the team at Crystal Palace Football Club,

I wanted to write to tell you all about my son and the wonderful things being at the club has done for him this season.

As some background information, he suffers with Autistic Spectrum Disorder (ASD), he also has a severe speech and language delay with mild learning difficulties and dyslexia. Life can be tough for him as he tends not to speak or look at people he does not know well. New situations and places are also difficult for him to deal with. The one absolute passion he has in his life is football. However, getting him out of the house can be challenging.

We visited the club at the end of last season with a family member for a game and he told me he had enjoyed the game and wanted to return. As a family we tend to buy passes for places so if we should have to leave because of an “autistic meltdown” as we call them we can return at no extra cost, with this in mind I thought a season ticket might not be best for us as I had a view it would take until quite far into the season for him to feel truly settled. How wrong I was!

From the first moment I rang up, the staff in the box office were amazing and put me straight onto Pam.
Pam was wonderful, I felt she listened to my concerns and quite frankly my moaning, I did not feel rushed and she made me and my son feel valued as a customer. After the phone call I felt so positive about bringing [redacted] to the games and knew if I had any problems Pam would be at the end of the phone for us. I cannot thank you enough it is not often I look forward to going somewhere.

The beginning of the season came and he was very withdrawn which I had expected, but we did not have to leave one game. The first breakthrough came around November time when a fan who was celebrating asked [redacted] for a “High-Five” which he did with a smile, from then on I can truly say it has been amazing! He has started talking to other fans who have spoken to him. He has even started to move independently around the area of our seats. He asked if he could wait for the players to have his programme signed which I thought I would have to manage for him, again I was wrong he talked to the players, who were also incredible being patient with him and I felt they listened to him which I know he feels he does not get very often.

So we now have a young man, who regularly asks to leave the house to go and practice his Puncheon corners or his Zaha runs. I have just had a meeting with his school who have said this year he has started to speak out in class and has recently given a class presentation which is incredible. Which I think is without doubt the result of coming to Selhurst Park.

Therefore, I would like to say the biggest thank you to all of you and the work you do to help young people like my son. You have all helped him in every aspect of his daily life.

Manchester United, Chelsea and Arsenal chasing Crystal Palace starlet

Written by Matt Woosnam

Manchester United, Chelsea and Arsenal are among the clubs chasing the signature of highly rated Crystal Palace youngster Kian Flanagan, FYP has learned.

 Kian Flanagan 2

The Premier League giants are able to sign the 15-year-old for a fee of just £50,000 due to his age as he is only on a scholarship contract, and FYP understands Manchester United are the first club to have offered the youngster a contract.

The teenager joined Palace from Southend United two years ago for a fee of just £37,000 under the Elite Player Performance Plan compensation system.

Impressive performances in the U16 side saw him moved up into the U18s where he again caught the eye with strong performances in the final games of the season, before he made his U21 debut for the club last week.

The Eagles are hopeful that Flanagan will snub the interest - with West Ham also keen - and sign a new deal with the club.

They will point to the successful academy system that saw Wilfried Zaha earn a big money move to Manchester United, and has also produced the likes of Victor Moses and Nathaniel Clyne in recent years, to suggest Flanagan would be better served by staying in South London than moving clubs too soon.


Iain Moody admits mistake over controversial messages which led to Crystal Palace resignation

Written by Matt Woosnam

Former Crystal Palace sporting director Iain Moody has lifted the lid on the text-gate scandal which ended his spell with the Eagles. He speaks exclusively to FYP's Matt Woosnam.
Iain Moody

The 40-year-old joined Palace in October 2013, when the club was in the midst of searching for a new manager to replace Ian Holloway who left after a 4-1 drubbing at the hands of Fulham. But Moody lasted only 10 months, and he left the club following the leak of alleged sexist, racist and homophobic text messages and emails exchanged between himself and former Cardiff manager Malky Mackay which denied Mackay the opportunity to become Palace manager.

Whilst he offered no excuses for his behaviour, he sought to explain the reasons behind it.

He said: “I think football is an intoxicating environment, both as a fan and as someone who works there.  It’s a very strange world that I had 10 years of without a break. It’s been quite nice in some ways to devote myself to my kids and my wife in the last four or five months.

“In life most people you meet are good people, there are some who aren’t and never will be. I think good people sometimes do bad things. It doesn’t mean that they are no longer good people and I think everyone has got something you can refer to in your own past to say why did I do that?

“I think we can all look back on experiences of reacting to situations in a particular way and thinking ‘god there’s no way I would do that again’, or even as has happened to me, reading back things and not even recognising that it was me who said them, thinking… and I’m not denying it was me, but that’s unrecognisable and it’s not a reflection of where I am and what I stand for, and the education that I have had; and I don’t mean necessarily formal education but upbringing.

“I’m the father of two young kids at the moment and it’s become the most important thing in my life that there is a proper framework or behaviour and expectation for them to be good people. So there’s a distortion. People get distorted then things that people do are interpreted in a distorted way.”

Moody and Mackay are both subject to investigation from the Football Association following the texts. Proceedings remain active, and he was reluctant to discuss the situation but insisted he was keen to help the FA in any way he could.

He resigned from his position at Selhurst Park, and admits he considered it previously when other issues arose, including the allegations that he had obtained the Cardiff City team sheet prior to Palace’s 3-0 victory at the Cardiff City Stadium in April.

“I was conscious throughout my time at Palace that there were various storms that occurred around me,” he added. “I was conscious throughout my time there, it sounds contrite but the owners had been so good to me from the day I came in. The first day I met Steve [Parish] I was conscious that I didn’t want to be a problem. It’s got nothing to do with Palace really. I said to Steve on many occasions ‘I don’t want this ever to be awkward; if you think that the problem of having me here outweighs the benefit of having me here I will just go’. The story should never be about me, all the people who have done my job well in the past, no-one knows who they are."

He asks me if Dan Ashworth walked in would I recognise him, and although I know who he is talking about, I have to concede I do not know what the director of Elite Development for the FA, and former West Bromwich Albion sporting director looks like.

To emphasise his point, he adds: “Yet he is held up as one of the forebears of doing the job well. Nicky Hammond at Reading has been there for ten years and not many people would recognise him. I don’t ever want to be the story, and I was my own worst enemy in that in some ways, and I would act differently if I did it again now.

“There was kind of an understanding that I’ll just go, I’ll just go. Steve throughout [the previous issues] was like ‘no, no, no, I want you to stay, you’re doing a good job, we need you.’ But that was a little bit there and then. I didn’t want Palace… they were looking for a manager at the time, the season had just started, transfer window open, there was a lot of stuff going on and I had become a story and I didn’t want to be a story that impacted on Palace.

“So as soon as I knew what was going to happen in the press I spoke to Steve and said ‘I will just go’. From this day I will just go and I won’t bother you again, and that’s kind of what happened.”

“I was disappointed [to leave Palace]. I had a 10 fantastic months and I loved all the people. There’s brilliant people everywhere at the club, it’s quirky, it needs a bit of work, a bit of love but they’ve got absolutely the right people doing the right things for the right reasons, and it’s not often I can say that.”

Read the full interview in issue 42 of Five Year Plan, out vs Everton on 31 January and available around the ground at Selhurst Park.


Crystal Palace set to secure sensational return for Manchester United winger Wilfried Zaha

Written by Matt Woosnam

Former Crystal Palace star Wilfried Zaha is set for a sensational return to the club, FYP understands.

After bringing back Neil Warnock as manager following Tony Pulis' departure, Palace look to have brought back another familiar face in the shape of the 21-year-old winger.

Zaha is set to join on loan initially from Manchester United, with Palace having the option to buy back their former winger at any time during the season.

The winger came through the ranks at Selhurst Park, making 143 appearances for the club before joining Manchester United for £10m plus add ons in Januray 2013.

Zaha was then loaned back to the Eagles and inflicted defeat on arch rivals Brighton with two goals at the AMEX Stadium in the play-off semi-final second leg, before winning the penalty in the play off final which Kevin Phillips converted to take Palace to the Premier League.

After hitting electric form in the early part of the 2012/13 season, England manager Roy Hodgson included Zaha in his squad to face Sweden in a friendly, and he replaced Raheem Sterling after 83 minutes to earn his first full international cap before appearing against Scotland in August 2013. 

Zaha's United career began well, as he impressed during the club's pre-season tour, but he struggled to find any game time in the Premier League under David Moyes who sidelined the young winger throughout his tenure.

An unsuccesful loan to Cardiff City was secured in January 2014, but new boss Ole Gunnar Solskjaer did not feel the winger did enough to warrant selection, and rumours of a bad attitude also surfaced. 

It seemed he couldn't wait to return back home but in his haste he was caught speeding in Coulsdon and received a fine and three points on his driving licence in August, but it did not seem to deter Palace from seeking his signature.

It appears that new boss Louis Van Gaal has decided Zaha is surplus to requirements at Old Trafford and Palace are hoping to confirm a deal soon to bring their former talisman back to South London.