We love the Eagles!
Crystal Palace FC - Club History
By Tony Dudley (Based on original text by Keith Brody)
The Great Exhibition held in Hyde Park in 1851 was housed in a great glass building dubbed the Crystal Palace, by the press. After the exhibition the structure was moved to the area of South-East London which now bears this name. Although the structure itself was destroyed by fire in 1936, the area retains its famous athletic stadium and motor racing circuit, as well as a recreational park.
The original Crystal Palace club was formed in 1861 and were one of the 15 teams that took part in the first ever FA Cup competition of 1871/2 ! The present club was formed in 1905, by workers at the original Crystal Palace, in the shadow of which the team played. The original stadium, built around where the athletic stadium now stands, also hosted a number of early FA Cup Finals. The original club colours, claret and blue, were adopted after having to borrow kit from Aston Villa - in fact the club's very existence owes much to one Edmund Goodman who was employed at Villa and was recommended by the Villa chairman. He organised the business side of the club before later becoming the team manager.
Apart from staging Cup Finals, the club' s main claim to fame before becoming a league club was reaching the FA Cup quarter-finals, while in the Southern League, knocking out Tottenham, Everton and Newcastle on the way! Palace became a league club in 1920, when the Southern League became the Third Division. They won the Championship and were promoted that season. The next year the Northern League became the Third Division (North) and the Third Division became the Third Division (South), and in 1958 became the Third and Fourth Divisions of the Football League.
Palace's early history was fairly inconspicuous - a classic lower division team, never rising near the top flight until the late 60's. Few players, if any, from this era are now household names. Peter Simpson, the club's greatest scorer, is not widely known in the game, and only Johnny Byrne, who went on to star for West Ham, could be described as famous in any broad sense of the word. Many of their managers before Bert Head, except for Arthur Rowe, are just names; L. Scott, C.Spiers, G.Smith, J. Tresadern and in particular Edmund Goodman, without whom...
Likewise, in this era, there were no really famous matches, though surprisingly perhaps, the highlight was a friendly, when the Selhurst Park floodlights were inaugurated by a visit from a (full-strength) Real Madrid, Gento, Di Stefano and all. Palace went down on the occasion, 4-3, which prophetically would turn out to be the scoreline of our other "greatest game", some 20 years later.
During the early 60's Palace gained promotion from the Fourth division, and two years later to the Third. By the end of the 60's they had consolidated as a second division side. Sparked by a small revival on the playing field, the club became more ambitious, and under the shrewd guidance of Bert Head, who used limited financial resources well, Palace secured, in 1969, a First Division place for the first time in their history.
Always out of their depth, and lacking the financial clout to strengthen the team, the club stayed in the First Division for four years, largely on the back of tremendous committment and effort, each time missing relegation by a matter of only a few points.
Allison's response was to clean house, both changing the playing staff and the very nature of the club in one fell swoop. This is the time when 'Eagles' replaced 'Glaziers' as the club's nickname and the team colours changed from Claret and Blue to Red and Blue. Perhaps knowing that Palace's financial resources were limited, he placed great emphasis on building up a strong youth system which would serve the club well in future years.
Nevertheless, shockingly, the immediate effect of the changes was that Palace, in Allison's first full season, were relegated again, dropping straight into Division Three.
There, the tailspin stopped, but in spite of a superior playing squad, Allison's team was never able to rise above the fringes of the promotion race. The highlights of those years were the emergence of Peter Taylor, who became one of very few players ever to win a full England cap whilst in the Third Division, and the famous 1976 FA Cup run which brought Palace to the brink of Wembley (they would have been the first Third Divsion team to reach the FA Cup Final had they not lost the semi-final to Southampton), all under the guidance of Big Mal's lucky fedora hat, which became the icon by which the team were recognized.
It wasn't to be, and when Palace missed promotion for the third time of asking, Allison was on his way, to be replaced by an ageing player he had signed to round out his career at Palace...Terry Venables.
Under Venables, Palace immediately gained promotion back to the Second Division, and after a year of consolidation, during which numerous stellar young talents graduated into the first team from a youth side which had won the FA Youth Cup two years in succession, they won the Second Division Championship twelve months later. Over 51,000 crammed into Selhurst Park to see the clinching victory over Burnley.
Dubbed the "Team of the Eighties," Venables' side rose quickly, and within two months of the start of their first season back in the top flight, they headed the table, before falling to a respectable mid-level finish. However, over the summer, things started to go wrong, firstly with the departure of Kenny Sansom, perhaps the greatest player ever to pull on a Palace shirt, certainly up to that time, and then with the departure of Venables himself, in controversial circumstances to QPR.
Palace were relegated the next year, largely due to the fact that many of the youngsters failed to fulfil their promise, and a series of desperation moves by club officials, which saw no few than four managers and a change of ownership during the 1981 season.
At this point, teetering on the brink of bankruptcy, Palace were near extinction. After relegation, they barely held on in the Second Division for a couple of years, replacing managers annually, and lacking the money to improve the side. Crowds at Selhurst dwindled, and the club seemed headed for a long period of oblivion. The club was taken over by Ron Noades, previously owner of Wimbledon and under his sometimes unpopular stewardship Palace slowly began to gain a solid financial base.
On the pitch things changed, as they had done twelve years earlier, with the hiring of another young ex-player to his first managerial job, this time Steve Coppell. It could be argued that Coppell was the greatest talent judge of his era. He turned Palace around almost immediately, by discovering one player after another who, bought for a pittance, would eventually leave Selhurst Park for figures around, or over, one million pounds. Geoff Thomas, Ian Wright, Mark Bright, and John Salako headed the list of Coppell's discoveries, and inevitably, within three years, Coppell had guided Palace back to the top flight once again.
After a rocky start to their first season back, including an infamous 0-9 reversal at Liverpool, the team settled, and embarked on the famous cup run which would see them reach Wembley by way of a stunning revenge victory in the semi-final, 4-3, over Liverpool once again. That the side lost the Final to Manchester United, after a replay, hardly mattered. They had reached Wembley for the first time in their history, and had consolidated promotion with a mid-table finish in Division One.
The following year, going from strength to strength, Palace finished third in the table, behind only Liverpool and Arsenal, but were cruelly robbed of their rightful European place when UEFA decided to re-admit the (more glamorous) Liverpool at the last minute, changing the rules with the game almost over.
In many people's opinion, the decision was a killer blow to the club. Treated with no respect, players like Ian Wright decided bigger name teams would improve their fortunes, and with controversy sparked by some ridiculous comments made by the club chairman on a TV show, the rot set in.
However, the depth of young talent at the club was substantial, and the rot meant a mid-table place again, rather than relegation, in 1992. A year later, though, and fate dealt Palace a crueler blow when we were relegated, in spite of having the most points ever for a relegated team, and having lost the same number of games as Liverpool, who finished in sixth place.
Relegation, in fairness, was not undeserved. The team had played atrociously before Christmas and an excellent run in the new year proved too little, too late. Additionally, in spite of the talent at his disposal, Coppell had lost his nerve tactically, and his blunderbuss approach to the game had won Palace few friends at this time.
With relegation, Coppell quit. The feeling was the club faced a watershed year. They could keep their star players for one season, dependent on an immediate return to the top, and had to hire the right manager, first time.
After being linked with every big name in the book, Palace opted for Coppell's unknown assistant, Alan Smith, and it proved to be a masterstroke. Smith lead Palace not only to the First Division (as it had become called) Championship in the 93/94 season, but did so in an entertaining and attacking manner.
And so, Palace were back again complete with a 'yo-yo club' tag from the media. In five years they reached an FA Cup Final, finished third in the Premiership, won the First Division Championship, and had no fewer than three players pull on a full England shirt, as well as two of the brightest young stars in English football (Dean Gordon and Bruce Dyer) shine for the England-Under 21 side.
In spite of the one year abberation of a relegation season, Palace remained in the greatest period in the club's history, and probably faced the 94/95 season with the best squad of players ever assembled at Selhurst Park.
In addition, the Selhurst Park ground underwent major improvements. What had been an "open-ended" stadium for years saw the Whitehorse Lane end covered by 1993 and the Holmesdale Road end completely redeveloped to become a two-tiered, covered stand by the beginning of the 1995/6 season. Unfortunately, despite reaching the semi-finals of both domestic cup competitions, Palace lacked the experience to stay in the top division and were relegated, with four teams going down as the Premier league was reduced in size. Palace finished four places from the bottom, with Alan Smith parting company with the club and a re-organisation of the management structure, which saw Ray Lewington become Team coach and Steve Coppell return as Director of Football. The damage of relegation caused many of the team's best players to leave, or ask for transfers.
The 95/96 season saw the arrival of many new, young players, their relative inexperience typified by losing or drawing games after taking a substantial lead. Away form was much better, but despite a more attractive style of play, there was an edge missing from their play. It arrived in February 1996, when Dave Bassett was appointed manager.
Although the team had already turned the corner in terms of results, progress from their lowly league position was slow, but subsequent results took Palace into the play-off places. They even had the chance to claim an automatic promotion spot but failed to beat Derby in a tense game that saw the Rams promoted instead.
The play-offs it was - and having disposed of Charlton, Wembley called - this time to face Leicester who had finished sixth after a good late run. Palace took a first-half lead but Leicester gained a penalty late in the second-half to send the game into extra-time. As nerves jangled, penalties were only moments away when disaster struck.
Those Palace supporters present will probably all remember what happened next in complete clarity - for ever. The ball was hit toward the Palace goal by Leicester's Claridge, coming off his shin and sailing wide of the stationary Palace keeper Martyn, into the net. Within moments of the re-start the game was over and Palace remained in Division One, their supporters shocked into silence by events.
Destined to another season in the first division Palace lost long-serving keeper Nigel Martyn to Leeds, leaving them without a keeper with any first-team experience. Palace had an indifferent season in 1996/7; in the top six before Christmas and then fading away slightly. The momentum was destroyed by the on-off move of manager Dave Bassett to Manchester City, and finally his subsequent move to Nottingham Forest.
Steve Coppell had returned to Palace doing some scouting, having himself been manager of Manchester City for a short while after Bassett's change of mind, and slotted in as manager. It helped pull the club round and with the return of out-of-favour Simon Rodger and Gareth Davies, Palace once more made the play-offs.
Wolves were removed in two tense, exciting semi-finals and the Eagles once-more made their way to Wembley for a Final, this time to face Sheffield Utd. Although the better side, Palace seemed unable to score, and a repeat of the extra-time experience of 12 months earlier seemed likely, until David Hopkin, Palace's player of the year, hit a great winning goal seconds from the whistle to send Palace back to the Premier League. It was the best possible way to make up for the disappointment of the correspoding game the year before.
The season's dark patch was Dave Bassett's behaviour, in saying he could achieve more with Palace than Manchester City, and then leaving for Forest. Typical in Palace's history, Forest were relegated as Palace were promoted! Apart from the promotion, the bright patch was the recognition that coach Ray Lewington gained from all concerned. He emerged as the real force of continuity at the club and one of the best talents in football.
The 1997/8 season was notable for many reasons. Although not the first real foreigner to play for Palace, the capture of Attilio Lombardo was a historic first for the club. Never before had an international player of his stature chosen to play for Palace. Another reputable but injury-prone player joined in the form of Paul Warhurst and Coppell even gave Tomas Brolin a chance to resurrect his career. Although Palace started the season well, rising to 9th by November despite poor home results they were unable to win at home - or beat the other 'relegation contenders'.
As injuries robbed the team of the star names, the club fell down the league. With some doubts about Coppell's team selections being the cause of their inability to win at home, the club was further unsettled by a takeover bid for the club by Mark Goldberg. The negotiations were lengthy and almost public, but eventually Ron Noades announced that he would sell. Towards the end of the season, and in Noades absence Goldberg replaced Coppell with Attilio Lombardo, who could not speak English at this time!
The club became the butt of media jokes as the team slid down the table and settled on bottom. With relegation confirmed Lombardo stood down. Goldberg announced that when his takeover was complete he would put Terry Venable in charge of team affairs and embarked on a lengthy round of negotiations with the ex-Palace manager, while still negotiating the terms of payment to Ron Noades.
The new season started with a similar clear-out of players to three years before. On this occasion many of them left to join Brentford where Ron Noades had started again with Ray Lewington. Notable for Palace's first official, but half-hearted, foray into europe via the Inter-Toto cup, the season saw an enormous number of players through the doors of Selhurst Park, including four new Australians, two Chinese, an Israeli and another Yugoslav.