In 1905, the newly-formed Crystal Palace club applied for membership of the Football League but were rejected. They were then refused entry into the Southern League First Division, meaning that they began life as a member of the Second Division – a league that was largely made up of reserve teams of established First Division outfits.Former Middlesbrough boss John Robson was named as the club’s first manager, bringing with him a clutch of players with whom he was familiar, including Newcastle United captain Ted Birnie. But that didn’t help Palace in their first ever Southern League match, which ended in a 4-3 defeat to Southampton Reserves.
Manager Roy Hodgson
- Current Team
- Crystal Palace
- August 9, 1947
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In 1905, the newly-formed Crystal Palace club applied for membership of the Football League but were rejected. They were then refused entry into the Southern League First Division, meaning that they began life as a member of the Second Division – a league that was largely made up of reserve teams of established First Division outfits.
Former Middlesbrough boss John Robson was named as the club’s first manager, bringing with him a clutch of players with whom he was familiar, including Newcastle United captain Ted Birnie. But that didn’t help Palace in their first ever Southern League match, which ended in a 4-3 defeat to Southampton Reserves.
That was to prove the club’s only defeat of the season, as Robson masterminded an unbeaten run that took Palace all the way to the Second Division title, which they clinched at closest rivals Leyton Orient. By this time, the club had a local boy, George Woodger, as their star player up front.
Despite a superb showing in their first ever season, Palace struggled in the Southern League First Division, finishing second from bottom. But they rediscovered their form in the FA Cup, where they beat Newcastle United at St James’ Park in the first round – a result that still stands out as one of the best in the club’s history. Southern League champions Fulham were also disposed of, as were Brentford in round three, before Everton finally knocked Palace out of the tournament.
Ahead of the 1907/08 season, manager Edmund Goodman brought in Josh Johnson who became first-choice goalkeeper until World War One, making 295 appearances for the club, while Welsh international winger Bill Davies also joined from Tottenham Hotspur. In the five seasons leading up to the outbreak of the war, the club’s lowest finish in the Southern League was seventh, finishing as runners-up in 1913/14 when only goal average denied them the title.
Woodger was succeeded at centre-forward by Charlie Woodhouse, who immediately became the club’s top scorer in the 1910/11 season with 15 goals in 33 matches, before he died suddenly late in 1911. Ted Smith joined Palace from Hull City and in1913/14, Palace enjoyed their best ever Southern League campaign when the Glaziers, as they were nicknamed at the time, missed out on the title after only managing a draw against Gillingham in their final game.
The Great War took a heavy toll on Palace. The club were not allowed to complete their 1914/15 home fixtures because the Crystal Palace and its grounds had been requisitioned by the Admiralty at short notice in February 1915. Their captain, Harry Hanger, had already left for the frontline in December, while wingers Ben Bateman and John Whibley also went to serve their country.
Playing on a borrowed ground at Herne Hill with temporary players and finding the Southern League and FA Cup suspended, the Glaziers joined the London Combination – a period that saw them lose 11-0 at West Ham in April 1918.
There was better news for the club though when it was announced that they were to have their own headquarters once again, at The Nest, opposite Selhurst railway station. The stadium had been Croydon Common’s ground since 1908, but, after the club folded, Palace agreed to lease the arena in time for the 1918/19 campaign, which was to prove the final London Combination season.
Attendances at The Nest continued to rise and Palace’s performances on the pitch improved as a result. They finished the first post-war season third in the Southern League First Division, just two points adrift of Portsmouth and Watford.
Despite previous opposition to the idea of expanding to three or four divisions, the Football League embraced the concept following the war, inviting all Southern League First Division sides to comprise a new Third Division for the 1920/21 season.
Following an indifferent start to the campaign, Palace went on a run of 16-games unbeaten, including eight straight victories before Easter, to help them win promotion to English football’s second tier for the first time. It sparked a summer of enhancements to The Nest, which was ready to welcome 20,000 supporters for the opening Second Division game of the 1921/22 season, against Nottingham Forest, when the Glaziers ran out 4-1 winners against the eventual champions.
Off the pitch, the club had been negotiating the purchase of a former brickfield, which was to eventually destined to become Selhurst Park. The stadium was designed by Archibald Leitch and built by Messers Humphreys of Knightsbridge at a cost of £30,000.
Although an industrial dispute delayed work on the Main Stand, meaning that parts of the stadium remained incomplete, Selhurst Park was formally opened ahead of Palace’s first match of the 1924/25 season against Sheffield Wednesday on 30th August 1924.
A disappointing 1-0 defeat that day set the tone for the Glaziers’ campaign. They won just twice between the turn of the year and the end of the season, sparking a rapid slide down the table that resulted in eventual relegation from the Second Division.
There was better news for the club off the pitch, as Selhurst Park was selected as the venue for a full international between England and Wales on 1st March 1926. But Palace continued to struggle to adapt to life back in the Third Division South, before agonisingly missing out on promotion in 1929 at the expense of Charlton Athletic, who claimed the title on goal difference.
That summer saw the arrival of a man who turned out to become a Palace legend – Peter Simpson. His debut epitomised his career in SE25 as he hit a hat-trick against Norwich. He would go on to top the club’s goalscoring charts in each of his first five seasons, bagging a record total of 165 senior goals for Palace.
But despite having the prolific Simpson in their ranks, the Glaziers could not gain promotion in 1929/30, finishing in a disappointing ninth place, before coming second again the following year. The remaining inter-war years of the 1930s were comparatively lacklustre with secretary and former manager Edmund Goodman retiring at the end of the 1932/33 season.
New manager Tom Bromilow came to Palace from Burnley, and after finishing runners-up to Notts County in 1938/39, former Palace goalkeeper George Irwin was left to steer the Glaziers through the difficult years of World War Two.
As soon as war was declared, the Football League’s 1939/40 season was abandoned and, throughout the hostilities, clubs were divided into several regional leagues. Competitions ran for various lengths of time, ranging from a few weeks to many months, before a proper divisional structure finally returned in 1946.
No club in Division Three South opened the post-war footballing era with higher aspirations than Crystal Palace, but the club struggled for a number of seasons, even finishing bottom of the league in 1948/49. In the summer of 1950, manager Ronnie Rooke spent nearly £30,000 on new players, a sum that represented a huge outlay at the time for a team in that division. The spending spree proved to be of no avail, as Palace lost five of their opening six matches in the 1950/51 season and, by mid-November, Rooke resigned.
He was replaced at the helm by two men – Fred Dawes and Charlie Slade – but they were unable to prevent the Glaziers finishing bottom of the league, scoring a club-record low 33 goals in 46 games in the process. They found themselves in similar trouble at the start of the 1951/52 season and the joint managers left the club in mid-October. England international right-back Laurie Scott was persuaded to take over but by the 1953/54 season Palace avoided the re-election places by a whisker, finishing 22nd in the 24-team division.
Despite dismissing Scott in September 1954, Palace won just once in their opening 11 games the following season, and went on to finish 21st, amassing two points fewer than they managed the previous term. New boss Cyril Spiers had adapted a new strategy of finding and developing young players, which was extended into the 1955/56 season but Palace’s young guns, including Johnny Byrne, finished second from bottom and sought re-election to the league.
The 1957/58 season proved crucial for every club in the regional Third Divisions. It was finally decided to establish national Third and Fourth Divisions, meaning that those clubs finishing in the upper half of the regional tables would play in the Third Division, with teams finishing in the bottom half playing in the fourth tier. Palace finished the season in a much-improved 14th place, just four points from claiming a top-half finish. But it meant that the Glaziers would be plying their trade in the fourth tier.
With Palace heading towards the 1960s in the basement of English league football, it was the responsibility of manager George Smith to get the club into the higher divisions. When appointed as boss, Smith said that should Palace not get promoted out of the fourth division within two years, he would resign.
The season started well for Palace with an impressive 6-2 win over Crewe Alexandra at Selhurst Park, as Mike Deakin and Johnny Byrne both bagged hat-tricks. But Palace couldn’t sustain such dominance, finishing the 1958/59 season four points behind Shrewsbury Town in the fourth promotion spot.
The following year, Crystal Palace earned much recognition after goalkeeper Vic Rouse appeared for Wales against Northern Ireland – making him the first player ever to represent their national squad whilst playing in the fourth division. But their league performance again failed to live up to Smith’s expectations and, with promotion now unachievable, he departed SE25 in April 1960.
Smith’s assistant, Arthur Rowe, was installed as the new manager and Palace fans were quickly enthralled by his tactical style, which led to five wins from the opening seven matches – form that put them on their way to finishing second in the league, finishing only behind Peterborough en-route to promotion.
Several club records were also broken during the course of that season; Palace hit an amazing 110 league goals in their 46 matches, while Byrne found the net 30 times, breaking Roy Summersby’s previous high of 25. Glaziers fans also helped break the Fourth Division attendance record during an early season contest against Peterborough, before going on to surpass their own benchmark when 37,774 watched Palace lose 2-0 at home to Millwall.
Palace’s progression through the leagues didn’t take another step until Rowe’s assistant, Dick Graham, took charge of the club in December 1962. The Glaziers finished as Third Division runners-up in Graham’s first full season in charge, only missing out on the title by virtue of goal difference. In fact, a draw on the final day of the season would have won them the league, but a 3-1 defeat allowed Coventry City to pip them to the prize.
After overseeing back-to-back mid-table finishes in the Second Division, Graham was dismissed which paved the way for Rowe to return as caretaker manager, before Bert Head was given the role in April 1966. The 1968/69 season saw Head bring in winger Colin Taylor and defender Mel Blyth, and the duo contributed to a dazzling run of form from January, winning an impressive 10 games out of a possible 16 to put them on the brink of promotion.
On a crucial final day, 36,126 supporters packed out Selhurst Park to witness the Glaziers fight back from 2-0 down to beat Fulham 3-2. When news filtered through that Charlton Athletic had lost, supporters could finally celebrate promotion and becoming a First Division side, rounding off an outstanding decade which saw Palace climb from the depths of the Fourth Division into English football’s top flight for the first time in their history.
With Palace playing top-flight football for the first time, many fans expected a scrap for survival, but an opening day draw with Manchester United buoyed the Glaziers’ faithful. A season of struggle did ensue though and, despite only recording six wins from 42 league games, Palace stayed up by a point.
After two further seasons in the First Division, including a narrow escape from the drop in 1971/72, the team could not repeat the feat. Despite a change of manager that saw Malcolm Allison take the reins in April 1973, Palace were relegated back to the Second Division.
Under Allison’s management, the club unveiled a new badge and a new nickname – the Eagles – but results failed to live up to the feel-good factor that he created. Having started the season with high hopes of bouncing straight back into the top-flight, Palace ended it by being relegated for a second successive season.
Despite that disappointment, Allison was kept on but after Palace could only finish fifth in 1975 and 1976, he departed. Terry Venables was unveiled as manager and made an immediate impact by steering his team into the final promotion spot to return to the Second Division in 1977.
That season was equally well-remembered for the Glaziers’ FA Cup first-round meeting with Brighton and Hove Albion, when a second replay victory over the Seagulls witnessed the origins of the rivalry that now exists between the two clubs, as Venables clashed with his former Tottenham teammate and then-Brighton boss, Alan Mullery.
Skippered by Jim Cannon, who was midway through what was to become a legendary career with the club, Palace made 1978/79 a memorable campaign. Going into the final game of the season against Burnley, Venables’ men needed a single point to confirm promotion, while a win would see them claim the Second Division title.
Such was the interest in the game that stewards locked the Selhurst Park gates an hour before kick-off, with a record crowd of 51,482 inside the ground. Ian Walsh headed the hosts in front with a quarter of an hour to play, before Dave Swindlehurst sealed the win, and the title.
In the summer of 1979, Gerry Francis and Mike Flanagan arrived for record transfer fees and gelled with a young batch of local youngsters, and by the end of September ‘The Team of The 80s’ were top of the First Division. They eventually finished 13th, but the following season was to throw up another relegation, sparked by Venables’ acrimonious departure to QPR in October 1980.
Ron Noades had taken over the club at this point, and in the summer of 1982 he made a bold decision to appoint Mullery as manager. Following two poor finishes of 15th and 18th, he was shown the door, paving the way for the start of a bright new era at Selhurst Park.
Following Alan Mullery’s unsuccessful spell in charge, Steve Coppell was unveiled as Palace’s new boss in June 1984, with former captain Ian Evans named as his assistant. They found the 1984/85 season a steep learning curve though and the club’s survival in the Second Division hinged upon a pair of unexpected victories in April, over promotion hopefuls Portsmouth and Blackburn.
Coppell gradually built up his squad, dipping into non-league to buy players such as Andy Gray and Ian Wright, with the latter building up a prolific strike-parnership with Mark Bright throughout the rest of the decade. While their legacies in SE25 were just beginning, 1987/88 proved to be the final season for Jim Cannon, who brought his career to an end after 571 league appearances for the club.
Wright and Bright continued to lead from the front though, again amassing 44 league goals in the 1988/89 season as Palace finished third to clinch a play-off place. Despite losing the first leg of their semi-final tie at Swindon Town by a solitary goal, Wright and Bright netted at Selhurst Park to send Palace into the final against Blackburn Rovers.
In the last play-off final ever to be played over two legs, Palace again found themselves with work to do at Selhurst Park after falling to a 3-1 defeat at Ewood Park. But two more goals from Wright and a David Madden penalty were enough to secure a long-awaited return to the top-flight.
Five games in to the new campaign, Palace were humbled 9-0 at Liverpool – a result that led to the purchase of Britain’s first £1 million goalkeeper, Nigel Martyn, and defender Andy Thorn. Coppell’s reinforced backline secured a 15th-place finish, but the 1989/90 season was best remembered for the club’s majestic run to the FA Cup final against Manchester United. Palace led the Old Trafford giants twice at Wembley, before drawing 3-3 after extra-time. The replay was much cagier, with Lee Martin scoring the only goal of the game just before the hour mark to break Palace hearts.
If that was a historic achievement for the club, their feats during the following season would live equally long in the memory. They finished in their highest-ever league position of third in the First Division, and having gone so close to winning the FA Cup the previous May, Palace returned to Wembley in April 1991 for a Zenith Data Systems Cup showdown with Everton, and goals from Geoff Thomas, John Salako and a Wright double saw the Eagles run out 4-1 winners.
Palace were members of the inaugural Premier League in 1992/93, but the Eagles went into the final day of the season needing a point at Arsenal to survive, despite already aquiring 49 and seeing nearest rivals Oldham Athletic win their previous three games. Palace were relegated after a 3-0 defeat, in which Wright scored for the Gunners against his former club, and a few days later Coppell resigned.
There was one stand-out candidate to replace Steve Coppell in the summer of 1993, with his former assistant Alan Smith handed the job, and he claimed the Division One title with a game to spare in his forst season to return to the Premier League, but that brought more heartache for Palace fans, with Smith unable to save them from the drop, despite finishing fourth from bottom due to the league being restructured.
Palace looked to bounce straight back into the big time and after losing the 1996 Division One play-off final to Leicester City thanks to a last-gasp Steve Claridge goal, but by the time Palace reached a second successive play-off final in May 1997, Coppell once again led the Eagles out at Wembley against Sheffield United, and this time it was their turn to secure a last-minute victory thanks to David Hopkin’s curler.
Back in the Premier League, Attilio Lombardo, made the shock move to SE25 from Juventus, and after a run of eight straight league defeats between January and March 1998, Coppell stepped down as manager, with Lombardo taking charge until the end of the season, but unable to prevent relegated. Soon after, Mark Goldberg completed a takeover of the club, and despite re-appointing Terry Venables as manager, finances were tight and Coppell returned for a third spell as manager in January 1999, guiding his young side to mid-table safety despite the club being forced to enter administration.
After an agonising 16 months in administration, Simon Jordan bought the club but Coppell resigned before the start of the 2000/01 campaign, and once again he was replaced at the helm by Smith. Towards the end of that campaign, with the team on the brink of relegation to Division Two, Smith was dismissed and Steve Kember was placed in charge for the final two crucial games. After beating Portsmouth 4-2 at Fratton Park, a late Dougie Freedman winner against County ensured the Eagles’ Division One status.
After a string of managers, Kember was given the job permanently in May 2003, but after a poor start he was replaced by former Palace striker Iain Dowie. That move brought about a miraculous transformation at Selhurst Park, which saw the Eagles soar into the play-off places on the last day of the season. Palace edged past Sunderland on penalties in the semi-final, before Neil Shipperley’s solitary goal was enough to beat West Ham United in the play-off final at the Millennium Stadium and return to the top-flight.
Despite the 21 league goals of Andrew Johnson, Palace were once again unable to survive in the Premier League and they were relegated on the final day of the season following a 2-2 draw at Charlton Athletic. Back in the second tier, Dowie steered his side to another play-off semi-final but they were defeated by Watford, before more play-off heartache would come in 2007/08 under Neil Warnock as Bristol City knocked Palace out at the semi-final stage again.
By December 2009 the club was issued with a winding-up order and the following month, Crystal Palace fell into administration again, bringing with it a 10-point deduction and another relegation battle. Paul Hart was handed the task of keeping the Eagles in the Championship, and that brief was achieved on a memorable final day of the season, as Palace travelled to Hillsborough for a survival shoot-out with Sheffield Wednesday and claimed a 2-2 draw to survive at the Owls’ expense, but their survival off the pitch was still in the balance.
At the start of the decade, the future of Crystal Palace Football Club remained in serious doubt. Administrators were all set to liquidate the club if the purchase of Selhurst Park was not agreed by 1st June 2010, and as the news circulated, some fans gathered at the ground to protest the day before, while around 250 supporters made the trip outside the London headquarters of Lloyds Bank, where a do-or-die meeting was taking place between the bank and a consortium, headed by Steve Parish, named CPFC2010.
At the eleventh hour, the club was lifted out of administration and Parish, along with Stephen Browett, Martin Long and Jeremy Hosking, were hailed as heroes. Their first step was to appoint George Burley as manager, with Dougie Freedman continuing in the role of assistant.
Burley’s reign barely lasted six months though, before a 3-0 loss at Millwall on New Year’s Day 2011 proved to be his final game in charge. Club legend Freedman was promoted as manager and he secured Palace’s Championship survival, before the following season taking his side to the League Cup semi-finals, which included a shock win at Old Trafford against Manchester United. However, the run ended cruelly as Cardiff City pipped past Palace on penalties in the final-four.
Although they missed out on Wembley that year, Palace were destined to reach England’s national stadium at the end of a rollercoaster 2012/13 campaign. A scintillating 14-match unbeaten run established the Eagles among the Championship front-runners before Freedman left the club for Bolton Wanderers, leaving Ian Holloway to take the hot seat, but he guided Palace into the play-offs to set up a two-legged meeting with arch rivals Brighton and Hove Albion.
The first match finished in a 0-0 stalemate in SE25, but on a memorable night at the Amex Stadium, Palace overcame the odds to triumph 2-0 thanks to a Wilfried Zaha brace to set up a play-off final meeting with Watford. On a dramatic day at Wembley, an extra-time penalty from Kevin Phillips gave Palace a 1-0 victory and ensured Premier League football for the first time in eight seasons.
Having never managed to stay in the division before and been in the relegation zone at Christmas, the Eagles’ form in the second half of the campaign saw them finish in 11th place under Tony Pulis and achieve a second successive season in the Premier League for the first time ever. Following Alan Pardew’s appointment as manager after Neil Warnock departed, they went one better in 2014/15 and finished the campaign in the top half of the table in 10th spot.
In December 2015 it was announced that Americans David Blitzer and Josh Harris had invested in the club, making up a new ownership structure alongside chairman Parish, and that season ended with the Eagles once again returning to Wembley, this time in the FA Cup. The semi-final brought about a rematch with Watford which Palace won 2-1, and once again they would come across a familiar foe when they took on Manchester United in the final, but they beaten 2-1 after extra-time to finish runners-up for a second time.
The following campaign saw Pardew dismissed just before Christmas with Palace’s Premier League status in jeapody, but survival specialist Sam Allardyce came in and managed to beat the drop once again, to seal the Eagles’ spot in the top-flight for a record fifth successive season.
Source: Crystal Palace Football Club