Friday, 19 April 2019

Back in the Spring of '69

A rare personal post today, since it is 50 years to the day since Crystal Palace clinched promotion to the top division, then called Division One, for the first time in the club's history.

A very young Cassini had seen his first Palace game almost exactly two years prior on April 22nd, 1967 and a very old Cassini can still recall the excitement of that 1968-69 season. 

Palace lost just one league game after 7th December, and I can still remember the win at runaway leaders Derby County (managed by Brian Clough) in early March as the moment it seemed genuinely possible the dream might come true.

For perspective, prior to the 1961-62 season, Crystal Palace had played all but four seasons (1921-25) of their league history in the lowest division, either Division 3 South or Division Four, since entering the league and winning Division Three at the first time of asking.

The 1950s had been disappointing to say the least, with Palace having to apply for re-election three times (a record for a current Premier League club, although one that Norwich City with four might take over next season), and were knocked out of the F A Cup by a non-league side three seasons in a row during that decade:
Promotions in 1961 and 1964 were followed by the 1969 promotion season, one disrupted by postponements including two versus Oxford United. 

Palace played only seven league games in three months, December through February, which meant a busy March (8 matches), and three games in four days over Easter, a crucial 11am game at home v Middlesbrough who were level on points with Palace at the time, followed a day later by a home game v Portsmouth, easily despatched (as usual) 3-1, and a game the following Tuesday at Huddersfield Town.

Promotion was finally clinched on 19th April after Palace came from 0-2 down to beat Fulham 3-2 on a sunny afternoon in front of 36,126 fans. Club legend Steve Kember scored the winner, and it wasn't the last occasion that he would feature in end of season drama, and always on the good side of it!  
Fascinating to read in the programme for a Friendly match in May versus Morton, how low key the comments of manager Bert Head were:
"Tonight's game gives all our spectators an opportunity of sitting back and enjoying a match without the tremendous tension associated with our last battle against Fulham. I sincerely hope everyone enjoys the game and - like me - is looking forward to the coming season."
They did things a little differently back then. I'm a Palace fan because my Mum lived in the area when I was born, and thus they were my local team, and first team I ever saw live. They have been a constant in my life for almost 52 years, and although they may not win too much, life is seldom boring. 

On the 23rd April that year, Palace did win the London 5-a-Side Championships at Wembley. 
Oh, when I look back now
That summer seemed to last forever
And if I had the choice
Yeah, I'd always wanna be there

Those were the best days of my life

Back in the summer of '69...

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