Survival Sunday - Crystal Palace's Hillsborough Heroics Remembered

Written by Robert Sutherland

There are moments in life that you look back on, key events in your timeline, that are so vivid that you can feel your hairs stand on end, you can taste the air you were breathing, remember where you were stood, the emotions you were feeling and the thoughts you were thinking. For many Palace fans, that memory is Survival Sunday. 

Survival Sunday was the final act in Palace's Hillsborough Heroes, a play that had Shakespearean ups and downs, newly portrayed in the excellent documentary produced by Crystal Palace's media team

As any bard will tell you, final acts require an entire script of build-up to that moment. Scenes need to be set. You need heroes and villains. Darren Ambrose -- a hero of this tale -- speaking to Palace for their brilliant Survival Sunday film, reminds us of the moment that changed that entire season, having just landed in Newcastle prior to that evening's match against the Magpies. 
 
"I got a message from my wife saying we'd just been put in administration," he says. 
 
"Then it was like a chain reaction, you heard everyone's phone going off at the same time. We landed in something like 21st place."
 
Every great play needs characters for whom you feel an affinity. Strong-willed individuals who don't let adversity define them. The kind of people who see hardship and fight it. Palace had plenty of those. 
 
WATCH THE FILM BELOW:
 
 
"The spirit of this club seemed to raise after we were put into administration," says Ambrose. 
 
Shaun Derry, who captained that Palace side, said similar. 
 
"It was heartbreaking [when the club went into administration] and it changed everyone's intentions for the rest of the season."
 
Survival Sunday pitched Palace against Sheffield Wednesday in a winner-takes-all battle of wills and determination.
 
Palace just had to secure a point to stay up; Wednesday needed all three. But while Palace had the advantage of having two potential winning outcomes, Wednesday had the backing of a packed out Hillsborough. However, every adversary has an Achilles heel. Or makes a telling error. For Wednesday it was giving the red and blue army the entire West Stand -- more than 6000 tickets. 
 
"When we turned up there were thousands of Palace fans all screaming and wanting us to give it our best," says Ambrose,
 
"The noise throughout the whole game, from the moment we stepped off the bus to the service station at the end, the noise was absolutely unreal." 
 
Goals from Alan Lee and Darren Ambrose twice gave the Eagles the advantage, but Palace love to make it difficult for themselves (how else would they script such amazing drama as consistently as they do?) and equalisers from Leon Clarke and then Darren Purse twice pulled the game back into the balance. 
 
 
Johnny Ertl, also speaking to Crystal Palace, summed the match up. 
 
"There was so much tension around. 
 
It was a battle. It wasn't football of the finest, but it was a real battle," he said.
 
Palace finished the game, the season and the show with a draw that sealed survival and consigned Wednesday to League 1 football. With Clint Hill fighting his way through Wednesday fans to get back to the changing room, arms flaying as punches were aimed at him, the protagonists celebrated as a team. A team that left its mark on their manager. 
 
Paul Hart, parachuted in to help stabilise the club after the departure of Neil Warnock, recalls what managing Palace meant to him. 
 
"Everywhere I go, people ask me about the clubs I've loved being at, and Crystal Palace is at the top of the list," he said.
 
"People don't realise what sort of a club it is. About the people that work within it, the supporters. And at the time the players that were around, it was a real pleasure to be here." 
 
Palace were saved. And just a few seasons later were promoted to the Premier League. 
 
"I think the club has established itself as a really good Premier League club, with great management and great ownership. " says Ertl. "I'm really happy to see the progress over the years that has been achieved." 
 
The players knew what that moment in time meant to the club, says Derry. 
 
"Everybody looking back on 2010 probably, collectively understands that it was the rebirth of this football club." 
 
It's a play we all hope we'll never see again, but one we'll tell everyone about for the rest of our lives. 

Julian Speroni - The Rise of a Palace Legend

Written by Naveed Khan

Julian Speroni is leaving. Naveed Khan looks at what made him such a true Palace great. 

Speroni clenched fist

I still remember where I was when we signed Julian Speroni – Karachi in 2004, using the slowest internet I have experienced, “Palace Sign Argentinian Star” was the headline. As I waited for page to open (it took ages), my mind wondered who it could be. A £400,00 goalkeeper from Dundee is not what I was expecting.

Nonplussed by the signing, one thing I did not envisage was that I would be writing about that goalkeeper 15 years later with immense sadness while reflecting on an unquantifiable contribution he has made to the club during his time here.

His journey as Palace’s custodian has not been without hardship; it was not without having to convince every manager he had here (apart from Ian Holloway) that he was the right man to be in goal. It was not without extreme highs or low lows. His journey has been, dare it be said, ‘typically Palace’. It’s been akin to the journey we go on as fans.

His home debut remained a curse over him for his first three seasons here – forgetting the saves he made on his debut against Norwich or the matches following Everton, trying to dribble past Kevin Campbell was an error people went back to for next four games that season. Dropped then by Iain Dowie, he would have to wait until the end of the 2006/7 season to be given a proper run in the side, despite Man of the Match performances when given a chance between that period. And that is what he was up against, in particular under Peter Taylor who had made him fourth choice. Yet, Jules stayed. He believed when many didn’t.

Speroni Liverpool away

READ MORE: Julian Speroni - A Man Who Touched Every Corner of Our Club

In 2007/8, as the team transitioned from Taylor to Neil Warnock, Speroni came into his own. Save after save, he won the team points as they charged towards the play-offs. In the following, largely nondescript season, he was one of the shining lights. Then came the administration season; not only one of the Hillsborough Heroes, his contributions throughout that season both pre and post the 10-point deduction meant that Palace stayed in the Championship – enabling CPFC2010 to take over the club. Without Jules, it is unimaginable where the club would have gone.

Yet, he had another battle to come; after deciding to remain loyal to Palace when other clubs were keen, George Burley thought he could do better than Jules. Burley got his just desserts. Speroni remained consistent in the time that followed and then those saves in the play-offs in 2013 are exactly why Palace are now able to embark up a seventh successive season in the Premier League.

The saves from Barnes and Deeney were not enough for Tony Pulis who looked to bring in a goalkeeper more to his liking. But so good was Jules on the way to his fourth Play of the Year award that Pulis simply could not drop him.

The following season, under Alan Pardew Palace had, to date, their best points total since returning to the top flight and Speroni was a key part of that. Despite that, the following season Pardew relegated him to third choice with little evidence that either of his preferred choices were better. But, again, he stayed professional and true. He next got a chance under Roy Hodgson against Chelsea where his mere presence seemed to boost a side with zero points and goals from their first seven games. He has been used sporadically since and now the journey has come to an end.

The above is just a recall of what has happened to Palace over the last 15 years; Jules’ own journey had him battling to establish himself, remaining patient, play-offs, administration, last day survival, promotion and surviving relegation from the Premier League. But it still, somehow, doesn’t really capture what he means to Palace and what Palace means to him. It’s like going on holiday, seeing the most beautiful scenery and taking a photo of it. The photo does not capture what you see and feel.

SD1 6389

READ MORE: How do Palace actually achieve progression in the Premier League?

Because Julian didn’t just go through the motions of those Palace events over the last 15 years. He felt them. He felt them how we as fans feel them. It wasn’t what he experienced, it was about how he experienced it. It wasn’t just about the 405 (please become 406) appearances and 112 clean sheets and the records he now owns. It was about how he carried himself throughout.

When he wasn’t playing, he was not complaining. When contract offers were not forthcoming, he was not snapping up the other opportunities that were there but waited for Palace. When he made a save, he made it feel like more than a save; almost as if we were making the save with him. When he made a mistake, it felt like we had all made a mistake – we didn’t dwell, we moved on. For a long time, it was unthinkable that someone else would be between the sticks for Palace.

Away from the pitch, there are many accounts from fans who have spoken about him going beyond. I know from personal experience that a request to send a card to a fan who had terminal cancer was met with a personal visit instead. That is a measure of him as a person; he never did just the minimum.

Emotion is what makes this sport stand out from the crowd. And that is the word which perhaps encapsulates Speroni’s time at Palace best – it’s been emotional. Mostly good, some difficult, but it has been that clichéd rollercoaster – what makes Jules different to all the others is that he’s felt every single bump, high and low with us.

Words like legend and icon get thrown about so often that they somehow feel insufficient for Jules. He is those things; and he is more. He is a legend. He is an icon. Most importantly, he is one of us. Manos De Dios; oh to just hear one more time “In goal, number 1 Julian Speroni”.

Latest issue of FYP Fanzine available to buy vs Arsenal and online

Written by FYP Fanzine

The season is nearly over which means it's time for another issue of your favourite Palace fanzine; Five Year Plan.

The latest edition, number 52 by the way, is out this Sunday as Palace take on Manchester City at Selhurst Park and considers the question on the lips of many supporters:

  • How well have we done with the squad at our disposal?
  • There’s analysis of the recent derby from both a Palace & Brighton perspective
  • A detailed account from a member of the ‘E400’ of the club’s handling of the Block E situation
  • An in-depth interview with Academy Director, Gary Issott
  • Plus Alan Smith looks back at his time in charge of the Youth system at Palace.
  • Plus loads more.

All this & much more for just £2!

Sellers will be at Arsenal on Sunday but if you can't make it you can by a downloadable PDF copy for just one pound.

Download an E-FYP copy here.


 

To Jewish Palace Fans, Wayne Hennessey's Ignorance of Nazism and Fascism is Far from Blissful

Written by Matt Davis

Yesterday, the FA found that the charge against Wayne Hennessey of making a Nazi salute was not proven. The news has left Palace fan Matt Davis asking whether the club will commit to educating the goalkeeper, who in his defence claimed he didn't know what a nazi salute was. 

Fans wet

Having two identities is something that’s always been ingrained in me. 

I’m Jewish and a Crystal Palace fan. 

The similarities are, maybe surprisingly, many. Values, honesty, hope, humour, loyalty, enthusiasm, community, empathy, family, being outsiders - to name but a few.

When I was a young boy, my father said to me, “let’s stand on the Arthur - if you sit down and work hard for your Bar Mitzvah too” (doesn’t scan brilliantly but hey). 1985 was a monster year - Ball boy at Selhurst and Bar Mitzvah boy in Bromley. Palace paraphernalia the presents I most coveted.

Whichever way you look at it, I was always a minority in a minority. Palace, we all know, were never the most fashionable, a yo-yo team until these golden days (they are, enjoy them!)

And a very small number of Jews live in South London. Spectacularly-failed chairman, Mark Goldberg, was one of them (gently confronting him outside synagogue on the holiest day of the year, Yom Kippur, was a little awkward). His sorry ownership did elicit some lazy trope based antisemitism in a long defunct fanzine (not the brilliant Palace Echo) but it was swiftly stamped out and a grovelling apology followed.

And apart from some Y word nonsense at Spurs a few years ago by a number of idiots I can count on one hand, Palace fans have a more than decent record on inclusivity regards this most tiny of minorities.

Our admittedly low profile American owners are proud Jews, but I’ve witnessed nothing negative. My fellow fans find antisemitism abhorrent, and welcome my views on it, the misdirected Spurs Y word use included.

So this Wayne Hennessey debacle has been a punch as powerful as a Luka kick to our great club - one that I feel in the pit of my stomach.

Hennessey walk

From his beyond laughable excuse to tumbleweed waves of nothingness, I felt there was a drift, the issue sinking in the FA’s in tray of shame. But I couldn’t have predicted this sorry, sorry conclusion.

The FA have acted appallingly, blaming ignorance for lack of action. So it’s left to the club to act now.

I love this club. I’m so proud of everything they do, have done, will do in the future. Their record on diversity, race, gender, outreach, you name it, is exemplary. And I’m sure they’ll be hatching a plan.

But please let it be swift, robust and unambiguous. Let’s duck his dire “didn’t do it” denial. Perhaps we begin with a very public expression of shock that Hennessey hadn’t heard of the Nazi salute. This will facilitate a commitment that he will be receiving holocaust education. 

Organising a visit from the The Holocaust Educational Trust will be a quick and effective win.

Antisemitism is in the news a lot, we could actually turn this into opportunity to make a stance. One that would be authentic for a club like ours, known for our openness and honesty. Wheel Wayne out to talk to camera. He must be ashamed anyway?

In truth, as a club we can’t do enough. Express through every channel possible how distraught that this has happened. Learn from it. An ethos of zero tolerance baked into every nook and cranny of this club we love.

Then I can tell my kids wholeheartedly, “listen here, you’re CPFC, Jewish and proud.”