Why Do We Bother?
Stood at the so called ‘London Stadium’, shaking in the cold, fans understandably streaming out around me, I and thousands of others, couldn’t help but question why we do this.
Why do we continue to pay for the torture of watching over-paid and under-caring players in red and blue?
We don’t even get to see them in stripes thanks to Steve Parish’s vanity project.
”There’s only so much you can do with stripes!” he arrogantly told us last May. Well, as we are fast learning, there’s only so much you can do with gutless players. We didn’t need a £12million gamble on a left back/left winger/striker. We need a Clint Hill. To watch players fall apart after Wayne Hennessey, a man in for a club legend, gifted the Hammers the lead, was heart-wrenching.
But for us, it wasn’t losing. We’re used to that as Palace fans. It was the despair that the players don’t seem to have the will or fight to turn this around. The manager is, at best, divisive, and at worst, corrupt. The owners are distant in a way that didn’t seem possible in the days of Steve Browett and Parish posting on the message boards just two years ago. Even as fans, we seem split and broken. Selhurst’s once lauded atmosphere is a fraction of what it once was.
So why should we carry on spending our hard earned cash to watch these mercenaries? For me, sadly, to see a future, I need to look to the past.
I remember watching on as thousands, including my father, threw their season tickets on the pitch against Wolverhampton Wanderers in 2000.
I remember watching through the fog as Crewe Alexandra cut us apart in 2003
I remember Stoke City walking though our defence in 2007.
Even as recently as New Years Day 2011, we looked doomed and spineless as Millwall thrashed us 3-0.
On those horrible days, the team looked as spineless (if not as well paid) as the current lot. However, all four of those squads turned it around. No one was calling the ‘Class of 2000′ spineless as they lofted Steve Kember above their heads just a week after the famous Wolves game.
In order to answer why we should bother to persist with this rubbish, I felt the need to look back and reflect on what made me fall for Palace in the first place. Why can’t I drop the club in the same way that I would if a previously loved television show went on for one series too many?
It all started twenty years ago for me when I stepped out at Wembley with my Dad to watch Hopkin looking to curl one. Was it that which captured me? Maybe. Or was it seeing the greatest ever Eagle glide in from Juventus and light up London? Or perhaps it was seeing the whites in Clinton’s eyes sparkle as the boy from Tooting got his dream debut.
Or was it a team of hapless heroes, who should never have made the grade, winning 1-0 at Norwich on the proudest night of their lives, and being rewarded by the ability to tell their grandkids that they played with the greatest left back of their generation? Led by Sir Steve. Or even the memory of that crackling radio report after 18 months in the wilderness, that an orange glow had saved us?
Just a few months later, Rubins and Morrison put slay to the Scousers in a dreamy semi final night at Selhurst as Owen and Heskey shot for the picturesque red and blue sunset above Selhurst.
Palace is the moment of Freedman skipping through the Stockport defence and Kember being hoisted up high. Then it was Aki, and Poppa, and for an all too short period, sexy football with Jovan Kirovski. Even Tricky Trevor gave us the 5-0 mauling of Brighton, and Julian Grey at Anfield.
Then it was Dowie’s punches, AJ’s hamburgers, Ship’s belly, Dougie’s volley and Routledge’s shorts. It was a great day in Cardiff. It was Gabor’s baggy trousers. It was Warnock saving us from Taylor and 7 youth team players thrashing Wolves at Molenuex. It was 5-0 against Burnley with the Ginger Zindane at the heart of it.
It was a Moses’ bicycle kick, Butterfield’s hat trick and the togetherness of admin. Jules in goal, Lawrence in the snow, Paddy’s commitment, Derry’s mullet, Alan Lee’s headband and a topless Clint Hill in a punch up. It was Hillsborough and Lloyds Bank. That was us. We are Palace.
It was Ambrose from outside the Manchester ring road, after everything else he’d done for us. It was Jedi destroying all in his path, Rambo going nuts and us being the first team to win at the Amex with three glorious late goals. FFS Murray!!
It was Yala and Zaha, left and right wing. It was Zaha, oh yes it was Zaha, and crying weeds. It was singing about Wembley in their back yard. It was Super Kev in the twilight of the career. It was enough to make Damo cry.
It was John Terry, it was Keith Millen at Hull, it was a military organised defence. It was Gayle… 3-3! It was Punch scoring every free-kick. It was winning at Anfield, routinely. It was Punch vs Norwich and for three magnificant minutes it was Punch at Wembley.
Now, we might feel distant from the players and manager today BUT like we did under Kember in 2000, Dowie in 2003, Warnock in 2007 and Freedman in 2011, I live on in hope that seemingly spineless players can turn up for the fight when we need them, no matter how unlikely that feels right now.
All of us look back on 2013-14 team with great pride, but did we think of them as heroic leaders on the night that Fulham strolled to a 4-1 win at Selhurst?
So you never know, the current lot might surprise us yet. We might even get some more memories to cherish this season. And if we don’t, we’ll all come back for some more misery next season in the optimism that we’ll get the odd moment to make it somewhat worthwhile.