Vince Hilaire and Kenny Sansom
The Crystal Palace squad 1980-81

The first Crystal Palace game I ever attended was in January 1981. It was a cold, horrible Saturday and my youngest brother (though 9 years older than myself), a Chelsea fan, took me with his girlfriend of the week.

My brother had recently passed out from his army training at Woolwich and was about to be deployed in Germany with the Royal Artillery where my oldest brother, a Crystal Palace fan was already stationed.

My brother had been trying to convert me to support Chelsea for a couple of years but my oldest brother made me a Palace fan and, if I am honest, I was attracted to the colours we wore at the time. The famous white shirts with red/blue sash.

I have always liked that colour scheme. Dominant white with red and blue and though I like our current shirts, the sash is and always will be my favourite.

Oh, and, in case you wondered which version is my favourite, it has to be the Admiral shirt! Least of all because it was the first shirt I ever owned. As was the style at the time it was 4 sizes too big for me because I would grow in to it! It was like a bloody dress!

The game? Oh, that was against Stoke. We stood on the Whitehorse Lane end, or ‘Sainbury’s’ if you prefer. The supermarket was being built at the time and we had a mud pile to stand on. I would veer off into a version of the Four Yorkshireman but really the terrace before they demolished it was like heaven compared to a mud pile in the rain!

And people think supporters are treated like dirt today…

Jerry Murphy v Burnley

So, we got to the game late just as they were kicking off. I remember being somewhat worried about being hit by the ball which I think was the reason my brother made me stand to the side of the goal…

Anyway, we scored just before half time via a Terry Boyle goal and was the only glint in an otherwise dire half. The second half was equally as dire as the first so my brother thought we should leave early to avoid the rush from the 14,100 strong crowed.

So with 5 minutes left to play we made our way home.

At the time I lived in Collier’s Wood. We got fish & chips on the way home, switched on the telly to watch Celebrity Squares and afterwards thought nothing more about the game. My brother and his girlfriend left and that seemed to be the end of things.

Those of you old enough to remember back then will know there was no internet, sms service, Teletext or football scores on the news and Match of the Day only had 3 games from all 4 divisions. It was quite a football blackout.

So it wasn’t until the next day when I looked at the News of the World that I saw Palace had not won as I thought but had in fact drew 1-1. Mike Doyle scored in the 90th minute.

That sums up my relationship with Palace. Probably yours too? I remember the play-off final where Steve Claridge scored a last minute winner against us. I wasn’t disappointed, I was expecting it. We do, as Palace fans, expect the worst and I think we become slightly unnerved if it doesn’t happen!

But, if you think about it this gentle teasing of how great things can be does not stop at Palace. This is exactly how the England national team plays at major tournaments!

You may be wondering how old was I at the time? I was 10 years old, 35 years since that day and I have never wavered from being a Palace fan despite going to school and living in the Wimbledon area when they were at their height.

I will never support anyone else and like most of you, had Palace died in 2010 I would never have loved again. Palace is my childhood sweetheart, my one and only and while she may abuse me most of the time, I love her to bits.

Much like the stereotypical love rat in films, I know she is going to start smacking me around again. She will hurt me and I know I will still be waiting here for her with open arms when she is sorry and promises it won’t happen again!

As a side note, the manager of Crystal Palace at the time was Malcolm Allison, the second spell he had at The Eagles.

Here is a link to the match info at WorldFootball.net