A Grand Day At The Palace

A Grand Day At The Palace! 

I will start this ( relatively ) short blog by stating quite openly That I don’t mind Crystal Palace. When I say don’t mind, What I mean is that on the scale of likeable where Chelski sit at a detestable 1, Palace sit at a comfortable 4 in my head. After Arsenal, which is my club of choice, and sit at around 20, no other club gets over the Palace number so that should be seen as a compliment. Actually Southend, Leyton Orient, Forfar and Stenhousmuir also get a 4, and maybe West Ham solely because I know a lot of my friends are happy hammers…. But anyway.
The football team that is, not the area. Let’s face it Croydon, or South Norwood to be more precise is not the first place that would spring to mind for a day out, unless of course you have a great desire to visit IKEA. Crystal Palace FC are like the old bird on TV, no not Rod Hull’s Emu. I mean Great British Bake Offs Mary Berry. I couldn’t watch them every week and they are slightly annoying, but now and again if they are on TV you will leave it on. I’m not sure if Alan Pardew is any good at baking cakes though. Side note, have you ever tried saying Alan Pardew in a Geordie accent. When I do it I sound Indian!
So what is it that makes me think Palace are ok ?… Well there are three main reasons. Firstly, players. Two of the finest players to wear an Arsenal shirt in my time have come from CPFC. Kenny Sansom and of course Ian Wright. I loved Ian Wright at Arsenal. Yes he made the over enthusiastic tackle now and again but his energy was infectious. He was also one of us. A normal bloke working on a building site before being spotted playing semi – pro with Greenwich Borough. Not many footballers start their careers aged 21. In fact in the modern era some are finished at that age, Take note Mr. Wilshere. 
As for Kenny Sansom, the man was an incredible player. His move to Arsenal in exchange for Clive Allen, even though Allen had been on Arsenals books for only a few weeks without even playing a competitive game was possibly a gamble, but one that resoundingly paid off. He won 78 caps for England. Kennels captained Arsenal during a barren spell in the early to mid 80’s before eventually being replaced as captain by a young Tony Adams. Without doubt Kenny was Mr. Consistent. It was rarer than an honest politician for Sansom to have a bad game on the left side of the Arsenal defence. Cheers Palace.
It should also be mentioned that although we were lavished with Wright and Sansom, Arsenal were also to sign the likes of Eddie McGoldrick. At the time the CPFC captain, and the Apple of her indoors eye. Whether good enough to play for the Arse is another story.
The other two reasons are much quicker to get through. I quite like the kit. Or I did. Not so much these days but the Palace kit 25 years ago was alright. Not a patch on the Arsenal green and blue away kit but let’s face it, some teams have a good colour scheme, some don’t. Coventry – brown, Everton – pink springs to mind. 
The final reason is much more biased. As long as I’ve been going to Arsenal, we have always seemed to do well against Palace. Even when I’ve been to Selhurst Park, and I have seen the Gunners play there quite a few times against Wimbledon, Charlton and of course CPFC my club always seem to excel. I won’t bang on too much but one fixture stands out, although at Highbury. We won 4 – 0. Paul Merson scored a hat – trick including a sublime chip from outside the box. The Arsenal love playing Palace. I was looking forward to a day out after receiving a late call from Stubbly regarding a spare ticket.
I met up with three other gooners at the Wetherspoons pub across the road from Balham train station. I think I pitched up at about 10:45. Already into a second pint the chaps nodded their respective hello’s. Just to be sensible I had a full but small English to line my stomach. This adjoined to not going out the previous evening was a proper first for me. Sensible, twice, in 24 hours!… I polished off brekkie quick smart and we headed back to Balham for our three stop jaunt to Thornton Heath. 
Fact of the day: Balham Station was used in the video of the song “Missing” by Everything But The Girl. They were a band with a female singer with a canny resemblance to Rodney out of Only Fools & Horses. 
On arrival, all ship shape and Bristol fashion we had a short stroll down the road to The Railway Tavern for a few pre – match snifters. I was a bit surprised it wasn’t already open but, we got there just before a shower and the doors opened. A little queue had formed with a punter or two giving the landlord grief for opening up 30 seconds after the advertised time. Very harsh!
As a pre – match watering hole it served its purpose, and by the time 1.45pm had come around we had squeezed in a good 4 or 5 pints. No silly shots though. Captain Sensible!…. I still felt a bit merry as we bobbed down the High Street and Whitehorse Lane to the away end at Selhurst Park. Our numbers had grown slightly and a top bod I know named Guilly announced his immense dislike for all things Palace. Not in song or aloud, but if you knew Guilly, you could see his rationale reaching breaking point. Most specifically his hatred for Wilfred Zaha. 
Fact of the day part 2 : Crystal Palace were initially nicknamed The Glaziers. 
It’s not the newest of grounds. It does however create one of the best atmospheres in the premier league. Or at least it seems to under the floodlights of a night time match.  Sadly I have to say I wasn’t overly impressed with the home crowd. It was a full house of roughly 24,500 so no real excuses. I have said it before, regardless of the team, and I include my own, the away fans mostly these days are the folk to make the noise. This is mainly down to all seater stadia and the improbable chances of you sitting around another three or four hundred people wanting to sing. 
It wasn’t the best of games either. When Santi Cazorla scored a penalty early doors it was the very least we deserved. Arsenal started off at a very quick pace. Ball retention was good and Palace were struggling to keep up. Welbeck broke into the area and drew a foul from the young French kid making his debut, Papa Souare. Palace fans are starting to remove their original neutral, slight liking for this blogger….
The first half continued with Arsenal seeking a second goal and CPFC, whilst keen failing to make any sort of  impact on Ospina’s goal. The old Chichester, ( I’m not sure how cliche turned into Chichester ), clicked into overdrive. We had a few chances to make it a little more comfortable than it was. When on top you really need to make it count. Thankfully, just before the interval,sharp thinking from Olly Giroud brought us that safeguard as he prodded home from 5 yards. 2-0 at half time. 
The second half was played in a very conservative way by Arsenal with CPFC trying to force the pace. We had the odd chance on the break but with 11 minutes left most of us just wanted to get back to the pub with the three all important points and no injuries. Then Glenn Murray came on!
Palace huffed and puffed but I really never saw them scoring. Apparently neither did the AFC defence as Murray ran in to score a header and make it 1-2 with 3 minutes left. A nervous finale was upon us. All of a sudden the Arse were awash with panic. This transferred itself to the stands and the travelling thousands ( including myself ) mercifully implored our team to stand firm. Now I did have a few to drink. At the final whistle I done my usual hugging of old ladies, hugging of old men, basically hugging anyone that wanted to celebrate our 3 all important points.
What I never realised as I walked outside of the ground, and then back in again after remembering my man bag was still under my seat, was just how close the Arse were to buckling. Sub Murray had hit the post from a free kick in injury time!… Now that could have ruined a good night out!….
I wouldn’t go as far as to say we were lucky to win. We were superior for 85 minutes of a 90 minute game. That last 5, or 9 minutes including injury time was horrific though. We basically shut down and invited the pressure, almost suffering another calamitous capitulation of Newcastle away proportions ( 4-0 up, finish 4-4 ). I think the terminology I used was maybe slightly less technical on the day though. Guillys most definitely was. I finally found my bag. The old dear in front of me clutching it with all her might. Thank you furry coat lady!
I then had to try and remember my way back to the pub. That was hard work trust me. To the point I stopped in a pub on the way there to replenish my dehydrating mind. Alcohol, me, and directions just don’t mix. I’m bad enough sober. Eventually though, 20/25 minutes after everyone else I located the wee party of gooners.
After a few more, ( I would hazard a guess at one for moi ), we jaunted off to our hotel. It was near to Waterloo, ( couldn’t escape if I wanted too ), we changed into our dancing outfits and swung into the glorious London nightlife . I should just add that our hotel, and very nice it was too had a smashing cocktail bar up on a roof terrace. Tremendous views of Londinium and even more impressive were the size of the cocktails. It was like drinking out of a goldfish bowl, but a lot more tasteful and thankfully without the Blackmores.
I’m not going to go into what happened that evening, mainly because I can’t remember. I do recall that we pretty much stayed in a pub we were in the day after cup final day last year. Hopefully we will be back there on 31st May.
“Didn’t we have a lover-ly time the day we went to Palace……”