Exactly 10 years ago today, a fresh-faced 25-year-old Argentine, largely unknown to fans of the English game, made the journey down from Scotland to sign for Crystal Palace Football Club from Dundee. That man’s name – Julian Speroni.
On that day, Monday 12th July 2004, no one, not least Speroni himself, could have predicted what lie in store for him at Selhurst Park.
One relegation, one promotion, one administration, three play-off campaigns, three relegation scraps, four Player of the Year awards, 349 appearances and 101 clean sheets – all under the stewardship of 11 different managers and caretaker bosses.
It’s been a rollercoaster ride for the man who has established himself as a club legend, but Speroni still remembers the day he first walked through the door as an almost anonymous entity.
“I remember clearly coming to the club and meeting everybody, the players, the staff and the manager – Iain Dowie at the time,” Speroni recalled. “It seems like yesterday, really. I can’t believe it’s been 10 years.
“Two things attracted me to Palace at that time. Obviously playing in the Premier League was a big factor and also I knew that Mike Kelly was the goalkeeping coach here.
“Everybody I spoke to about him said good things. He was one of the best coaches in the country and I wanted to learn, so that played a big part in my decision to come here.”
It wasn’t always plain sailing though for Speroni from the day he became an Eagle. His home Premier League debut against Everton on 21st August 2004 was an infamous one.
Just eight minutes in, he was caught in possession by Kevin Campbell, before proceeding to bring the striker down in the box for an early penalty.
Thomas Gravesen converted from 12 yards to cancel out Mark Hudson's early opener and set the Toffees on their way to a 3-1 win at Selhurst Park.
Four weeks later, after subsequent defeats to Chelsea, Middlesbrough, Portsmouth and Manchester City, Speroni found himself out of the team.
Thanks to the form of Gabor Kiraly, Speroni didn’t become the club’s undisputed number one again until August 2007. It was a difficult time - and one that almost forced him to depart south London.
“I’ve had good times and bad times, I’ve got happy memories and sad memories, so it’s been a real journey of ups and downs, but I’ve really enjoyed it,” Speroni said.
“The first season was a real learning process. I had come in from a different country and had to learn how to play the game in England.
“I didn’t have the sort of start I would have wanted, but things turned around and here we are!
“It’s always tough when you’re not playing because every player wants to play football. But it’s all about how you react – when you get the chance, you have to be ready. You have to train hard and make sure that when you do have the chance, you show the manager what you can do. That’s all I had in my mind at the time.
“I can’t say that leaving never crossed my mind, because it did, but I always wanted to stay and show people what I can do. Hopefully that’s what I’ve done.”
While Speroni has plied his trade between the Palace sticks during the past decade, he has seen some fantastic players line up in the red and blue in front of him during that time.
Typically of the humble Argentine, he didn’t want to single out the best teammate he has played with during his tenure, but revealed his soft spot for those who have progressed through the Eagles set-up from a younger age.
“I’ve played with some great players here so it would be unfair to name just one,” Speroni said, “but it’s always nice when you see players grow and come through the academy like Wilfried Zaha, Victor Moses, Sean Scannell, Jonny Williams – we’ve had a lot!
“It’s great to see them when they are young, see their potential and watch them develop into first team footballers.”
If Speroni’s 10 years in SE25 have been the proverbial rollercoaster, then the ride is surely at its summit right now.
A memorable Championship Play-Off Final victory at Wembley was followed up by his best season at the club, as he gained Premier League redemption following that 2004/05 campaign.
His performances earned him an unprecedented fourth Player of the Year crown as he played a key role in helping Palace escape the Premier League trap door for the first time in the club’s history.
It’s been the perfect way to round off a dramatic decade.
“As much as you learn from bad times, when the good times come you enjoy them so, so much,” Speroni concluded.
“I would say the promotion campaign and last season in the Premier League are the best years I’ve had with Palace.”
Hopefully there are a few more to come.