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MEL BLYTH

1968-69 RECORD: 37/3
DEFENDER
APPEARANCES: 254

You arrived at Palace in the summer of 1968, how did the move come about?

Arthur Rowe came up to watch a game and Ronnie Ashman, the manager of Scunthorpe at the time, told me. I had read a few things in the local press of the interest but hadn’t had any contact until just before the game when Ashman’s actual words were: ‘Palace are here and they are keeping an eye on you’.

I had never been down to London and it was a real feeling of going into the unknown. I had grown up in Norwich before playing for a while in Scunthorpe and then this opportunity came up, so my head was in the clouds. As soon as I spoke to Bert Head, he told me what my contract was going to be, why it would be a good move and to be honest it all happened very quickly.

During pre-season, what did Head say were the main goals of the months ahead?

Bert said to me he was buying certain players with the aim to get the club up to the First Division, but for me that kind of ambition was a lot to take in as I had come from a Third Division side. That must have been some sort of record as I had played in the Third, Second and then the First Division within the space of 18 months! I had been told that Steve Kember, John Jackson and David Payne were the golden boys and I got on well with those three, and my whole attitude was I had to get to their level as they were setting the standards for what was needed.

You played in a couple of positions in the season’s early weeks, how did that come about?

We won on the opening day down at Cardiff City with me playing in a forward position which was new because I had always played at the back, but the manager wanted to see me up front due to my pace. Even though I scored in that game, it wasn’t a role I would say I enjoyed playing in.

The change in position did come about though when I turned up for training one day and was told to play alongside John McCormick at the back in a practice game and I never looked back. I said to Jonny that I would keep him in the first-team for the next five years, and now he had me playing alongside him - he didn’t take too kindly to that comment but we got on well! 

Palace ended the season on a run of 16 games unbeaten, when did you start believing in promotion?

When we beat the eventual league winners Derby County at their place in March, I said if this is the best that they can perform against us then I thought we would have a chance of winning the league. Everyone in the dressing room started to have that belief that we could achieve something, and the lads were champing at the bit to make sure that we would create a bit of history by making the First Division for the first time.

What are your biggest recollections of that season 50 years on?

I have such fond memories of that period. I will always look back on it as how playing in the different positions really helped me read the game better, and knowing from the start that I had to up my game if I was going be part of such a successful group of players. I had come from non-league to the First Division in such a short space of time, and it’s nice I will always be remembered as part of a group of lads who reached the top-flight for the first time.