This weekend Palace make the trip to north London to face Tottenham Hotspur in a Premier League encounter that brings back memories of an away victory during a difficult season.
The season started well with away wins at Everton and Leeds United but ultimately the club suffered relegation with only 33 points from 38 games. Former Eagles striker Neil Shipperley remembers the season for a lack of home form that proved costly.
“The one thing that stands out for me is our disappointing home form, we didn’t get a home league win until April when we beat Derby County,” said Shipperley. “It was amazing how we lasted that long really before relegation became a reality with the run of home results we got. We had to produce a few results on the road but nowadays people stay up on the strength of their home results and looking back to not have had an away win until then is quite remarkable. “
The season off the field was not short of a news story or two, with Mark Goldberg’s takeover and Steve Coppell, Attilio Lombardo and Ron Noades all taking turns in the managerial hotseat, but Neil feels those events away from the pitch rarely affects the players.
“It is not ideal because any player wants a settled club, so much is made of it more in the media, from a player’s point of view we were under contract and our job was to go into the training ground and prepare for the next game. It would have been nice obviously to have a settled squad, a stable financial situation and the same manager in place for the whole period but it wasn’t to be.
“I don’t think you can look back and say that was a major factor that cost us relegation as the team have to take the field and do the best they can regardless of what has happened off the field. Looking back though it is clear it wasn’t a great time for the club.”
Despite the eventual lows that campaign, Palace went into the game at Tottenham in November 1997 on the back of a three match unbeaten run including a home draw against Arsenal so as a squad they approached the game in confident mood.
“We knew from the run we were on that we were capable of going to White Hart Lane and getting a result and I still maintain if we had sorted out our home form we could have maybe put in a decent challenge to stay up,” Shipperley said. “I still remember the goal well, Marc Edworthy did well down the right hand side and put in the cross and I got in front of the man to score the goal past Ian Walker in goal.
“Tottenham had a good squad and it was a game live on television so it was great to go over there and get the points to keep our unbeaten run going. I know the group of players we had at that time meant we were capable of getting a result so it wasn’t a major shock but on the night I wouldn’t have thought too many would have predicted it.”
Come the end of the season the side were seven points adrift and relegation was confirmed but the campaign did finish with a 1-0 win against Sheffield Wednesday courtesy of a goal from substitute Clinton Morrison. As they say the rest is history.
“Clinton has been exactly the same over the years and is a similar character now to what he was when I knew him as a player,” Shipperley added. “I do remember that game on the final day of the season, he came for me as sub with about eight minutes of the game to go and I can remember him being quite nervous but I said ‘don’t worry just go on and play your normal game.’ I was pleased to see him get his first goal and of course now it is in the history books what he has gone on to do in a Palace shirt.”
Neil still keeps an eye on the current squad and admires the character of the group which he believes will be a major factor on their side as the season progresses.
“I think last season what they achieved was great and once again they have shown tremendous character in the matches this year and I would expect that from a team managed by Neil Warnock.
“I was really impressed how they bounced back from the defeat against Sunderland to win against Liverpool which they did it in style; I’m sure that must have been a hell of an atmosphere inside Selhurst that afternoon.
“The league is so tough and I know they finished so well last season but Palace fans must be delighted to be there for a second season and the aim must be to get enough results just to stay in there. If on the final day they finish fourth from bottom they would have pulled off a remarkable achievement.”