Written by Robert Sutherland


There was a time, almost 20 years ago, that Palace competed with Manchester United in the most unlikely of ways. The Eagles, fighting for their Premier League lives, competed with the Manc giants for the signature of one of the land's hottest prospects - and won.

They signed Matt Jansen and the rest is history. Matt talks about his time at Palace and subsequent career highs and lows in a brilliant interview with eagles.cpfc.co.uk here.

Few Palace fans at the time expected Matt Jansen to sign for the club. The Carlisle United youngster had impressed with the Cumbrians over the course of two seasons, scoring ten goals, and looked likely to move to a club above Palace's station. But the need for regular football to aid his development seemed to be the deciding factor for the youngster - that and the hospitality of then-chairman Ron Noades - and a £1m transfer to Selhurst Park followed. 

Jansen's time at the club was one of wonderment. He took to our relegation-battling side with ease and scored one of the most memorable goals in one of the least memorable matches of that season against Aston Villa. 

Palace were, at the time of his arrival, a side that seemed defeated to the prospect of relegation. But Jansen had a spirit and an ability that could lift even the most browbeaten of fans - and his goal at Villa was just one of those reasons. Taking the ball in midfield, Jansen bounded and skipped past his opponents and smashed a thunderbolt of a shot past Mark Bosnich. Two more goals followed that season, and the focus then turned to getting Palace promoted again. 

Terry Venables arrived and there seemed to be some promise in how we played. Atillio Lombardo, Nicky Rizzo, Sasa Curcic and Matt Jansen - an attack capable of striking fear into any First Division side - combined to push Palace forward. Jansen scored seven goals that season before the ground fell from beneath the club and the administrators came calling.

"I loved my time at Palace so much, I loved being there. But it was out of my hands," says Jansen. 

The attacker was one of Palace's hottest prospects, and it was therefore natural that he would be one of the first to depart. The first call apparently came from Juventus - but a more comfortable move beckoned with a £4m transfer to Blackburn Rovers. 

A look back at his career should have allowed us to focus on his spell at Blackburn as a stepping stone to even greater things. He was that good. 

But life isn't always that easy. Jansen initially suffered sporadic injuries, but he finally seemed to be over them when he helped the Rovers to a promotion, and by the 2001/2 season he was called up for an England friendly against Paraguay. A stomach bug meant that he couldn't feature.

Having missed out on the 2002 World Cup squad, with Sven Goran Eriksson preferring to take Martin Keown instead, he spent time in Rome with his girlfriend. Riding a scooter without a helmet, the playmaker was involved in a life-threatening collision which put him in a coma for six days.It was an accident that he, as a footballer, never truly recovered from. 

"I thought at least I'll get me chance next season. Unfrotunately, a week later, I ended up in Rome in a motorcycle accident."

Blackburn Rovers supported him throughout his recovery but psychological after-effects of the accident meant that Jansen toiled with a return to professional football.

"I was told I shouldn't play again - would never play again - I had to learn how to walk, I couldn't walk.

"Psychologically I wasn't right to cope with the pressures and the stresses of professional football. I needed to get my hunger, desire and belief back. I got terribly distressed, depressed, frustrated and angry. It was a battle aswell - not just trying to get back to football but in terms of my wellbeing. It was a difficult time and eventually it wasn't to be that I could get back to the heights that I had before the accident."

As a Matt Jansen fan, it was difficult to watch such a bright light to be dimmed by the injury he suffered. He should have been one of England's greats.

In truth though, it's great that after such a serious accident, Jansen is still alive to tell the tale, and that he is once again involved with football. He's another player, like Michael Hughes and Sasa Curcic, who just gets what it means to be Palace. And that's after just 31 games at the club. 

Like those featured before him, he's a cult hero. A player we were lucky to witness playing for the club, even if it was for such a short spell. 

You can watch the entire interview now at eagles.cpfc.co.uk