Billy Gilbert and Trevor Francis in 1980

I don’t want Crystal Palace to take a trip back to the Championship, especially if Brighton are going to get promoted. But relegation from the Premier League could be the chance to take the metaphorical broom out of the closet and give the squad a spring clean

As I mentioned in Part 1 of this series, getting relegated from the top tier of the league can be a positive. It’s the same for players. If a player is unable to break into a Premier League team he might decide to drop down a division in order to establish himself in a side that gets promoted. Then, hopefully, he will be the mainstay of a team in the Premier League.

We’ve seen a few examples of this in the last couple of seasons, in particular Adlène Guedioura.

The Algerian midfielder couldn’t get in the Palace team on a regular basis under Ian Holloway, Tony Pulis, Neil Warnock or Alan Pardew but after dropping down a division to play for Watford he became the mainstay of the promotion winning team. He then subsequently played a major part of the team that finished mid-table in their first season and lost to us in the FA Cup semi-final at Wembley.

In fact, his most memorable moment in a Watford shirt was scoring the ‘thunder bast*rd’ goal against Arsenal in the same competition.

Of course, for every success story there are two stories of failure. In much the same way as for every story of a team getting relegated and coming back stronger than before there are teams who struggle to adapt or suffer the humiliation of a double relegation.

In 1973, Crystal Palace suffered a double relegation in successive seasons with Big Mal in charge, in 1981 it was a little different.

1979-1981

Vince Hilaire v Brighton

By the time Crystal Palace beat Burnley in the final game of the 1978-79 season, Palace had already developed a reputation of having the best young team in the country.

Despite Brighton manager Alan Mullery’s opinion that the team wasn’t worth a couple of quid the side that won promotion was dubbed the ‘Team of the Eighties’.

Several of the first team players came through the youth system and in addition to Terry Venables, regarded as the best young coach of his generation, Palace arguably had a very bright future in store.

Our first season back in the top flight ended with Palace sitting firmly in mid-table, 13th out of 22 teams, nine points above the drop zone.

Things started brightly enough, drawing four out of the first five games, winning the other. Then three more victories culminating in the 4-1 victory over Ipswich at Selhurst Park to go top of the league for the first time in our history.

But something wasn’t right at the club and in the second half of the season results dropped off amid rumours of tension between Venables and chairman Raymond Boyle.

Though I am unable to locate the source of the following information, I read that Venables was ready to leave the club at the end of the 1979-80 season but was convinced to start the 1980-81 campaign.

In the summer of 1980 a transfer took place which might have shocked but certainly surprised the football world.

Clive Allen (Judas) signed for Crystal Palace in a swap deal involving Kenny Sansom. It was a shock because he only signed for Arsenal the month before from Queens Park Rangers for a fee of £1.25million. Allen did not play a single competitive match for the Gunners (although he did play three matches in Arsenal’s 1980–81 pre-season friendly campaign) and signed for Palace before the start of the season.

The story goes that Queens Park Rangers refused to sell Allen to Palace so Arsenal agreed to act as a third party if they could have Kenny Sansom. Even Stevie Wonder would have been able to see that we were on the wrong end of the deal!

There is a lot of speculation about what went on at Selhurst Park during that summer involving transfers which I will not repeat here but suffice to say, during that summer Raymond Boyle sold the land at the Whitehorse Lane end of the ground to Sainburys for about £2million shortly before selling the club to Ron Noades.

Furthermore in October 1980 Venables walked out on Palace to take over at Queens Park Rangers, who were in the Second Division. Here is a quote from Terry Venables’s Wikipedia page:

“Venables left Palace, in the top division, for Queens Park Rangers, who were in the Second Division. His departure from Selhurst Park coincided with a decline in form for Palace, who were relegated at the end of the season and did not regain their top flight status for another eight years. Venables drew a number of players over to Queens Park Rangers which, as reported at the time, gave an additional financial boost to his personal earnings.”

Make of that what you will, but the whole situation stank more than Billingsgate Fish Market on a hot summer’s day!

The players who transferred to Queens Park Rangers during the 1980-81 season were Tony Sealy, Gerry Francis, Terry Fenwick, Mike Flanagan and John Burridge.

In return from Queens Park Rangers we got Tommy Langley… Tommy fu*king Langley!!!

At the end of the season, after we secured relegation, Clive Allen left to join the rest of the traitors over at Loftus Road.

Once again, Palace had managed to shoot themselves in the foot. A combination of a crooked chairman (Raymond Boyle is no longer of this world and you can’t liable the dead) and some shady, dodgy, corrupt, immoral, ‘dubious’ transfer dealings involving Venables (he isn’t dead, yet) saw Palace not only relegated but spiraling into an abyss that would take some getting out of.

To use a well known phrase, Palace were ‘up sh*t creek without a paddle!’

Somehow we managed to avoid a double relegation, even by having someone called Ernie Whalley as caretaker manager. Palace were arguably in a worse situation than in 1973. On the one hand we managed to stabilise our position in the second tier but on the other we had no youth players coming through who could emulate the team from the seventies.

In the seventies we had the likes of Canon, Hilaire, Sansom, Fenwick, Nicholas, Gilbert and Murphy coming through but in the eighties we had Gary Stebbing, David Lindsay, Neil Smillie, Steve Lovell, Mark Horne, Shaun Brooks and David Fry.

Believe it or not, it was during this time that I started going to Palace on a regular basis… And kept coming back for more!

Ron Noades

A lot has been said about Ron Noades and during the eighties I was far from his biggest fan. The chairman is an easy hate figure but looking back he was a good chairman for us and never got the appreciation he deserved. Yes, I used to sing the song about his mother and still do but it is one of the football songs that doesn’t really mean what the words imply.

Noades had his hair-brained schemes, such as wanting to merge Palace and Wimbledon but to his credit he gave us the vote and abided by it. Noades brought Steve Coppell to Palace, insisted on signing Ian Wright and, knowing what I do today, is responsible for a lot of the good things credited to Coppell!

Yes, he ripped Mark Goldberg off, who wouldn’t? He never wanted to do Palace any harm even after he left despite the talk by Simon Jordan. Both Goldberg and Jordan messed up and blamed Noades, there is a very good interview with Noades you can listen to at the links below.

Well worth the listen!

Next time: 1989-1993