Palace In Perspective
Time for another article about Tony Pulis and our fears and hopes for the next twenty odd games with the baseball capped hoofer/ relegation avoiding messiah (delete per your preference).
Not here. You must have seen enough of those by now.
Instead I’m writing about Chris Hughton, the manager of Saturday’s opposition, Norwich City.
Well, sort of.
Did you know that Chris Hughton once played a game in a Palace shirt? Well he did, back in October 1982, and I have photographic evidence, on page 376 of the excellent pictorial history by Palace fan Hy Money ‘Hy on Palace’, published in 2005 as part of Palace’s Centenary.
The game was Jim Cannon’s (first) testimonial, when Jim’s Palace XI played a Vince Hilaire Invitational XI, who consisted of some of the leading black players of the day.
It is interesting to look back on that game and the idea of Hilaire’s XI. Was it progressive or patronising? At the time, as I remember, it was seen as a progressive thing and reflected well on the club. Hilaire had been a regular in the side for years, and was (and still is) a popular figure with the crowd.
Vince Hilaire emerged as part of the great Palace FA Youth Cup winning team from 1977. Much of that team – Hilaire himself, Kenny Sansom, Billy Gilbert, Peter Nicholas, Jerry Murphy, Ian Walsh (and occasionally Terry Fenwick) migrated to the first team, and were all part of the promotion-winning team in1979. Hilaire normally played on the right wing, and was very much a flair player, along the lines of Wayne Routledge and Wilfried Zaha, (without the stepovers).
From 1977/78 onwards, when Hilaire became a regular in the Palace side, there have always been black players in the side, many of them coming through the academy or signed from South London non-league football. Hilaire left Palace for Portsmouth in the summer of 1984. During 1984/85 we signed Andy Gray, two years later we signed Mark Bright, followed by Ian Wright and John Salako.
Together, these guys formed the attacking core of Palace’s most successful side.
Back to 1982. The photo in Hy Money’s book of Hilaire’s team relaxing in the changing room is an interesting historical document, as you see many of the best black players coming through in the early 1980’s, following the lead of the likes of Viv Anderson, Cyrille Regis and Laurie Cunningham all challenged to be the first black player to play for England.
Among the notable players who appeared that night were Brian Stein and Ricky Hill, key players in the Luton side managed by David Pleat that were competing in the top division throughout the 1980’s.
Justin Fashanu, then a Norwich player, was a skilful centre-forward, less physical than his younger brother John, and scorer of one of the great Match of the Day goals of the 80’s bending the bizarre red-striped match ball in from 30 yards.
Garth Crooks, then at his fighting weight, almost half the man he is now, was a classy number ten, playing off a target man. By then Crooks had left Stoke and was playing at Tottenham alongside Chris Hughton, who manned the right back slot for many years.
Chris’s not quite so good brother Henry was at Palace. Henry Hughton’s Palace career is remembered for one incident, a crunching tackle that ended the career of long-serving Brighton midfielder Gerry Ryan. Brighton or not, it was a dreadful tackle, one of two cringe-inducing tackles I remember from my childhood.
The other being George Best’s on poor Ian Evans right in front of the dugouts.
I may be looking back on that time through rose-tinted spectacles, but Palace has never been a club associated with racial abuse, and while that may be down to a more tolerant and intelligent support base, it is also due to the efforts on and off the pitch of Vince Hilaire, one of the most important players in our club history.
Article written by Neil Carter