Memory Lane – Southampton
Ahead of our second home game of the season, I continue my walk down memory lane, back through my 24 years and over 600 games of watching Palace.
Below, I reflect on the highs and lows that I’ve seen against our opposition. Some clubs, I’ve got a rich history of great Palace moments, and for others, there’s been limited encounters but I’ll try to capture the emotion, context and excitement of the Palace life.
I’ve only seen us play Watford (32 games) and Leicester (20 games) more than I’ve seen us play Southampton. My personal record against them is decent if unspectacular, with us having had as many losses as we’ve had victories. However, looking back, despite inflicting a couple of heavy defeats on the South Coast side, some of the negative memories stick out more to me than the positive ones.
Palace…4 – Scowcroft (3), Morrison
11th August 2007, Championship.
Southampton: Bialkowski, Ostlund, Bennett, Makin, Vignal (Skacel 67), Viafara (Hammill 63), Wright, Safri, Surman, Saganowski (Wright-Phillips 76), Rasiak.
Subs Not Used: Davis, McGoldrick.
Crystal Palace: Speroni, Lawrence, Cort, Hudson, Craig, Green, Watson, Soares, Kennedy (Butterfield 68), Morrison (Kuqi 62), Scowcroft (Freedman 75).
Subs Not Used: Flinders, Martin.
It’s fair to say that optimism wasn’t high at the start of the 2007/8 season. I, like many others, felt that Peter Taylor should have been sacked after a poor and uninspiring first season at the club. Even more than the results – the football was so turgid that fans were turning away in their thousands. You can’t really understand the meaning of ‘boring football’ until you go to three consecutive away games without having a bloody shot.
Using the Andy Johnson money, Taylor had filled the squad with old, slow journeymen and continued to ignore the young players at his disposal who were impressing in club and country youth football. Going to Palace was a routine, not an enjoyment.
However, we turned up in the August heat to see us play Southampton and one of those old and slow – albeit hardworking – journeymen, Jamie Scowcroft, shocked even himself by scoring a hat-trick. They ranged from the sublime (a fantastic lob) to the ridiculous (their keeper palming an over-hit long ball onto his head) but Scowie gave us the dream start the season. I must admit, as much as I remember enjoying the game, I don’t remember us actually playing that well. We simply took our chances.
Unfortunately, it wasn’t to be Taylor’s turning point and we only won one of the next nine before he was rightly sacked with the club hovering just above the relegation places. Luckily, after that, we could all wake up again.
Palace…2 (Hall, Ventola)
7th May 2005, Premier League
Palace: Kiraly, Hall, Popovic (Ventola 64), Sorondo, Granville, Routledge, Leigertwood, Riihilahti (Watson 64), Hughes, Soares, Johnson. Subs not used: Speroni, Freedman, Lakis.
Southampton: Niemi, Telfer, Lundekvam, Higginbotham, Bernard, Oakley (Delap 76), Redknapp (McCann 79), Quashie, Le Saux (Phillips 63), Camara, Crouch. Subs not used: Smith, Davenport.
It’s the most silent, stunned and crushing moment that I’ve ever heard at Selhurst Park. A victory would have all but seen us safe and it looked like the fairytale was on. Nicola Ventola, having been injured all season, very nearly wrote himself into Palace folk law. Excitement had built around his much anticipated return since he inspired an 8-0 reserve win against Portsmouth’s second string at the start of April as he recovered from both a broken ankle and a knee injury.
However, he hadn’t been on the pitch for the first team since September until Iain Dowie threw him on for the final twenty-five minutes of our relegation six pointer after both teams had been reduced to ten men. Ventola replaced Tony Popovic after Gonzalo Sorondo had been sent off, leaving us with only Fitz Hall, Mikele Leigertwood and Danny Granville as recognised defenders on the pitch. The match was wide open and Ventola scored a beautiful goal eight minutes after coming on, before running to hug the fitness coach, John Harbin.
Feeling the pressure of the situation, from then on, Palace tried to close out the game, taking the ball into the corner despite there being more than ten minutes left. With only five substitutes allowed back then, Dowie hadn’t listed a single defender on the bench and inevitably, our attack-heavy side conceded at the death. Danny Higginbothem’s name still makes me feel a little bit sick to this day. The Saints fans went wild as a defeat would have officially relegated them and we’d have moved out of the drop zone. Alas, the goal ended up dragging us both down when the two clubs were officially relegated a week later but it’s always that moment that sticks in my throat when I reflect on the 2005/6 season.
The car ride home with my Dad and brothers was silent and resigned. In the evening, I was babysitting to earn some teenage cash to waste and I remember staring at my host’s tele and punishing myself by watching the whole ninety-minutes again as Sky showed it as their ‘Game of the Day’. Second time around, it was even more crushing.
I Still can’t forgive Zohar.
As a footnote to this fixture, a special mention for my “lowest moment” has to go to Boxing Day 1997. Palace were sitting half way up the table with Neil Shipperley scoring for fun and we looked set to survive in our first season back in the big time. Despite being behind at half time, Palace battled back to equalise and then earned a late penalty. New signing, Iztik “dip-stick” Zohar, snatched the ball off Bruce Dyer and feebly kicked the spot kick straight at the Saints’ keeper. He left the club soon after for a financial loss and that was his only memorable contribution.
Although there are a variety of reasons that Palace slid down the Premier League table and back to Division 1, including appalling home form, the sale of the club, a horrendous list of injuries and uncertainty around Steve Coppell’s job, I’ll always look on that game as a bit of a turning point. To make matters worse, my Dad had put a £1 bet on for me for Saints to be leading at half time and Palace at full time, which would have brought in twenty-five quid. As a seven year old, I could have bought a “Lombardo wig” and a new lego set with those winnings!
My Personal Record of Live Matches Against Southampton
- Palace…1 Southampton…1 (Premier League, 1998) – Shipperley
- Southampton…2 Palace… 2 (Premier League, 2004) – Johnson, Routledge
- Palace…2 Southampton…2 (Premier League, 2005) – Hall, Ventola
- Palace…2 Southampton…1 (Championship, 2006) – Johnson, Morrison
- Palace…0 Southampton…2 (Championship, 2006)
- Southampton…1 Palace…1 (Championship, 2006) – McAnuff
- Southampton…1 Palace…4 (Championship, 2007) – Scowcroft (3), Morrison
- Palace…1 Southampton…1 (Championship, 2008) – Scowcroft
- Palace…3 Southampton…0 (Championship, 2008) – Kuqi, Beattie, Ifill
- Southampton…1 Palace…0 (Championship, 2009)
- Palace…2 Southampton…0 (League Cup R4, 2011) – Ambrose, Easter
- Southampton…2 Palace…0 (Championship, 2011)
- Southampton…2 Palace…0 (Premier League, 2013)
- Palace…0 Southampton…1 (Premier League, 2014)
- Palace…1 Southampton…0 (Premier League, 2015) – Cabaye
- Southampton…1 Palace…2 (FA Cup R3, 2016) – Ward, Zaha
- Palace…3 Southampton…0 (Premier League, 2016) – Benteke (2), Tomkins
- Southampton…3 Palace…1 (Premier League, 2017) – Benteke
- Palace…0 Southampton…1 (Premier League, 2017)