Blog number seventeen in the #Doingthe92 challenge is a visit to Selhurst Park, home of Crystal Palace. Palace have had a bit of a rocky road over the last 5 or so years. The club almost entered administration in 2010 and were almost relegated to League One at the end of the 2009/10 and 2010/11 seasons finishing 21st and 20th. Two years later and Palace would go on to win the play-offs at the end of the 2012/13 season against Watford to return to the Premier League after an 8 year absence.
Since then they have managed to finish mid table twice finishing in 10th place this season, the highest they have ever finished in the Premier League. So why did I pick a testimonial? Because ticket prices were cheaper than league games. Tickets for the testimonial were £20 whereas league games were about £35. So, why are were playing Dundee? Because Speroni spent three years with them making 92 appearances before moving to Crystal Palace for £750,000. Fun fact, Speroni owns his own restaurant in Purley named “Speroni’s” which is very popular with Palace fans.
On the train to the ground, I noticed two Dundee fans on the train who clearly didn’t know how to get to the ground. I decided to help them out as there aren’t any signposts telling fans where to go. I only found one but it’s that small it’s easy to miss. Before heading to the ground, I and the two Dundee fans (I forgot their names so I’ll call them #1 & #2) decided to get a drink at the pub next to Selhurst train station. As a thank you for helping the Dundee fans to the ground, I was rewarded with a drink and food.
As we got chatting, we discussed our journey to Selhurst and football in Scotland. This did lead to both #1 & #2 saying that I would be welcome to Dundee FC anytime next season. They also said to avoid Rangers unless I really wanted travel back home in an ambulance. They also were hoping Rangers lose to Motherwell in the play-offs meaning Rangers will stay in the Scottish Championship and Motherwell will stay in the Scottish Premier League. If Rangers win, they return to the Scottish Premier League and would be promoted for a third time in three years.
We also got talking about other clubs in England as I brought up that I was ‘doing the 92’ to which they talked about a few clubs I should visit. One club we talked about was Leeds United. #1 & #2 said Leeds are going to suffer if things go the way they are now with Massimo in charge. However they did praise Leeds’ new manager Uwe Rösler. After our drinks and a very nice chat, I helped #1 & #2 to the ground and told them where to go for away fans as I was sat with the home fans.
As we went our separate ways, and collected a charity wristband designed by Julian Speroni’s wife and a programme, I headed to my seat. On the way, I noticed Crystal Palace’s mascot, Kayla the Eagle, which was taken around the ground by the caretakers meeting fans. As I took my seat in The Main Stand, Dundee fans were already singing and chanting. The guy sat next to me jokingly said everyone in the Dundee section was all on a stag-do.
Prior to the game, Palace played their song they always play before the teams come out of the tunnel, Dave Clarke Five’s “Glad All Over”, to which everyone in the ground, including the Dundee supporters were singing along to it. They played the song every time a Palace player scores and Dundee fans were still singing along to it. Another thing I noticed Dundee fans doing was greeting their team by giving them handshakes, hugs and taking selfies.
One thing I noticed about Dundee’s team was that Charlie Adam was playing for them. We were told Adam asked Speroni if he could play in his testimonial I don’t know why but it reminded me of the time I would head to my friends house to see if he wanted to play outside in the park. If you think Adam playing for Dundee is one thing, Crystal Palace’s line up had their entire squad including a few extras who had played for Crystal Palace in the past such as Danny Butterfield (who plays for Exeter City), Clinton Morrison (also at Exeter City), Aki Riihilahti (CEO of HJK Helsinki), John Salako & John “Fenners” Fendley (Sky Sports News reporters). And the highlight of them all… ALAN PARDEW!!!
The current Crystal Palace manager decided to play as well. And he did… for about 30 minutes. And he is very well loved by Palace fans to the point they would cheer anytime he was on the ball. Even a former referee was returning for one night only. Dermot Gallagher returned to referee the first half. Speroni was given a ‘guard of honour’ as he came out and was quick to notice a giant banner in the crowd with a picture of him with the phrases “Manos De Dios”, “10 Years” and “Forever Number One” written next to them.
The first half started and it didn’t take long for Palace to take the lead. Yannick Bolasie scored the first goal after six minutes after a scramble in the box. After that goal, Dundee’s defence completely fell to pieces and were heavily relying on Charlie Adam to do all the work. Speaking of Adam, anytime he was on the ball, everyone shouted “shoot” at him. Clearly, everyone wanted to see him score another long range goal like he did against Chelsea.
Palace would score their second goal after 23 minutes when Bolasie’s shot on goal was saved but Chung-Yun Lee scored from the rebound to make it 2-0. And it didn’t take long for Palace to make it 3-0 after Dwight Gayle scored his first of two goals after 29 minutes. Eventually Dundee remembered that they have strikers and after 34 minutes managed to score after Charlie Adam ran the entire length of the pitch before passing to Dylan Carreiro who scored past Speroni to make it 3-1. Palace would score again after 38 minutes with Gayle scoring his second goal. At half time Speroni was given a microphone to say his thanks to everyone in attendance as well as they players, owners, his wife and two kids. He also said he would be back next season before doing promotional work for First Scholas Olive Tree for Peace in the UK by planting an olive tree.
The second half started and Palace had completely changed their squad. In the first half, they played the team they used for the majority of the season. In the second half, they decided to let all those I mentioned earlier including George Boateng, Neil Ashton and a few players from Palace’s youth squad. After the 60 minute mark, the moment everyone wanted happened as John Salako and Alan Pardew both came on as subs. Salako looked good and even pulled of a few football skills past a few Dundee players. I should note that when Salako isn’t doing reports for Soccer Saturday, he’s currently the coach for the Crystal Palace U16s.
Pardew didn’t look too bad but he was clearly out of breath after 10 minutes but still played the last 30 minutes. After 71 minutes, Julian Speroni was subbed off and everyone in the stadium stood up and applauded him as he was replaced by Lewis Price. This led to massive chants of “We want Speroni” from both sets of fans. And fans got their wish as Speroni came back on 6 minutes later… for Dundee. After 84 minutes Charlie Adam scored to make it 4-2 and that was quickly followed up two minutes later with Mark Kerr scoring to make it 4-3 before the final whistle.
Overall, I had a great time at Crystal Palace. I left the ground believing I had found the team for me. The idea behind this challenge is to see which team I should support. I was thinking about going online and buying a Palace shirt (mostly because they were £10/15). I might take up #1 & #2’s offer to visit Dundee next season. If so, what can I do when in town? If you have any recommendations on where I should visit at the start of next season, then let me know where I should go on Twitter @DanWhite1993. As it stands, my first visit next season is a tie between Sheffield Wednesday and Newport County.
Here are the full stats about the game
Team Visited – Crystal Palace
Taking on – Dundee FC
Venue – Selhurst Park
Date Visited – May 27th 2015
Overall Attendance – 11509
Score – Crystal Palace 4-3 Dundee FC
Goal Scorers – Crystal Palace – Yannick Bolasie (6), Chung-Yun Lee (23), Dwight Gayle (29 & 38)
Goal Scorer – Dundee FC – Dylan Carreiro (34), Charlie Adam (84), Mark Kerr (86)