A Selhurst Stream of Consciousness

Written by Tom Maslona

You might have seen that we've been having a day of Palace positivity on our social media channels. Well, here's fanzine editor Tom Maslona with a piece he wrote for the magazine. And it sums up how many of us feel. 

I love the Holmesdale Road. Not the stand – the new stand – but the road itself. It’s where we used to walk, me and my Dad, when we went to my first games. I’d always look out for that first floodlight on the corner of Holmesdale and Park Road and know we were there. They were beautiful things, as well, the old lights. We’d go in and my Dad would stand me in the kids’ trench at the front of the terrace and then position himself about 20 yards further back. Me and my brother could always see him though. There weren’t many there in those days.

Bloody hell, that trench has just reminded me of the day we played Birmingham at home and I ran onto the pitch in the middle of the game. In the middle of the bloody game! Someone had gone down for treatment; I’d be lying if I could remember who it was and I ran on with my autograph book and asked Jeff Wealands, the Birmingham goalie, for his autograph. JEFF WEALANDS! Who is that? Thing is, it wasn’t like he was standing in his goal, he was kicking his heels about five yards outside of the penalty area. I reckon I had to run about 20 yards or so onto the pitch to catch up with him. I opened my autograph book and asked him to sign it and he told me to fuck off. He was stunned. I was only about 7 and I turned around and it seemed like the whole of the Holmesdale was laughing at me. Now that is a memory you should try to forget. I’m not quite sure how I walked back to the Holmesdale because I had that feeling when your legs go all wobbly.

 


I think I did it because people used to run on the pitch after games in those days. I got Tony Coton and Robert Hopkins’ autographs once. It must have been something about Birmingham. Maybe I was a bluenose, really. I never managed to get Jim Cannon’s autograph. A rumour went round that he used to charge 50p for his signature but I had no way of knowing. I didn’t have 50p anyway.

The first signature I got was Vince Hilaire’s. That was on one of the Palace Open Days that they used to hold. It was just after we’d been relegated from Division 1 and he signed a yellow fixture card for me. I can still see it now; I wish I’d kept it. My mum bought me a badge that she sewed on my sleeping bag that day and I’ve still got that. But I wish I had the autograph. Imagine that, still owning your first ever autograph.

LISTEN: FYP Podcast 237 | Best Ever Crystal Palace XI?

And I loved Vince. Even at that age, I knew the team wasn’t very good but he used to stand out on the wing and there was this buzz when he got on the ball. Maybe you could hear it more easily because there were so few of us in the ground but there was a definite increase in noise when the ball went to him. And it was excitement. It was like Vince symbolised hope and it didn’t matter that his dribbles didn’t go anywhere because he had flair and when he had the ball there was the chance that something might happen. It rarely did but that wasn’t the point.

When I got a little older, I moved from the trench and stood with my Dad. He used to tell me about the time Real Madrid came to Selhurst to commemorate the installation of the new floodlights. He didn’t use the word ‘commemorate’ or ‘installation’. But Real Madrid came to town and he’d tell me about Gento and Puskas and Di Stefano. They played at Palace and apparently we nearly won. I didn’t believe him. It sounded like one of the stories he used to tell us before bed about his childhood in Africa. But it was true. I got the programme much later.


But then my Dad stopped going so much and he’d let me go on my own. We beat Hull 5-1 in 1986 and there were only 4000 fans there. Steve Coppell wrote in his programme notes that he was glad that we had something to cheer as the people that went that day were the diehard fans. I took that programme to school and told my mates that Steve reckoned I was a diehard fan. Because, of course, he wrote his own programme notes…

And they’re the things I see at Palace. When the game’s bad, I look around and I still see my Dad and I still hear him talking to me. I see Brian Horton getting sent off for Hull in that 5-1 game. I can still picture Vince out on the wing. I always picture him on the Arthur Wait side. There was a really low fence in front of the enclosure – the kind you’d find in a garden centre – and he’d be as close to that as possible. Widening the pitch, I reckon. He’s wearing the red and blue sash and the number 11 with the number made up of the three Adidas stripes. What a kit.

And from my seat in the Holmesdale, on a clear day, if I look to my left, I can see St Helier Hospital in Carshalton where my Nan was taken after her stroke. And I remember my Mum going to see her every single day, whatever the weather, whatever her own health. And I remember my mum’s love for my nan and, in turn, my love for her. So Palace helps me to remember. To think of my Dad, my Nan and my Mum.

It helps me to never forget.