Interviews

The FYP Interview - Julian Speroni & Antonio Pedroza

Written by Stephen Bridle

This interview appeared in FYP issue 28 - October 2011

 

Moving to a new country is always hard and there are lots of things to miss; your family, your friends, your pets. But for young Mexican Antonio Pedroza it was something else. "I love the Mexican food and I miss it a lot. It’s one of the biggest changes," says the 20-year-old. The striker is half English having been born and brought up in Chester before moving to central America aged two and as well as having dual nationality, has fondess for both countries. "I feel part of them both and they’re both important to me. Mexico was where I grew up, where all of my friends are and my family but I was born here and I love it here too."

Fellow South American Julian Speroni also knows of the pains of leaving his homeland - in his case Argentina - at a young age to try and make it as a footballer in Europe. He moved to Scotland to play for Dundee in 2001.

"It was by pure chance really,” he says. “I had an agent working for me who had sent out some videos and the Dundee manager at this time, Ivano Bonetti, watched the video with his goalkeeping coach and decided to ring me and ask if I fancied coming to play in Scotland. For me, it was an amazing opportunity at 20 or 21 years old but people had doubts, was it too early? Usually people play in their own country for a time and a few years later they go to Europe but for me it was very different, very early."

But he took the leap and Palace fans will forever be thankful for that as he moved to Selhurst Park three years later and hasn’t looked back. Well, apart from missing the food also. “Fortunately there is a good Argentine restaurant nearby where I go when I want nice meat,” he says with relief.

Jules was the same age as Pedroza when he made the plunge to move thousands of miles from home, but moving to a team that at the time were full of South Americans helped.

“It was cold, and it rained but I really enjoyed it. In fact, having lots of Argentines playing [at Palace] helped me, especially as it was the first time I’d left my country to play somewhere else. Originally I came solo, after a few months my girlfriend [now wife] came – once I’d sorted a house and stuff."

And after moving to the Eagles in 2004 Speroni had to wait almost three years for a proper run in the team, a chance he has not let slip since and has gone on to win the Player of the Year a record three years in a row. But there were times when he considered his future at Palace.

"It was in the back of my mind, thinking about finding another club where I’d get an opportunity,” he admits. “But I knew that one would come here eventually and that I could play and therefore I decided to stay and wait for my chance. With regards to the Premier League, we didn’t start well as a team and after a couple of mistakes the manager decided to change things. [No.1 choice at the time Gabor] Kiraly is a player with international and continental experience, an excellent player and also an excellent person. I have only the best memories of him."

And that patience is something young Pedroza could take note of. The striker hasn't featured in the first team yet despite joining in the summer after impressing on trial and in some of the pre-season games.

"I think it’s because of the change of country, culture and football,”?Pedroza says. “At the same time, the intensity is such that maybe I need time to adapt to how they play here, and there have been a few little injuries [for me] but I hope I can realise my dream and appear for the first team soon.

"The truth is that it’s been very difficult because of, more than anything, the way the game is played is very different. There is more intensity, the training here is much quicker, everything about the game here is much quicker. The truth is that I didn’t expect it to be so fast but these are things that you just have to adapt to. I’m trying to live with the changes.

"My weakness is I’m tiny! But I don’t consider it a huge weakness to be honest, I’m small but it gives me great mobility, so I’m not bothered. As far as strengths go, it probably is my mobility and movement in the box. As you see with [Manchester United striker and fellow Mexican] Chicharito, he is not so tall or strong but he always finds space in the area."

In fact Pedroza has been compared to the United star but he brushes off such suggestions with an embarrased swipe of the hand.

“Nooo! The truth is I would never compare myself to him. The fact is we’re completely different players, but at the same time I’m honoured because any comparison with Hernandez is good, of course. To have him as a symbol is excellent, he is a player who has played at World Cups and scored lots of goals in England so I would love to be able to do the same!

“I’ve always, always wanted to play like Michael Owen, he was my ultimate reference point. But for me, the best player ever must be Ronaldo,” he says puffing his cheeks and laughing, “the fat one. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a player with these technical qualities, truly impressive.”

But before he can begin to try and emulate Big Ronny’s achievments, Pedroza needs some games in the Palace first team, and while they have been hard to come by, he has no grudges towards manager Dougie Freedman. "Yes, he’s very open. The truth is you can talk to him about anything and he will be there for whatever question you have, it’s another reason why I’m very happy here.  It’s a wonderful club with a great coach who is very attentive to his players, truthfully my team-mates are fantastic and I’m already very content."

Speroni, meanwhile, has had to adapt the way he talks to Freedman, having been his team-mate at Palace for six years before the Scot was given the manager’s job at SE25.

"It feels a bit strange, calling him ‘gaffer’ or ‘boss’, but you get used to it. No longer is he my team-mate, but my manager and one has to listen to him now,” says Speroni, who believes the Doog was always likely to end up in the dugout.

“Yes, he always had the characteristics to become a manager, he understands the game, he gives orders, he communicates well, I always saw this in him, and the opportunity presented itself to him early!"

And opportunities don't come along often. Speroni is often lauded as the best Argentinian keeper never to have represented his national side but he says he does not regret staying at Palace despite offers to go to bigger teams.

“It’s a dream I’ve always had, to play for Argentina, but I know it will be difficult playing in the Championship, you have to be playing in the Premier League. I’ll always keep dreaming though. I don’t know. I’d love to get a chance, one chance so they could see.”

But there are perks by staying at Palace - besides the cheerleaders. Three POTY awards makes Jules a record breaker, something he still can’t quite comprehend.

"Sincerely, I find it hard to believe,” he adds. “It’s not normal to stay at a club so long these days, generally people change clubs all the time. To have arrived at this point is amazing for me, the people I’ve met, the fans, the people at the club, the owners, it’s amazing and I feel proud of everything I can achieve here. "

And with awards like that comes great responsibility, like the chance to help a fellow young South American.

“The truth is that  Julian has helped me loads,” says Pedroza. “Sometimes when I don’t have a way to get anywhere, or I have to go somewhere far away, Julian sorts me out and he helps me with my English too, which is improving little by little.”

While the past for both is similar, the futures for both could not be more polarised; Speroni is eyeing the end of his career while Pedroza is ready to kick on.

"Currently, I have two and a half years left on my contract, my son is starting pre-school but we have family in Argentina… the family is something that we miss a lot," Speroni admits, while Pedroza is buzzing about the future.

"I have other dreams and there’s no time for regrets,” he says. “Now I’m at Crystal Palace and they’re doing very well!"

 


 

 

The FYP Interview - Bronia Gosling

Written by Stephen Bridle

This interview appeared in FYP issue 28 - October 2011

Life is cheery for Bronia Gosling, the Crystals’ new(ish) captain, and it’s a new responsibility she’s taken on with relish.

“I’m loving it. I’ve really had the chance to sink my teeth into it and get everyone going. We’ve banded into a good group, it’s a really lovely bunch of girls,” said the 27-year-old professional dancer and dance teacher.

“We all went out together to Tiger Tiger when some of the new girls joined. Going out together really cemented the girls together. We’ve got a strong bond.”

Raising morale and keeping people entertained is a cheerleader’s job if it’s anyone’s, so it’s no surprise then to find that Miss Gosling promotes this amongst her girls with copious amounts of tomfoolery to be found on the training ground and *gulp* in the dressing room.

“The funnier stuff happens after training. I laughed for a whole hour the other week. Claire, Nina and Laura – those three together is a recipe for a giggle!”

But of course they’re not just there to keep themselves entertained; it’s ALL about the fans.

“We love the fans! Interacting through Twitter and getting the fans compliments and suggestions is brilliant. All of the support we’ve had has been fantastic and we’d just like to say thank you very much to all the fans!”

Since we’re treated to seeing her on the pitch of a chilly Saturday afternoon – or even chillier Tuesday evening – we’ve become accustomed to the red and blue cheer that Bronia, along with her girls, spreads about Selhurst; so it may surprise some that the club’s new leading lady is a recent Palace convert.

“I’ve been a football fan since I was about three or four, but I didn’t follow Palace before I became a Crystal, and now I’m obsessed! I’ve got a picture of Paddy on my wall and I’ve got my kit.”

As fellow captains, Bronia and McCarthy may have more in common than you’d think – of course one looks far better than the other waving pom-poms.

“Paddy is  an outstanding captain. He really picks the players up if they’re down, he’s the last line of defence before Jules and he supports everyone – I think that’s really admirable.”

(Photo by Mark Green)


The FYP Interview - Bruce Dyer

Written by Jim Daly

This interview appeared in FYP issue 27 - December 2011


There are some players who thrive on pressure, there are some who can't handle it, and then there are some like Bruce Dyer who barely even notice it.

Dyer was just 19 when he moved from Watford to Place for £1.1m - making him the first ever teenager to be bought for more than a million pounds. But the confident young striker just took it all in his stride and despite having a career that was sometimes trying, is now finding a new lease of life.

FYP sat down with Bruce to talk about his time at Palace.

FPY: So, one million smackeroonies eh? After inflation that's like a gazillion trillion pounds in today’s money terms. Were you not even a little bit scared?

BD: Not really. I was a young kid, I was pretty confident and I just enjoyed playing football so when the move came about for me it wasn't a pressure thing it was actually a chance to realise my dream of playing in the Premiership. It was a really exciting time for me and my family. I wasn't really even thinking about the fee, I was more thinking about the football and the possibility of me getting into the Premiership, that's what was really driving me.

Well and the chance to show off that cool slanted high top fade you were sporting at the time. How much did you know about Palace before you joined?

All I could remember was that Ian Wright and Mark Bright played for them, I remember watching The Big Match on Sundays as I was growing up. Wrighty was one of my heroes and also in my career and you always associate Palace with Ian Wright.

He never had a high top fade though. You joined at a great time, Alan Smith's team were about to be Division One champions and had some class players. Was it easy to fit in?

Yeah definitely, in my career that's definitely up there in terms of enjoyment; the training, the banter with the lads, it was a good time. There was some characters, Chris Coleman was a character in the dressing room I can tell you.

But you didn't feature much that season.

I never let things like that phase me, you just get on with it. My mindset was always to be the best professional you can be and once you're doing all you can to that's all you can do. Obviously it can get a bit discouraging but you've just got to keep going. At the time we weren't doing great and Alan Smith brought in [hypnotist] Paul Mckenna but if I'm honest I'm not into all that palaver. It was a funny season, I didn't feature that much which I was a bit disappointed with, as I remember I had a really good Under-21 tournament in Toulan, which we won and where I finished top goalscorer, but at Palace I just didn't get a look in.

But the next time Palace went up in 1997 you were top scorer and played with Attilio freaking Lombardo. What was that like?

He was just a great professional. Just his humility - he was a really, really nice guy and such a good player. I remember as a kid watching him at Juve so to train and play with him was great, you could see there was something different about him. There were other greats too - Chris Armstrong, he was special at Palace; Dougie, Shipps, Coleman was a rock at the back, Nigel Martyn; there's so many players! Honestly when I look back over the years at the players that I was privileged to play with - there was some great players there.

Speaking of Dougie, he's now gaffer at Palace and doing rather well. Did you see that one coming?

No I didn't if I’ll be honest, I really didn't. I'm surprised. I wouldn't have called that one. There's some you can call and I wouldn't have called Chris Coleman being a manager either, cos he was too much of a joker. Likewise with Dougie I just wouldn't have called it, but he's doing really well, it's good to see and I wish Dougie all the best.

And how do you see Palace at the moment? On the up?

For me it's all about survival at the minute and getting a bit of stability. Palace has always been a yo-yo club, Premiership, Championship, Premiership again. So if they can just ride the storm, get a bit of stability they'll be ok. Palace is known for always getting good youth coming through so it wouldn't surprise me at all if one day you see Palace again in the Premiership. Palace fans have been good to me, on Twitter I get tweets from a lot of Palace fans and they’ve always been good to me - I'm grateful. Even from my toughest times, I'd like to think they were pretty patient with me and I think overall I did ok for Palace. There's been a few clubs I've been at that have been landmarks in my career that I can never forget and Palace is definitely one of them.

And just like Palace have got themselves back together again, you're helping people with Love Life UK.

It's been really, really good, it's been life changing for me especially working in the prisons. It's really captivated my heart, and by the grace of God hopefully making a difference to someone's life.  It's more special to me than playing football.

For more info on Love Live UK visit www.lovelifeuk.org.


The FYP Interview - Alan Lee

Written by Joe Bloggs

This interview appeared in FYP issue 27 - August 2011.

 

There are players who come and go, there are players who make an instant impact and those who do very little, there are players we forget and those we can’t. But few are as fondly remembered as Alan Lee; the jovial centre-forward from Galway who had a hand in saving Palace in 2010.

The big man signed from Ipswich in 2008 and struggled to make an impact, however as the Eagles suffered through administration, a points deduction and a battle with relegation, he stepped up to the plate.

FYP caught up with Alan as he prepared for the new season with Huddersfield, having lost out in the League One play-offs in May; and a chance to face his old team-mates at Selhurst this season.

FYP: Working hard in pre-season, Alan?

AL: No, actually I have the day off today so just chilling out.

Oh. Well I guess you were in the play-off final not long ago. Wait, should we not mention that?

It was devastating. All that hard work undone in one match.

Streety and I had money on you bagging a hat-trick in the final but you only played 15 minutes.

I was about to come on with Jordan Rhodes at 1-0 and I said to him 'this is it, we can turn it around' and just before the board went up, they scored. I could see the game slipping away right then.

Another big game for you, just 12 months after Hillsborough.

I enjoy the big games, it's more nerve wracking but I think it helps you focus. That final year [with Palace] was without doubt one of my favourites in football. I didn't have a good first year at Palace and sometimes it's hard to win people round again. They didn't see the best of me but the reception I got and still get, I'm just very grateful, it's fantastic and always makes me smile.

Probably because you played a pivotal role towards the end of that season, as the lone man up front.

I enjoyed it, I enjoyed playing one up front. I had a very distinct job. It was a very special season, I can’t recall any other teams getting deducted points and then managing to stay up. We all  pulled together, I guess that’s what made it so special, it felt like we'd won something at the end, it was amazing.

Same for us! Although there was a weird atmosphere in the stands, a combination of pride and anxiety. What was it like in the dressing room?

There was a lot of uncertainly but heads never dropped. There wasn't a lot of complaining from the lads about not getting paid, everyone pulled together. It took a while to sink in, at the time we were playing, like at Newcastle away; we'd been on a very good run and I think we were either sixth or seventh and to get off a plane and find that you've been deducted the points, that was it. It did take a while to sink in but I guessed it helped that we had another goal then. We lost some of our players and maybe some of our flair players but we certainly kept a lot of the lads with character and it was actually wonderful to be part of.

Rumours were you led the lads in singing and dancing before games??Please say it’s true.

Yeah! The worse things got the livelier the changing room got. Before the games we'd have all sorts of songs and everyone would be up dancing, I've never seen anything like it. People were dancing and singing at the top of their voices. Anyone that wasn't singing would be dragged up, it just really cemented everything together. It would have been very easy for people to let their standards slip but we had a lot of leaders and strong characters in the dressing room. Also the fans, they had a big part to play in it, it just kind of roused everyone. I know it didn't do much for our nerves but it turned out to be a much more special season than a mid-table finish! It was certainly my proudest season in football.

Come on then, let's talk about the goal at Hillsborough. You must re-live it every day in your mind.

Yeah, and on Sky +! I just remember going absolutely nuts. I saw the ball so clearly, so slowly, it seemed to be so large and I knew I was getting on the end of it. As a footballer you do think 'what a day it would be to score the winner or just score an important goal today' and it’s surreal when it happens.  Going into the Wednesday game, I've never seen so many TV trucks, it all underlined just what a huge game this was. An early goal always helps as a centre forward, it helps with the confidence so I was delighted and was delighted with the way I played after that as well. Afterwards it was just the most draining, I remember I didn't feel like celebrating I think I was just crying in the corner because it just meant so much.

Well, there was certainly a lot of pressure. Talk was the club would have gone bust if we’d gone down. Pressure indeed.

Yeah, but our lads handled it very well. It was a tough game, Wednesday did not freeze they made it very hard for us on the day but whatever it was about us, it brought the best out of us. I like that sort of situation, the more pressure on the better for me. I’ve had a few times in my career that’s happened so im always confident going into those situations.

The home dressing room before a game was probably my favourite thing about that run. And that dressing room after Sheffield Wednesday with that feeling of contentment; being elated. Some of the lads went out to celebrate after the coach stopped back in south London. I didn't even want to go out; I just drove straight home and had a relaxed evening and just had that great feeling. Obviously you win big games and you just want to go out and celebrate but this surpassed that with that feeling.?We'd been through that season and to come out of that still in the Championship it made a very great summer.

And you came so close to returning to the Championship this summer and a chance to play in front of the Palace fans again.

I think people know you owe your fans. The same dedication I gave to the Palace fans I give to the Huddersfield fans and I've never changed. I'd certainly have a round of applause for the Palace fans to thank them.

We’ll be honest, we miss you Alan.

I was really looking forward to last season and I was a bit disappointed when George [Burley] told me they were accepting an offer but I’ve had a long experienced career - that’s part of the game -  and there’s not much room for sentiments I’m afraid.

Oh, so you haven’t seen the Alan Lee Facts website then?

Er...no

It’s full of Chuck Norris facts, amended for you. Like, when Alexander Bell invented the telephone he had three missed calls from Alan Lee.

Yeah, that's true.

When playing rock, paper, scissors, Alan Lee picks Alan Lee; and always wins.

(Laughs) Yep, also true.

Alan Lee doesn’t do press-ups, he pushes the ground down. Alan Lee can touch MC Hammer. Alan Lee doesn't plan football, football plays Alan Lee.

Ok I get it. My father told me about this. I have a rule that I never read the papers or look at message boards or anything like that. But that's fantastic, it's hilarious.

Do you still play guitar?

I very rarely play now, mainly because I  gave Neil Danns one of my guitars and he still hasn't given it back yet. So I sent a message to him to ask for it back. I hope he returns it! It's my first guitar, it's a big black jumbo Yamaha. And it actually survived a house fire, being snapped in half and it's been taped up and has a little bruising. But it's a very good guitar and I’m still expecting it back in the same state. But no, I'm not particularly good.

Have you not heard the FYP songs??You’re better than us.

I'm sure there will be some fun fact about it .

 


 

 

The FYP Interview - Neil Morrissey

Written by Jim Daly

This interview appeared in FYP issue 28 - December 2011


 

We all had dreams involving Palace when we were kids; most involved playing for South London’s finest, or maybe owning and running the club, but Neil Morrissey just wanted to make beer for his beloved club.

And now, thanks to an agreement between the star of Men Behaving Badly and plenty of other shows to have graced our TV?screens over the last two decades, and the new Palace owners CPFC 2010, Morrissey’s Blond Palace Ale is on sale at Selhurst, and going down well.

FYP somehow manages to get a free pint in the Selhurst boardroom, and sits down with the actor to discuss all things Palace.

FYP:?Here we are, Neil, in the boardroom of the club we both love, with a pint of your very own beer. Doesn’t get much better than that does it?

NM: I get a bit of movement in the downstairs trouser area every time I walk into this boardroom and the added buzz now is that apart from the fact that any man's dream is to make his own ale, I make my own ale and it’s at my club.

We get the trouser thing too - but mainly for the Crystals. How did the beer thing come about?

I had a word with Phil [Alexander, Palace chief executive] last season and said “why don't we talk about this” and here it is.

The man is a legend. You must love coming here on match days then.

Exactly. You’re lucky I don't walk around the board room with a permanent stiffy. Seriously. It doesn't get more exciting than this. Well, unless they went “here’s a shirt Neil, you’re on for the second half”.

Can’t be any worse than David Wright. So, how did you become an Eagle?

I was in my first year of drama school, 18-years-old and I was missing watching football and my best mate Richard said “why don't you come and watch some football with me, to Crystal Palace”. So I just came down and after about three or four games you just get hooked and when you think of the Team Of The 80's as it was at the time under Terry Venables, it was a good time with things going on, great players down here. We've always had a history of great goalies and, up until a little while a go, great strikers also. So there was always something exciting going on down here and that's what happened.

Well there always is, isn’t there??Whether it’s for good reasons or bad.

You've got to take the rough and the smooth. You and I both know that there will be Man United fans who calls themselves United supporters but have never been to a United game ever in their lives. They’re not even watching it on pay-per-view, so in other words they’re not paying anything at all for the upkeep of their club. The only reason Palace survive as a team is because we keep coming and we keep buying the products.

We always have a good time. There hasn't been a single part of the ground that I haven't stood in. I've got to 49 now and I've been on telly, now I get to hang around in the boardroom and get a bit closer to what's going on.

A world away from the previous regime, eh?

The club has completely changed its attitude towards the fans. I don't want to say too much about Jordan but he wasn't exactly a fan man. He was a fan himself but he seemed to have neglected that area of fandom (sic) and what people actually felt; in particular their thoughts because this a great broad spectrum of people with a lot of different attitudes to a lot of aspects at the club. Today you look around the board room and there is a group of little kids hanging around and out there today there are families. You see them walking towards and walking away from the ground with their dads.

You've got to get those young lads in, they’re the future. That is what this is; this is a family club. You never hear about Crystal Palace fans going on the rampage.

Except to the pub maybe. But we do love watching the Palace more than say, going for a fight. I think we’re all just too weary from years of disappointment.

I think with any club on this level, it's about pledging yourself. We bring it upon ourselves. We are part of the existence of this club and the reason why it’s here, so we take the responsibility upon ourselves. I can't see why anyone else goes to see another football club so it's difficult to have a succinct, gorgeous sentence to describe why I keep coming to Palace. It's a heart string thing. It's like being the red headed step child, you know you’re going to get beaten occasionally and sometimes you’re going to have to sleep under the stairs but you go regardless. There’s something wonderful about supporting Palace but I’m not quite sure what it is, If it was a question posed to Aristotle he would probably have difficulty answering it too. It’s something about the pain & pleasure sado masochistic side of us all; you don’t want to give up.

FYP does actually have a ginger in the ranks but thanks to advancements in Just For Men you’ll never know which. Ok, it’s Street. Anyway are you pleased with the pragmetic approach the new owners are taking.

Yeah! I've never understood the momentum of the 90s when the big Americans and the big Thailand companies were coming in buying Premier League clubs. Surely, the wisest thing to do would to be invest in a smaller club and bring it up as opposed to going and showing off with all your cash? Look at Stoke for example. They invested and are now in competitions where there is money, it’s the smart way of doing things.

I'm surprised more people haven't come in to try and buy Palace but I'm really, really glad we’re in the hands of the guys we’ve got; they're very smart businessmen and I feel very safe. I talk to them all every week although I do notice is a lack of Steve Parish here today but I expect now with all this new technology they've got in the bars and boardoom he's having the game streamed into his helicopter.

They’ll need to build a helipad at the new stadium for that. Speaking of which, are you keen on the potential move?

Oh god yes.  I mean I love Selhurst, but you've got to look at the value of the land here and what we can do with the new stadium in the Park which will be a multi-usage arena. It's one of the biggest venues for athletics and gymnastics in the world and also then we will have one of the best football clubs in the world there.

The very first thing they did was consolidate the ground, the club and the training ground and that in itself was a huge thing to do for securing the financial future of the club. If the plans do go forward I would love to see the ground again in Crystal Palace Park.

And the way CPFC2010 are going about things, going on the message boards, radio shows and talking to esteemed publications like Five Year Plan, you’re a fan of all this too?

Very much. They've got transparency. It doesn't feel like some seceret story going on backstage. It feels like they've got nothing to hide, they're willing to give and they're all fans and now they're making the club in their own vision. Why was this room so horribly neglected under Jordan? Because he didn’t give a shit! It was like he was going out buying fish and chips. He didn't care about the cleanliness, the looks and bringing directors and more managers into this room. He didn't seem to care. It's amazing what these guys have done in one year.

It aint half bad. How do you see the team this season??(and don’t say ‘with my eyes’)

We’ve had a great run, we’ll still be up there. Brighton are doing really well, they are the team to look out for. They have spent a lot of money.

I love the Doog - the quality of the players he has got, I think it’s fantastic. He’s a decision maker, he makes things happen. He’s a Palace legend, but he actually knows what he’s doing. We love him.

What's your favourite moment as a Palace fan?

Probably the FA Cup semi-final. I was also at the  Zenith Data Systems Trophy at Wembely, 4-1 against Everton that was a pretty good day.

What about players??Any faves from over the years?

My favourite ever is Ian Wright. But I also loved The Ninja, Eric Young. I also loved the partnerships, like Wright and Bright. How fantastic. Mark Bright has become a personal freind and I never really knew him in his playing days but since then I’ve got to know him. So it’s these kind of fringe benefits which to me are like amazing, like gold. It’s just fantastic.

*Wipes tear away*?Have we mentioned how much we love Palace? Seems like lots of players do too. Shaun?Derry still tweets us private messages asking to come back (that might be a lie).

I think it's one of the footballing ideals. Yes you get the kids coming and all they want is £150,000-a-week so they can carry on whatever the hell is their lifestyle. But there's a lot more footballers out there who aren't on that kind of dough and they want to play football. We should be one of the clubs to look up to becuase we've survived - we nearly didn't, we’ve had two lifelines - but we survived and thank god we've got that basis now.

Seven lives to go.

We've had our highs and our lows but the Football Leagues wouldn’t be the same without Crystal Palace.

 


 

 

 

The FYP Interview - Clinton Morrison

Written by Stephen Bridle

This interview was first published in FYP issue 26 in April 2011.


 

There were rumours flying around in the summer that Clinton Morrison was going to make his way back to Selhurst for a third spell with the club. With Palace freshly saved from relegation, short on forwards and a new manager at the helm, talks progressed to a stage where the Tooting-born former Eagle was very close to pulling on the familiar red and blue again

“It was on the cards. It was very close," he told FYP. "The chairmen and everyone wanted to do it, but I just think George Burley, not had his doubts, but was waiting and iffing and ahhing. Then Sheffield Wednesday came in, who are a big club, and made me a good flipping offer and I couldn’t really turn it down. It would have been nice to come back to Palace but I’m at Wednesday now and I’ve got to concentrate on doing that.”

Ironically it was the Owls that Palace had sent tumbling down into the third tier of English football on the final day of last season. And Wednesday also had a role to play in Clinton’s start with the Eagles when he scored an injury time winner against them back in 1998 on his debut.

“Yeah it was against Sheffield Wednesday. I think they’d been relegated and I think we were going down. I remember it like it was yesterday.”

And not many 18-year-olds can say they received the pass for the debut goal from Attilio Lombardo, as Morrison did in front of the Holmesdale, but the players were already on the same wave length - a mutual understand that was forged in the front seats of the Italian's car.

“He used to take me into training every day. Not many people can say they got a lift with Attilio Lombardo into training!" he added.

But even the 'Bald Eagle' isn't at the top of Morrison's list of the best players he has featured alongside after 13 years of first-team football. That honour went to a former Republic of Ireland team-mate.

“The best player I’ve played with in my career was when I played with Roy Keane for Ireland," he said. "The man is just a true leader. He sets an example. If you give the ball away he’ll have a bit of a moan – I hardly ever saw him give the ball away when I played with him. He was just a good motivator, brilliant.

“I miss playing for Ireland all the time, definitely. I’ve had a good 36 caps for them anyway, so I’ve enjoyed doing that and not many people can say they’ve played for their country.”

And Sean Scannell - another player to come through the Palace youth system - also plays football at an international level for Ireland and Clinton remembers him from his days at the club, but believes the young forward isn't quite living up to his potential at the moment. No worry, though, because Uncle Clinton is prepared to set that straight.

“Scannell will be a good player and should be a good player and should be progressing better this season. Maybe he’s missing me because I did used to help a lot of the youngsters there at Palace. Hopefully I can get hold of him and talk to him and set him on the straight and narrow.”

Does Clinton see a future for himself as a coach after he hangs up his boots? Since former partner in crime up front for Palace Dougie Freedman has become part of the managerial team at Palace we’ve seen some familiar faces drafted in to bolster the backroom team including Dean Austin, Tony Popovic and head scout Steve Kember. Could we see Clinton brought back to help out behind the scenes? Dougie has in fact already given him a call, but he’s not quite ready to end his playing days just yet.

“We have spoke about that, definitely we have, but I still feel I’ve got three or four years left in me playing at the higher levels at the moment so I just want to concentrate on that," he said. "But I am doing my coaching badges so you never know, one day that could be an option to come back and help out at Palace. With the youngsters or with the senior squad because it’s something I want to do. I want to get into coaching. Hopefully one day I will put on a blue and red shirt again and be back there in some capacity.”

And Clinton was delighted when he heard Dougie was appointed boss at Selhurst Park in January – “It was excellent news” – and while he recognises it’s a steep learning curve for a first time manager taking over a club in such a perilous position, he thinks Parish & co. picked the right man for the job.

“You never know when it’s the right time to take the manager’s job, but if you’re never given the chance you don’t know if you’re going to be good enough or not. If he manages to keep them up he will have done a great job, obviously he’s a legend there as it is at Palace and he’d be an even bigger one. Hopefully they can stay up. I know they’ve got two or three massive games coming up. They’re games they should be winning so hopefully they can do it.

“In managers terms he’s still young. Well he’s young anyway. That’s why he’s got Lennie Lawrence helping him. The way he played the game, I think that’s how he wants his team to play the game – I think he’ll be good for it.”

It’s no surprise though, considering the pair spent many a season leading the Palace line together during which time the Doog earned himself a place in the rundown of Clinton’s top three strike partners.

“Hard one really," he mused. "I’d put Dougie up there; Dougie Freedman, Robbie Keane and Emile Heskey, I’d say those three.”

But despite being a Tottenham fan, Clinton can't ignore the impact Palace and Arsenal legend Ian Wright had on his career, even if that means swallowing his Spurs pride for s econd.

“Palace is my team as well because I was brought up there and they gave me my chance. I’ve always supported Tottenham from when I was younger, my Mum always liked them and obviously you just follow what your parents do.

“Wrighty was a good player when he played for Arsenal but I’m on about the inspiration from when he came and did a few coaching sessions with us at Crystal Palace. He was retired then but his hunger for it and the way he was, everything, he was just brilliant. Where he’s come from – the non-league to break into first team league football – and his finishing, he’s just one of the best I’ve seen in the business.”

And goals were certainly no problem for Clinton, notching up 133 in his time at Selhurst, mostly from inside the six-yard box. But while there were belters and plenty of well-taken strikes, there's one goal that really sticks in his mind and is widely considered to be his funniest moment at the Red and Blue Army - a goal scored against Gillingham at Selhurst.

“I went round the goalie in front of the Holmesdale and just slipped at the open goal but I dropped on the ball and managed to knock it in with my bum when I slipped over. But when it’s going right for you, it’s going right for you and most times it did go right for me at Palace.”

And he is just as prolific on social networking site Twitter and he regards the Tweagles as some of his finest followers.

“I think every Palace fan I’ve spoke to on Twitter has been brilliant. They’ve all said they want me to come back and they’ve spoken positively to me. Every Palace fan I’ve got loads of time and love for because every time I go back they’re good to me and I know when I was there they were always good with me – I’m like one of their own.”

Fast forward to summer 2010 and plenty of Palace fans were we weren’t sure there would even be a future, let alone one where we could conceive bringing back the club’s fifth highest goal scorer in our history. But as the majority of us were biting our nails, racking up numerous sleepless nights and checking in to our local surgeries with all manner of stress related illnesses Clinton was staying calm and employing the powers of positive thinking.

Being no stranger to administration, he was here during Goldberg admin and played for free after we’d run out of money, he knew what to expect.

“I always keep up with Palace, they’ll always have a place in my heart for definite. I kept up with things and I’m happy they got out of trouble.

“I didn’t think they’d go out of business. Palace is a good club and I always thought that someone in the end would come in and save the club - I always knew that deep down. You would worry as a player but I wasn’t that worried looking in from the outside. I knew they’d be safe.”

Just as he was confident that Palace wouldn’t go bust last summer, he’s equally sure that they’ll stay in the Championship come the end of the season.

“I believe they’re good enough to stay up with the players they’ve got. Darren Ambrose, Danns and all the young players coming through. I think if they keep going and working hard they’ll definitely stay up. It’s always been like that with us – Palace – we always make things difficult but in the end we always manage to survive and I think that’ll be same this season.”

And while Palace may have missed out on Clinton last summer, he’s definitely not ruling anything out for the future, especially with his mate Dougie now at the helm.

“You never know, I’ve played with Dougie, he’s a good friend of mine,” he said. “Obviously I’m at Sheffield Wednesday at the moment, I’m happy here and I’m enjoying it. One day I might go back to Palace, I’ve got great memories of the times I’ve played there. You can never predict what’s going to happen in the future, but it would be nice.”

And his final target??Getting more goals thanWrighty!

“I’m definitely proud of it. I’m one or two, I think, behind Ian Wright so you never know – one day I’d obviously like to come back and try and get that, even if it’s just for a season. I’m ahead of Mark Bright so I’m happy anyway.”