Every fan has his or her favourite eleven players that, if dreams came true, would line up to take on the rest of the Premier League.
Of course, when making any favourite eleven you need rules. My rules are:
- They have to have played a full season for the Palace as a permanent signing.
- I have to have seen them play for the Palace.
- Play in a recognised formation, such as 4-4-2, 4-3-3 and so on.
- Within reason, they have to be able to play together.
The last rule is important because a lot of people tend to put Ian Wright and Andrew Johnson in the same team. They are two players who are quite similar and in reality wouldn’t play in the same side.
The first time I saw Palace play was in January 1980 but I count 1983 as the year I really began to watch Palace properly.
So here is my eleven.
Julian Speroni. Quite simply the best goalkeeper we’ve ever had. When he arrived he wasn’t first choice immediately. That role was share with Gabor Kiraly but this season Julian is about to break the record for the most appearances and you don’t do that without being a very good goalkeeper.
Notable mention: Nigel Martyn. A very good goalkeeper but I’ll never forgive him for costing us the 1990 F. A. Cup Final.
John Pemberton. Pembo will forever be remembered in Palace history for that run that led to our equaliser against Liverpool at Villa Park. That aside I have a lot of good memories seeing Pembo in the two seasons leading up to our promotion to the old First Division.
Notable mention: Joel Ward. I think it is a close run thing between Pembo and Wardy but Pembo’s dynamism and pace edges it for me.
Richard Shaw. Though Richard played quite a but at centre back he was part of the back four that finished 3rd in the old First Division. An excellent man-to-man marker he had was one of the start from the clubs youth team.
Notable mention: Dean Gordon. Another product of the youth team, Dean was unfortunate in that he played for the Palace in the mid-nineties which might be why his abilities don’t stand out in my memory as much as they should. He probably had an equally fearsome shot to…
Andy Gray. For me, Andy is probably the best midfielder we’ve ever had. Fierce in a tackle, fast, could spray a ball around and had a thunderous shot on him. Andy was a player I looked up to as a kid, I wanted to play in midfield because of him and it is a mystery to me how Geoff Thomas won more England caps (8) than Andy’s solitary one. One of my favourite memories of Andy is the hat-trick he scored at Selhurst when we beat Portsmouth 2-1. Yes, you read that right, he score an own goal, a diving header at that! Another time, he took a penalty v Swindon and goalkeeper Fraizer Digby got a hand to it, and fractured two fingers!
Notable mention: Geoff Thomas. Another Palace great but doesn’t make it in to my midfield because, as Geoff put it “my job was to win the ball and give it to someone who could do something with it.” Apart from that, the shame of being one-on-one with the French goalkeeper at Wembley, attempting to chip him and the ball going out for a throw in will never escape me.
Andy Thorn. Part of the defence that finished 3rd in 1990-1991 season, Andy was a rock steady central defender who also posed a threat at set pieces. Andy was the player who flicked on the Andy Gray corner for Alan Pardew to bundle the ball home in the 1990 F. A. Cup semi-final.
Notable mention: Eric Young. Andy Thorn’s central defence partner is just edged out because Eric wasn’t as gifted up the other end of the pitch though he gets extra marks for the headband he wore… But gets them taken away for having played for Brighton!
Jim Cannon. Quite simply, Mr Crystal Palace! Jim came through the youth system in the early seventies and when we were relegated in 1981 he had the chance to leave as he was knocking on the door to a Scotland call up. Just about every other rat had deserted the sinking ship but Jim stayed. He never was called up to the national squad, a travesty and his loyalty alone earns his place in the team. Jim scored in every season he played for Palace, not bad for a central defender and if Jim were playing today he’d be labelled a ‘ball playing defender’ as he was more than comfortable taking the ball out of defence. The thing I remember most about Jim is the thing I didn’t see, his scissor kick from the edge of the area against Ipswich in 1970 that took up top of the old First Division.
Notable mention: Scott Dann. A very good, solid defender who is a major threat at set pieces. Give it another season or two and he’ll edge out Andy Thorn.
Alan Irvine. Back when I first started going to Palace on my own, Alan was our main attacking threat. I remember him as a direct winger who had a few tricks and step overs. His main job was to get to the byline and cross the ball into the box. Back before we signed Andy Gray I used to play on the wing, Alan was the player imitated.
Notable mention: Eddie McGoldrick. A very skilful and tricky winger who later became a sweeper.
Notable, notable mention: Attillio Lombardo. A true great of world football his time with us was spoilt by playing in a relegation side and being part of the debacle that saw him and Tomas Brolin become joint player managers.
Yohan Cabaye. Though he has yet to show it, Yohan is the best midfield player to put on the Palace short. Capped multiple times for his country and held in high regard with several top managers, Yohan is in the side more for reputation than what he produced last season.
Notable mention: Mile Jedinak. Mile will go down, quite rightly, as a legend who is a very good defensive midfielder. Unfortunately he is a little one dimensional, the same reason Geoff Thomas didn’t make the team.
Mark Bright. One half of the Wright-Bright partnership that used to scare defences silly. Mark was a good old fashioned number 9 who could hold the ball up, flick the ball on or just finish himself.
Notable mention: Glenn Murray. Like Mark, Glenn is a good old fashioned number 9 and I think he’d have played well with Wrighty. However, he played for Brighton and has recently signed for them again on a season long loan. Once a murderer…
Ian Wright. The other half of the Wright-Bright partnership, Ian was skilful, fast, good in the air and aggressive. Everything you want in a number 10. Ian lost a few marks with me after leaving to sign for Arsenal but the thing I never understood is why they didn’t sign Brighty too. Ian teamed up with Alan Smith, a similar player to Bright but for me Bright was a better player and buying a ready made partnership would have been the smart thing to do. But what do I know?
Notable mention: Andrew Johnson. Like Wrighty, AJ was fast, skilful and good in the air. Though Wrighty made mistakes after he left us the fact he scored more goals and went on to achieve what he has just edges AJ out.
Vince Hilaire. Probably the best winger I have seen at Palace. Everyone knew Vince which when you think how little football there was on TV is remarkable. Vince was more of a winger who cut in than cross the ball and though I only got to see him for 2 seasons in a Palace shirt it was a privilege. Not only that I got to meet him several times at training sessions or club functions and he was always polite, down to earth and happy to meet fans. A true great!
Notable mention: John Salako. John came through the youth system and went on to play for England. John was the first player since Kenny Sansom to achieve this (Ian Wright was signed from Greenwich Borough, Geoff Thomas was signed from Crewe and Andy Gray was signed from Dulwich Hamlet). Though John was a skilful, tricky winger who could get to the byline to provide balls for Wright & Bright my favourite memory of him was when he had to play for 75 minutes in goal v Wimbledon after Nigel Martyn was sent off. John also scored a ‘Beckham’ v Nottingham Forest at the City Ground during a League Cup match.
So that is the eleven I would choose as my side. Who would you choose?