It's Speroni Week here at FYP!! With Julian Speroni entering his tenth year at Palace, Darryl Murdoch is next to share his views on the Palace 'keeper.
Over the years I have made no apologies for being the (self appointed) leader of the Julian Speroni fan club. As a season ticket holder, and later as commentator for Palace Radio I have been lucky enough to see Jules’ Palace career from a couple of different perspectives and have seen him go from the pony-tailed, fresh faced, Kevin Campbell taking on, confidence lacking player we signed in 2004 to the talismanic, three times player of the year, world class save making colossus we now recognise. During this week my peers at FYP will was lyrical about the man that is Julian Speroni – the saves, the performances, maybe even the mistakes – but one word above all sums this man up for me – LOYALTY!
Signed from Dundee by Iain Dowie in the summer of 2004 to be the Palace No 1 as they returned to the Premier League, Speroni made a nervous start to his career and was dropped from the starting line up after just 6 games. Over his first three seasons he sat on the bench and made a grand total of 17 league appearances as first Gabor Kiraly was preferred, and in 2006/7 as the Hungarian stopper departed, Scott Flinders played 10 times to Julian’s 5. JS could have easily walked away – he didn’t. He stated that he wanted to prove himself to the Palace fans, and over the next three seasons he certainly did that.
Three consecutive Player of the Year award winning seasons followed, and Julian had certainly proved his worth to the club – his superb performances were the backbone to Neil Warnock’s surge to the play-offs in 2008 and the club’s survival two years later as administration, player sales and a 10 point deduction saw Palace salvage Championship survival up at Hillsborough. It was during the dark days of Administration that saw Speroni’s loyalty to the club shine through.
On the back of some outstanding performances during these dark days, Speroni, widely touted as the best ‘keeper outside the top flight was expected to join the exodus of players from Selhurst Park as Brendan Guilfolye’s administrators looked to move on the club’s biggest assets. The goalkeeper was constantly linked with a move to the Premier League and even after the takeover by CPFC2010 there were strong links between the Argentinean and Premier League Fulham during the summer transfer window, but nothing came of it, with Speroni publicly stating afterwards that he was “happy here”.
It would have been easy for any player (and his agent) to use the uncertainty around the club, even after the future of the club was secured as a tool to engineer a move. If you look back at the players we had during that time – Julian would have been one of the more saleable assets in the playing squad during admin, after the departures of Victor Moses and Jose Fonte to Wigan Athletic and Southampton respectively. No one would have blamed him either had he followed Neil Warnock to QPR as Clint Hill and Sean Derry did at the end of that season or sought employment with a bottom half Premier League side citing his desire to play in the Prem.
Obviously, a player of Julian’s quality deserves the chance to test himself against the very best – particularly after he was discarded after just 6 games in his first season, and it is fitting that in his tenth season at the club he will finally get that opportunity – a fitting reward for the loyalty he has shown Crystal Palace over the years that it should come at a time when perhaps he thought his chance of doing so had passed.