Cult Heroes Of The CPFC 2010 Era: “It was one of the best feelings I have experienced in football!” – Neil Danns

With 38 Premier League games to contend with this season, coinciding with a decade under the ownership of CPFC 2010, The Eagles Beak will take a look at 38 Crystal Palace cult heroes from the last 10 years.

There have been a few player exchanges with the blue contingent from the midlands over the years.

Clinton Morrison, Andrew Johnson, and Darren Ambrose all spring to mind. One that may have escaped your immediate attention is a certain Liverpudlian midfielder, who graced the pitch at Selhurst Park in arguably the clubs most historically appeasing season in recent times.

Neil Danns arrived from Birmingham City in January 2008 for £600,000 after playing his part in helping his former side gain promotion back to the Premier League. Struggling for game time in England’s top division, Danns sought first-team football and was convinced by ex-Eagles boss Neil Warnock to ignore advances from Nottingham Forest and ply his trade at SE25.

Speaking to The Eagles Beak, Danns said: “I had Nottingham Forest come in for me and I went to hold talks with them and then a day later, Palace showed interest.

“Neil Warnock was the manager then and as soon as they came in, I wanted to go because the club is held in such high prestige and I had watched a lot of old quality players such as Ian Wright, Chris Armstrong when I was a youngster so I knew a lot about the club.”

After struggling with injuries for the majority of 2008, it wasn’t until the iconic 2009-10 season – before CPFC 2010’s takeover – where Danns started to showcase what he could do.

Danns made 42 Championship appearances that season, scoring eight goals. His ability to drive at opposition defences whilst still showing awareness of his attacking teammates around him soon saw him stand out as one of the clubs few players that year who could pose a genuine goal threat.

Most Palace fans remember every moment of the last game of the season; however, some may have forgotten that Danns wasn’t an official member of the ‘Hillsborough Heroes’ who conquered Yorkshire hearts that day.

In the penultimate game of the season, Palace dropped two vital points at home to West Bromwich Albion in a 1-1 draw, with Palace ending the match with just 10 men after Neil was shown his marching orders following a headbutt on Baggies midfielder Graham Dorrans.

“The sending off against West Brom is probably one of the biggest parts of my career that I regret because it disallowed me from being involved in the Sheffield Wednesday game.

“But in hindsight when I look at it, you never know what could have happened. I could have given a penalty away or anything or cost us that game so I think the biggest thing about that is that the club survived and whether that was at my sacrifice or whatever could have happened, I’m just grateful that the club survived because that was the most important thing.

“During the game with that sending off, when you have times like that you just see the red mist. He pulled my hair back on the floor and I overreacted which I regret now, especially being older and looking back. There was a bit of youthful exuberance involved in that, but you live and you learn I suppose.

“If the result had gone the other way, I could have been made a scapegoat. I try not to look back or focus on that incident too much and concentrate more so on the memories of survival.”

And survive Palace did.

Although Danns could not line-up alongside his teammates that afternoon, he still travelled up with the side to share the pain and ecstasy with every other man, woman and child associated with the club that day.

“I was actually at the game. I was sitting behind the bench and when that final whistle went it was one of the best feelings I have experienced in football. It was almost like a promotion because what we had been through that season and what we had come through as a club just made the emotions even more.

“I just couldn’t believe that we had got through it all and that we would get to live to fight another day in the Championship. What a great feeling that was.”

Of course, we now know that survival played a monumental role in the purchase of the club by Steve Parish and co.

“I have nothing but praise for the board because to come in such a tough situation and steer the club in the right direction was nothing to be laughed at.

“It was a tough job and when I look at Palace now, it fills me with nothing but joy because I’ve seen how far the club has come from those dark days.”

The optimism following Parish’s takeover soon found its inevitable place on the Palace roller coaster, with the club facing another relegation the following season.

However, when Palace needed a hero, once again Neil stepped up.

In a vital home match against Leeds United at the close end of the campaign, Neil’s early goal secured a 1-0 victory, a win that was pivotal in the club’s survival.

“When you score goals that you can just feel emotions come through the crowd, for me, it’s hard to explain.

“It almost feels like you blackout. I can never remember the goal straight after I’ve scored it, I have to wait until I can watch the goal back on TV because you just get such an emotional feeling and until you experience something like that you can’t describe it.”

The match against Leeds turned out to be the last for Danns in a Palace shirt, with the midfielder once again receiving his marching orders later in the game but in a bizarre case of Deja Vu, his dismissal was overshadowed by unrivalled jubilation upon another successful survival attempt.

After winning the Vice presidents’ player of the year award at the end of the 2010-11 campaign, it was time for Neil to end his career at the club.

“I had some fantastic years at Palace. I had a great rapport with the fans. When I left, I was so thankful for the opportunity I had been given.

“At the time I was expecting my third child, my partner lived away from home for the years we were there [at Palace] and I just felt at the time that it was the right move.

“I left the club in the Championship, so I didn’t jump ship after a relegation or anything. I thought I played my part in helping the club achieve survival. I just thought it was the right time to leave.

“It was a really disappointing time for me because I love Palace. I love the fans. I love the club and the whole vibe but that’s football and sometimes you have to move on and take up fresh challenges and that was what I decided to do that season.”

Danns left the club having scored 21 goals and provided eight assists in 114 games for the Eagles, averaging a direct goal contribution every 3.93 games despite an injury-disrupted start in south London.

Ultimately, the Guyana international will be remembered for his stellar performances in the survival season, crucial goals against the likes of Peterborough, Scunthorpe and Leeds United, and adding that crucial bit of spark in attacking areas that the club badly needed in a time of uncertainty.

“My best Palace moment? I had a lot of really good moments in terms of goals but for me, it’s definitely the 2010 survival.

“After everything we’d been through to help save the club and steer the club in the direction of positiveness was the greatest moment. To give the fans another season to support the club in a league that the club deserved to be in is definitely up there.

“At the end of the final game I walked over to the supporter’s pub and it was absolutely packed. To walk in and have everyone hugging me and singing my name was really the best way to leave the last game of the season, and ultimately the last game I would play for Crystal Palace Football Club.

“To go and share a moment with the fans and really be in the heart of the fans in the supporter’s pub right across the ground, I’m thinking about that moment now and it really was a great way to finish my time at Palace and I’m thankful for all of the supporters and everyone at the club.”

“Palace will always be a club that is close to me. I always look out for the results and I wish nothing but the best for the club and the chairman who I think is doing an absolutely amazing job.”

What are your favourite Neil Danns memories? Let us know below!

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