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 - paving 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.
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