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 prospects, 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.
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