The final Division One game of the 1989/90 season was probably one of the most perculiar matches I've ever attended at Selhurst Park. To put things in context, this took place a few weeks before our FA Cup final at Wembley against Manchester United and, in one of those strange footballing quirks of fate, United's arch rivals from the other side of town were our opponents. Neither side really had anything to play for in the league and thus the atmosphere was totally unique in comparision to anything else I've experienced at Selhurst Park.
The hallowed turf of Selhurst had all but died and faded to a light yellow colour and resembled a carpet of straw (apparently this was down to a misjudgment by the ground staff) and Palace boss Steve Coppell picked a slightly experimental line up that saw left winger Phil Barber start the game at left back. Manchester City, having thumped their rivals 5-1 earlier in the season, filled their section of the Arthur Wait Enclosure and were typically loud and vocal.
However, the atmosphere was one of unity rather than animosity. Chants of "we hope you beat Man United" rang out from the terracing and, for the first and only time in my 35 years as a Palace fan, I witnessed both sets of fans singing each other's songs. It certainly felt odd joining in with a chorus of "Blue Moon" at Selhurst Park! All through the game both sets of fans chanted in unison "We only hate Man United". Strange days indeed.
As for the match itself, I have to confess to remembering very little, that's what happens to a 15 year old who has had four lager tops in Crystals prior to the match. I remember nothing about City's goals but remember that Alan Pardew managed to score with a tap in. Perhaps the highlight of the match itself was when Andy Gray lined up a thunderbolt from outside the area. We'd seen these go into orbit above the Holmesdale Terrace several times that season but this time he actually hit the target and it flew into the back of the net with such force I wouldn't have been at all surprised if the goal had gone into orbit with it!
But as I said, this game wasn't really about the result. Both teams were already safe in division one and a draw suited both parties. As the match drew to a close the stewards, sensing trouble was unlikely, allowed both sets of fans to mingle in the Arthur. Palace and City fans embraced each other like old friends and merrily chanted anti United songs.
A lad about my age approached me and asked if we could swap shirts so he could wear the red and blue around Manchester in the face of their rivals and I duly obliged. I still have his sky blue Brother sponsored shirt somewhere so if he's reading this and wants it back please get in touch. I will want my Fly Virgin red and blue striped shirt back in exchange though!