The FYP Interview - Alan Lee

Written by Joe Bloggs

This interview appeared in FYP issue 27 - August 2011.

 

There are players who come and go, there are players who make an instant impact and those who do very little, there are players we forget and those we can’t. But few are as fondly remembered as Alan Lee; the jovial centre-forward from Galway who had a hand in saving Palace in 2010.

The big man signed from Ipswich in 2008 and struggled to make an impact, however as the Eagles suffered through administration, a points deduction and a battle with relegation, he stepped up to the plate.

FYP caught up with Alan as he prepared for the new season with Huddersfield, having lost out in the League One play-offs in May; and a chance to face his old team-mates at Selhurst this season.

FYP: Working hard in pre-season, Alan?

AL: No, actually I have the day off today so just chilling out.

Oh. Well I guess you were in the play-off final not long ago. Wait, should we not mention that?

It was devastating. All that hard work undone in one match.

Streety and I had money on you bagging a hat-trick in the final but you only played 15 minutes.

I was about to come on with Jordan Rhodes at 1-0 and I said to him 'this is it, we can turn it around' and just before the board went up, they scored. I could see the game slipping away right then.

Another big game for you, just 12 months after Hillsborough.

I enjoy the big games, it's more nerve wracking but I think it helps you focus. That final year [with Palace] was without doubt one of my favourites in football. I didn't have a good first year at Palace and sometimes it's hard to win people round again. They didn't see the best of me but the reception I got and still get, I'm just very grateful, it's fantastic and always makes me smile.

Probably because you played a pivotal role towards the end of that season, as the lone man up front.

I enjoyed it, I enjoyed playing one up front. I had a very distinct job. It was a very special season, I can’t recall any other teams getting deducted points and then managing to stay up. We all  pulled together, I guess that’s what made it so special, it felt like we'd won something at the end, it was amazing.

Same for us! Although there was a weird atmosphere in the stands, a combination of pride and anxiety. What was it like in the dressing room?

There was a lot of uncertainly but heads never dropped. There wasn't a lot of complaining from the lads about not getting paid, everyone pulled together. It took a while to sink in, at the time we were playing, like at Newcastle away; we'd been on a very good run and I think we were either sixth or seventh and to get off a plane and find that you've been deducted the points, that was it. It did take a while to sink in but I guessed it helped that we had another goal then. We lost some of our players and maybe some of our flair players but we certainly kept a lot of the lads with character and it was actually wonderful to be part of.

Rumours were you led the lads in singing and dancing before games??Please say it’s true.

Yeah! The worse things got the livelier the changing room got. Before the games we'd have all sorts of songs and everyone would be up dancing, I've never seen anything like it. People were dancing and singing at the top of their voices. Anyone that wasn't singing would be dragged up, it just really cemented everything together. It would have been very easy for people to let their standards slip but we had a lot of leaders and strong characters in the dressing room. Also the fans, they had a big part to play in it, it just kind of roused everyone. I know it didn't do much for our nerves but it turned out to be a much more special season than a mid-table finish! It was certainly my proudest season in football.

Come on then, let's talk about the goal at Hillsborough. You must re-live it every day in your mind.

Yeah, and on Sky +! I just remember going absolutely nuts. I saw the ball so clearly, so slowly, it seemed to be so large and I knew I was getting on the end of it. As a footballer you do think 'what a day it would be to score the winner or just score an important goal today' and it’s surreal when it happens.  Going into the Wednesday game, I've never seen so many TV trucks, it all underlined just what a huge game this was. An early goal always helps as a centre forward, it helps with the confidence so I was delighted and was delighted with the way I played after that as well. Afterwards it was just the most draining, I remember I didn't feel like celebrating I think I was just crying in the corner because it just meant so much.

Well, there was certainly a lot of pressure. Talk was the club would have gone bust if we’d gone down. Pressure indeed.

Yeah, but our lads handled it very well. It was a tough game, Wednesday did not freeze they made it very hard for us on the day but whatever it was about us, it brought the best out of us. I like that sort of situation, the more pressure on the better for me. I’ve had a few times in my career that’s happened so im always confident going into those situations.

The home dressing room before a game was probably my favourite thing about that run. And that dressing room after Sheffield Wednesday with that feeling of contentment; being elated. Some of the lads went out to celebrate after the coach stopped back in south London. I didn't even want to go out; I just drove straight home and had a relaxed evening and just had that great feeling. Obviously you win big games and you just want to go out and celebrate but this surpassed that with that feeling.?We'd been through that season and to come out of that still in the Championship it made a very great summer.

And you came so close to returning to the Championship this summer and a chance to play in front of the Palace fans again.

I think people know you owe your fans. The same dedication I gave to the Palace fans I give to the Huddersfield fans and I've never changed. I'd certainly have a round of applause for the Palace fans to thank them.

We’ll be honest, we miss you Alan.

I was really looking forward to last season and I was a bit disappointed when George [Burley] told me they were accepting an offer but I’ve had a long experienced career - that’s part of the game -  and there’s not much room for sentiments I’m afraid.

Oh, so you haven’t seen the Alan Lee Facts website then?

Er...no

It’s full of Chuck Norris facts, amended for you. Like, when Alexander Bell invented the telephone he had three missed calls from Alan Lee.

Yeah, that's true.

When playing rock, paper, scissors, Alan Lee picks Alan Lee; and always wins.

(Laughs) Yep, also true.

Alan Lee doesn’t do press-ups, he pushes the ground down. Alan Lee can touch MC Hammer. Alan Lee doesn't plan football, football plays Alan Lee.

Ok I get it. My father told me about this. I have a rule that I never read the papers or look at message boards or anything like that. But that's fantastic, it's hilarious.

Do you still play guitar?

I very rarely play now, mainly because I  gave Neil Danns one of my guitars and he still hasn't given it back yet. So I sent a message to him to ask for it back. I hope he returns it! It's my first guitar, it's a big black jumbo Yamaha. And it actually survived a house fire, being snapped in half and it's been taped up and has a little bruising. But it's a very good guitar and I’m still expecting it back in the same state. But no, I'm not particularly good.

Have you not heard the FYP songs??You’re better than us.

I'm sure there will be some fun fact about it .

 


 

 

The FYP Interview - Clinton Morrison

Written by Stephen Bridle

This interview was first published in FYP issue 26 in April 2011.


 

There were rumours flying around in the summer that Clinton Morrison was going to make his way back to Selhurst for a third spell with the club. With Palace freshly saved from relegation, short on forwards and a new manager at the helm, talks progressed to a stage where the Tooting-born former Eagle was very close to pulling on the familiar red and blue again

“It was on the cards. It was very close," he told FYP. "The chairmen and everyone wanted to do it, but I just think George Burley, not had his doubts, but was waiting and iffing and ahhing. Then Sheffield Wednesday came in, who are a big club, and made me a good flipping offer and I couldn’t really turn it down. It would have been nice to come back to Palace but I’m at Wednesday now and I’ve got to concentrate on doing that.”

Ironically it was the Owls that Palace had sent tumbling down into the third tier of English football on the final day of last season. And Wednesday also had a role to play in Clinton’s start with the Eagles when he scored an injury time winner against them back in 1998 on his debut.

“Yeah it was against Sheffield Wednesday. I think they’d been relegated and I think we were going down. I remember it like it was yesterday.”

And not many 18-year-olds can say they received the pass for the debut goal from Attilio Lombardo, as Morrison did in front of the Holmesdale, but the players were already on the same wave length - a mutual understand that was forged in the front seats of the Italian's car.

“He used to take me into training every day. Not many people can say they got a lift with Attilio Lombardo into training!" he added.

But even the 'Bald Eagle' isn't at the top of Morrison's list of the best players he has featured alongside after 13 years of first-team football. That honour went to a former Republic of Ireland team-mate.

“The best player I’ve played with in my career was when I played with Roy Keane for Ireland," he said. "The man is just a true leader. He sets an example. If you give the ball away he’ll have a bit of a moan – I hardly ever saw him give the ball away when I played with him. He was just a good motivator, brilliant.

“I miss playing for Ireland all the time, definitely. I’ve had a good 36 caps for them anyway, so I’ve enjoyed doing that and not many people can say they’ve played for their country.”

And Sean Scannell - another player to come through the Palace youth system - also plays football at an international level for Ireland and Clinton remembers him from his days at the club, but believes the young forward isn't quite living up to his potential at the moment. No worry, though, because Uncle Clinton is prepared to set that straight.

“Scannell will be a good player and should be a good player and should be progressing better this season. Maybe he’s missing me because I did used to help a lot of the youngsters there at Palace. Hopefully I can get hold of him and talk to him and set him on the straight and narrow.”

Does Clinton see a future for himself as a coach after he hangs up his boots? Since former partner in crime up front for Palace Dougie Freedman has become part of the managerial team at Palace we’ve seen some familiar faces drafted in to bolster the backroom team including Dean Austin, Tony Popovic and head scout Steve Kember. Could we see Clinton brought back to help out behind the scenes? Dougie has in fact already given him a call, but he’s not quite ready to end his playing days just yet.

“We have spoke about that, definitely we have, but I still feel I’ve got three or four years left in me playing at the higher levels at the moment so I just want to concentrate on that," he said. "But I am doing my coaching badges so you never know, one day that could be an option to come back and help out at Palace. With the youngsters or with the senior squad because it’s something I want to do. I want to get into coaching. Hopefully one day I will put on a blue and red shirt again and be back there in some capacity.”

And Clinton was delighted when he heard Dougie was appointed boss at Selhurst Park in January – “It was excellent news” – and while he recognises it’s a steep learning curve for a first time manager taking over a club in such a perilous position, he thinks Parish & co. picked the right man for the job.

“You never know when it’s the right time to take the manager’s job, but if you’re never given the chance you don’t know if you’re going to be good enough or not. If he manages to keep them up he will have done a great job, obviously he’s a legend there as it is at Palace and he’d be an even bigger one. Hopefully they can stay up. I know they’ve got two or three massive games coming up. They’re games they should be winning so hopefully they can do it.

“In managers terms he’s still young. Well he’s young anyway. That’s why he’s got Lennie Lawrence helping him. The way he played the game, I think that’s how he wants his team to play the game – I think he’ll be good for it.”

It’s no surprise though, considering the pair spent many a season leading the Palace line together during which time the Doog earned himself a place in the rundown of Clinton’s top three strike partners.

“Hard one really," he mused. "I’d put Dougie up there; Dougie Freedman, Robbie Keane and Emile Heskey, I’d say those three.”

But despite being a Tottenham fan, Clinton can't ignore the impact Palace and Arsenal legend Ian Wright had on his career, even if that means swallowing his Spurs pride for s econd.

“Palace is my team as well because I was brought up there and they gave me my chance. I’ve always supported Tottenham from when I was younger, my Mum always liked them and obviously you just follow what your parents do.

“Wrighty was a good player when he played for Arsenal but I’m on about the inspiration from when he came and did a few coaching sessions with us at Crystal Palace. He was retired then but his hunger for it and the way he was, everything, he was just brilliant. Where he’s come from – the non-league to break into first team league football – and his finishing, he’s just one of the best I’ve seen in the business.”

And goals were certainly no problem for Clinton, notching up 133 in his time at Selhurst, mostly from inside the six-yard box. But while there were belters and plenty of well-taken strikes, there's one goal that really sticks in his mind and is widely considered to be his funniest moment at the Red and Blue Army - a goal scored against Gillingham at Selhurst.

“I went round the goalie in front of the Holmesdale and just slipped at the open goal but I dropped on the ball and managed to knock it in with my bum when I slipped over. But when it’s going right for you, it’s going right for you and most times it did go right for me at Palace.”

And he is just as prolific on social networking site Twitter and he regards the Tweagles as some of his finest followers.

“I think every Palace fan I’ve spoke to on Twitter has been brilliant. They’ve all said they want me to come back and they’ve spoken positively to me. Every Palace fan I’ve got loads of time and love for because every time I go back they’re good to me and I know when I was there they were always good with me – I’m like one of their own.”

Fast forward to summer 2010 and plenty of Palace fans were we weren’t sure there would even be a future, let alone one where we could conceive bringing back the club’s fifth highest goal scorer in our history. But as the majority of us were biting our nails, racking up numerous sleepless nights and checking in to our local surgeries with all manner of stress related illnesses Clinton was staying calm and employing the powers of positive thinking.

Being no stranger to administration, he was here during Goldberg admin and played for free after we’d run out of money, he knew what to expect.

“I always keep up with Palace, they’ll always have a place in my heart for definite. I kept up with things and I’m happy they got out of trouble.

“I didn’t think they’d go out of business. Palace is a good club and I always thought that someone in the end would come in and save the club - I always knew that deep down. You would worry as a player but I wasn’t that worried looking in from the outside. I knew they’d be safe.”

Just as he was confident that Palace wouldn’t go bust last summer, he’s equally sure that they’ll stay in the Championship come the end of the season.

“I believe they’re good enough to stay up with the players they’ve got. Darren Ambrose, Danns and all the young players coming through. I think if they keep going and working hard they’ll definitely stay up. It’s always been like that with us – Palace – we always make things difficult but in the end we always manage to survive and I think that’ll be same this season.”

And while Palace may have missed out on Clinton last summer, he’s definitely not ruling anything out for the future, especially with his mate Dougie now at the helm.

“You never know, I’ve played with Dougie, he’s a good friend of mine,” he said. “Obviously I’m at Sheffield Wednesday at the moment, I’m happy here and I’m enjoying it. One day I might go back to Palace, I’ve got great memories of the times I’ve played there. You can never predict what’s going to happen in the future, but it would be nice.”

And his final target??Getting more goals thanWrighty!

“I’m definitely proud of it. I’m one or two, I think, behind Ian Wright so you never know – one day I’d obviously like to come back and try and get that, even if it’s just for a season. I’m ahead of Mark Bright so I’m happy anyway.”

 


 

 

The FYP Interview - Matt Parsons

Written by Stephen Bridle
MATT PARSONS FACT FILE
Age: 20
Twitter: n/a
Position: Left-back
Favourite Palace song: Glad All Over
Favourite Palace Legend: Ian Wright. He seems like a really nice bloke. Just really likeable
Favourite game played in: It has to be my debut game against Norwich.
Favourite Palace kit: I like this season's kit. The zig-zags are something a bit different - something new!

FYP's Stephen Bridle caught up with 20-year-old left back Matt Parsons after he featured in a reserve team game against QPR.

So Matt, how did the game go? Is there the same rivalry in the reserves as there is with the first team?

It went well. They beat us three times last year so it was nice to go there and get the draw this time. There’s not so much of a rivalry, everyone talks to everyone and it’s all good. Obviously you still want to go and win though.

Stuart O’Keefe in the middle was probably Man of the Match for us today. Ryan Inniss in defence had a good game as well!

FYP assistant editor Streety will be very happy to hear that! But enough about the reserves, you’ve played a few games for the first team now – how does it feel to make that step up?

It felt good, obviously. It’s all I’ve been working towards since I came here. I’m a local guy. I live in Catford and was born in Lewisham – so it feels good.

I was very nervous the night before my debut game against Norwich. But once I got to the ground, the warm up went so quickly and when the whistle blew I was fine. You almost blank out everything else – all the crowd noise around you – you’re just in full concentration.

Palace have had their best start in the league for a few years – does that mean morale in the camp is high at the moment?

We’ve started better than most thought we would – we just have to keep it going. Everyone’s buzzing around the club at the moment. It’s going to be hard for teams to come to Selhurst Park and pick up points this season.

We’re a tight group, mostly all from South London. I’ve known a lot of them from before Palace, through just playing football in the local area. We’ve grown up together. I’ve got great mates in the team like Charlie Holness, but everyone’s just friends with everyone really.

Boys will be boys – I hear Danny Butterfield used to be the joker in the dressing room. Now he’s gone, who’s taken his place?

Calvin Andrew is a comedian [laughs]. He’ll just come out with a joke from nowhere.  He’s got an amazing sense of humour – he’s got a joke for everyone, in any situation!

You’ve just made the step up to the first team, so you must spend a bit of time on the bench every now and then – is it hard watching from the sidelines? Are you always itching to get on and play?

Definitely. As a footballer you always want to be playing, but it’s the team that counts. You want to pick up three points and be buzzing every week.

You joined the Palace set up when you were 15, how do you think you’ve progressed since then?

When I started out I was a left midfielder, when I came to Palace Under-16s they put me at left-back, which was a massive career boost for me. I feel much better playing at left-back and I feel like I’m improving all the time!

I reckon I could still do a job [in left midfield] – it wouldn’t be my strongest position, but I could do a job there. I like to get forward when I can anyway.

Which players do you look up to and try and emulate when you’re playing your football?

Ashley Cole for me is the best left-back out there. I study the way he plays. He can get forward and get back to defend – I like that. That’s the way I want to try to play.

And he’s got that all important Palace connection! Looking back to last season, how did your loan move to Barnet effect your game?

It was good playing experience. Training with the first team week in week out was a good experience for me. I played, I think, about eight games in the two months I was there – which is good to get out there and get that first team experience.

Though playing in the Championship is a lot different. You can afford to make a few mistakes in the lower leagues but the Championship is much quicker. It’s sharper. You get punished for every mistake you make.

Now we’ve taken a look back, what about the future? What do you hope to achieve this year?

I set myself goals to achieve before the beginning of each season which I have to complete by the end of it. This is something that they taught us to do through the youth team – it helps us know we’re on the right track.

Last season I set myself three major goals and I’d completed them all by the end of October, which was a real boost. This year I’ve set myself the goal of trying to get at least five first team appearances and hopefully I’ll get the chance to prove myself!

This is Dougie Freedman’s first full season in charge at Palace – how do you rate him? What is he like to play under?

He’s a good man to man manager; he’s always available to talk to whenever you need him. He’s young and he’s got some fresh ideas. He’s like one of the lads, but he’s still the gaffer.

What I like about him is that he’ll always tell you the truth and not just what you want to hear. If there’s an area of your game that needs to improve he’ll tell you [in no uncertain terms!]

He won’t take any [guff] from anyone – and that’s a good trait to have as manager.

[Dougie] hasn’t set us a specific goal for the season – he just tells us "go out and do your job". Work in your position and when all 11 players work together you should come away with the result you want.

So what about the new additions to the squad, how are they settling in and how do you reckon you’ll get on?

The Gaffer has tried to bring in good lads. No friction, no-one who thinks they’re bigger than the club; and if we carry on the way we are, with the squad we’ve got now, I think we have a shot at the play-offs at the end of the season. That has got to be the goal really – we just have to make sure we keep up the results.

Do you have any pre-match rituals you go through?

Not really. I tend to go down the cafe pre-match for scrambled eggs on toast and that's me done.

Fair enough! How about a silly one? If Palace could sign anyone in the world, regardless of cost or stature, who would you like to see pull on the red and blue jersey of the Eagles?

It’d have to be Messi. He’s like the god of football. If I played against him and had to deal with him I’d be happy if I tackled him once!

Which game are you most looking forward to this season?

Millwall. It’s always a big game for me. I’m a Millwall fan actually, coming from the local area – but I probably shouldn’t have told you that!

Even though I support Millwall I always want Palace to win. Without a doubt. I get a bit of stick from my family sometimes for playing for Palace but I know they’re all very proud of me really.

So this is the “BIG ONE” then – if I said the words “Crystal Palace F.C.” what do they mean to you?

Well, it’s my club now! Every time I see something about Palace I’m hanging to it. It’s my second home and if, god-forbid, we ever did part ways I’d always look out for them. It’s second nature now. Like a family.

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