Palace & Me
Like many people, my introduction to the team I support was through my family.
My family was fairly divided when it came to football. Some of my siblings supported Chelsea, my dad has a loose affiliation with Fulham and I had a brother who supported Crystal Palace.
Location, Location, Location
I was born in Southwark, Millwall territory, but lived the first 3 years of my life in Brixton and beside Selhurst Park. Far too early to have any influence over me. After that, I lived in Battersea and Clapham Common before ending up in South Wimbledon, which is where I have my first memory of supporting the Palace.
What’s In A Kit?
It was late in 1977 when I remember watching The Big Match and seeing Palace in their white sash kit made by Umbro. My brother had been encouraging me to support Palace but I distinctly remember seeing that match on TV and liking the colours.
As you’ll no doubt know, Palace kept the same kit until 1983, albeit by different manufacturers and it was a kit that spoke to me and probably more than anything else is the reason I supported Palace.
The first time I went to see a Palace match was in January 1981 when Stoke City came to Selhurst Park. It was a horribly cold day and we stood on the mud bank that was the Whitehorse Lane end. The match ended in a 1-1 draw and was the 4th football match I’d been to.
The first three football matches I was taken to were all Chelsea matches at Stamford Bridge. Another brother, who was a Chelsea fan, tried to convert me to become a Chelsea fan and took me to my first ever match in August 1979 when Everton played Chelsea. I was in the Shed End and remember the Chelsea fans singing “You’re gonna get your fucking heads kicked in!” and thinking it was amusing.
My brother realised he’d been unsuccessful after three games, versus Norwich and New York Cosmos so decided to take me to the Palace instead.
On My Own
I honestly can’t remember what the next game I saw was but if there wasn’t one before then I remember going to the Crystal Palace v West Ham United game in the FA Cup on January 27th, 1984. I was a mere 13-year old at the time and we 1-1 draw with The Hammers before losing the replay.
I stood on the Holmesdale Terrace in the middle pen, half-way down. I remember it well because when we scored I jumped on an old guy’s foot who was standing next to me. I apologised to him but he said it was okay. It was the first time I remember celebrating a goal with a complete stranger.
Football can be like that. You could be in the middle of a few thousand people who have never seen each other before but as soon as your team scores a goal you just grab someone and celebrate like mad.
What other environments would that be okay? From that game on I went to most home games, except evening fixtures.
As far as I can remember, the first away game I went to was at The Den on 21st April 1986 in a 3-2 defeat. I don’t remember going to another away game before this one
How I got in and out of the ground alive is beyond me. It was the era when Millwall’s ground was, basically, on an industrial estate next to the London Ambulance Brigade. This was why they coined the song ‘you’re going home in a London ambulance!’
The Millwall hooligans liked to stop fans around the ground and ask them if they knew the location of local pubs. Failure to answer would result in you getting a kick-in!
I suspect that as I was 15 and on my own that I avoided the attention of the neanderthal man. I didn’t and never have carried colours to an away game, except once to Brighton which prevented me getting beaten up by my own fans!
From the start of the 1987/88 season until the end of the 1990/91 I saw every first team match home and away plus every reserve home game played at Tooting & Mitcham’s ground. From the start of the 1991/92 season until the end of the 1992/93 season I also saw every home game but I had to stop going to most of the away games because of work commitments.
As a train driver, I had to work most weekends but as was training up until the end of 1993 I was still able to go to Selhurst Park most weeks. Once I completed the training in the autumn of 1993 I was limited in the number of home games I could attend but whenever I was free I went.
- I voted against our proposed merger with Wimbledon back in the mid-1980s.
- I was a founder member of Lifeline back in the mid-1980s.
- I trained for a few weeks with the Palace youth team in 1984.
- I was a season ticket holder for 3 years in a row from 1987-1990.
- I played for the Palace Fan’s Team a couple of times in 1990-91.
When I moved to Sweden I’d find a stream to listen to BBC Radio commentary on Real Player or a TV stream when they started to be available. I sit and watch, without fail, every game that is broadcast live so I can enjoy or suffer at the same time as everyone who is at the game.
It’s funny that some fans think they are better fans because they go to games. When I was a regular at games I never considered myself to be a better fan than people who didn’t go as often.
Back in 1987 when my brother moved home from Germany, he couldn’t go to games because money was tight. I didn’t think he wasn’t a proper fan. How could I? He had been a fan since before Palace were first promoted to the top flight, followed Palace through the depths of Division Three and the highs of Division One.
All I can say is, I was there in 1984 when we had crowds of 2,500 for a home game versus Oldham, Barnsley and Wallsall. If anyone needs to qualify to be a real fan then turning up for that pile of shite with just a couple of thousand for a Saturday afternoon league game would probably do it.