Monday May 27th 2013 at Wembley Stadium, KO 3pm.
The Championship Play Off Final, Admission 76 pounds (Cat 2), programme 6 pounds.
Crystal Palace (Phillips pen 105) 1-0 Watford, after extra time
Palace were in administration in early 2010, we were deducted 10 points.
Then the ‘CPFC 2010 consortium’ took ownership of the club from Simon Jordan, CPFC 2010 being composed of four lifelong Palace fans, at the same time they also gained ownership of the stadium.
In May 2010 we needed a point at Sheff Wed in the last game to secure Championship football, a dramatic 2-2 ensued, survival.
Hillsborough reverberated to ‘Going down, are we f8ck, minus ten and we’re staying up’.
Step forward three years, and a remarkable unexpected season occured. Palace, pre-season being tipped as potential relegation candidates rather than pushing for promotion. And for this game academy scholar Wilfried Zaha was playing his last match for the club before departing to Man Utd, as part of a five month loan back after a fifteen million pound transfer fee was agreed in January.
Kevin Phillips, at 39, having played 672 matches, today on the bench, potentially involved in his last game.
Paddy McCarthy, club captain, injured all season, watching from the sidelines.
Glenn Murray, 31 goal striker this season, on crutches, watching from the sidelines, injured in the play off SF 1st leg.
Also out, Jonny Parr (injured), and influential Stephen Dobbie (loan from Brighton, not allowed to play in play offs).
Palace became the first team to win promotion to the Premier League four times apparently. And the New Wembley became the fourth venue we have now won top flight football at, for the record;
1994 – Champions, title secured at Ayresome Park, Middlesbrough.
1997 – Play Off final – Beat Sheffield United 1-0 at the Old Wembley.
2004 – Play Off final – Beat West Ham 1-0 at the Millenium Stadium, Cardiff.
2013 – Play Off final – Beat Watford 1-0 at the New Wembley.
Not sure why is it that the older I get it seems the more emotional I get at these bigger games, at the final whistle, my eyes were very wet, and I only ‘just’ about kept my composure in front of Ros, as my ‘little old Palace’ had gone and bloody done it again.
A similar committed performance from the team that they’d shown at Brighton in the SF 2nd leg, but on the day just lacking the end product, a goal. Frustration and tension grew as Palace wrestled control of the game with captain Jedinak, as usual influential in midfield. But as the minutes ticked by, that goal was proving elusive.
However in the 105th minute during extra time in a fairy tale ending to his Palace career, Wilf’s pace got him past Watford defender Cossetti, who seemingly in an attempt to win the ball, stuck out a leg, unfortunately for him, Wilf had already just played the ball, and he made contact with Wilf’s leg.
It looked a penalty at the time, and the TV replays seem to confirm it, even Cossetti himself seemed resigned to it.
For seconds after we wondered who’d take the penalty, but up stepped ‘super’ Kevin Phillips ball tucked under his arm, who’d started his league career nearly twenty years previously at Watford, and born in Hertfordshire.
He then took one of the most perfect penalties I’ve ever seen, two strides, and then tucked firmly into the top left corner out of the reach of the excellent Almunia, the ripple of the net was met with an enormous roar from the Palace end of the stadium.
All day we had kept raising little things as 'omens' pointing to our victory, a Palace friend of ours had died four months before the 2004 win, another Palace friend had died a few weeks before this game, 'an omen' we said. From important things like that, to ridiculously inconsequential things, they were 'omens', our friends Steve and Ffi who we'd met in the Prince Regent on Marylebone high street pre-match were also spouting omens.
The truth of the matter was, the club has been as united as it had ever been over the last three years. CPFC2010 appear on the message boards interacting with fans. You have a concern/worry, go online ask, and you get a reply, no invisible foreign owners here!
Also the 'Holmesdale fanatics' have created a fantastic atmosphere at games this and previous recent seasons, today securing a block together behind the goal and leading the singing, to my biased ears it sounded like much more passion and noise was coming from the Palace end.
I'm not saying Watford fans aren't as passionate, that would be ludicrous, but on this day I sensed the unity flowing from our stands to the pitch and back again gave us an added advantage.
It seems now, in speaking to friends, but we hadn’t said at the time (a bad omen of course), that many of us were quietly confident we’d win this game.
As Ollie (Manager, Ian Holloway) said, in regard to our campaign in the Premier League, “Gawd help us”. Indeed, yes.
But at this moment, who cares eh, currently our pride outweighs our fears.
Thanks CPFC 2010, thanks Palace, another day to remember for the rest of our lives.
1. a phenomenon or occurrence regarded as a sign of future happiness or disaster
2. prophetic significance