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Clint Hill Hails "Incredible" Palace Fans

3 December 2015

Fan favourite Clint Hill has called Palace's fan-voted Moment of the Decade, the last-gasp survival at Hillsborough in 2010, "the most important game of [my] career," despite admitting he couldn't enjoy the match while he was on the pitch.

"I remember I didn't enjoy any bit of the game," laughs Hill. "Not until the referee blew his whistle and we knew the result, when we knew we were staying up, we'd survived. Then we could breathe a sigh of relief."

The Eagles had been plagued by administration, fighting back from a ten point deduction and were on the brink of relegation in the build up to the match. Despite all of that, Hill has agreed with goalscorer Darren Ambrose's assessment that there were few nerves among the Palace players pre-match.

"I wouldn't say that we were nervous, but you felt the importance of the game," he said. "You knew that a lot of people would be upset if the result went against you. So I'd probably agree [with Darren Ambrose] that the nerves weren't there, but the importance of the game and how it could affect a lot of people, the club, and the threat of relegation, were all in our minds."

Darren Purse's 87th minute equaliser had made for a nerve-shredding finish to the game at Hillsborough, with both Palace and Wednesday desperately fighting for survival. The Eagles' future as a football club, let alone a Championship one, was in the balance,  and Hill admitted that it could have been a completely different story.

"Football is like that. In a split second you can be either too early or too late and that can result in a goal," he said. 

"I remember Stern John going through on goal late on and having the chance to finish the game, then when that didn't go in I was thinking 'oh my god, what else is going to happen here?' It seemed as though something was going to go against us."

That feeling that something could go wrong at any point to condemn the club to League One had been felt by Hill the day before, on the journey up to Hillsborough.

"The day before the game we took the train up to Sheffield," said Hill. "We got on and wanted to sit down but there were no seats, they'd double-booked the train! 

"There were lads sitting on the floor, in footwells, on their bags, in the toilet. You think nothing else can go against you then on the day you travel up for the game you're sat on the floor. 

"I remember there were a few fans on the train up having some beers and they were having a laugh at us," he laughed. "On the eve of the most important game of your career and you're thinking 'wow, what else is going to come for us?'

"I don't know the full ins-and-outs of it, whether the train company were responsible for the double-booking or not, but it was quite a funny situation really, when you look back on it!"

The travelling support was vital that day - and the Palace fans remain famous to this day - which Hill is well aware of.

"It was unbelievable, the support. It was pretty much a full house at Hillsborough, which is a big, big football stadium," he said. "Our fans were fantastic, they made themselves heard throughout the game and gave us their support. To be fair they did that all season, it was a difficult time for everybody and it would have been quite easy for them to have gone the other way when things were going against us. 

"They could have turned against us and started getting at the players, but they were the complete opposite. They got behind the players, they got behind the club and it was a marvellous thing for them to do.

"It would've been easy for them to have turned the other way," he continued. "They could have been thinking 'this is my club, what have you done to my club?' They could have made their feelings known in the wrong way, which is quite easy to do. It's quite easy to get negative when things are going bad, but the way they helped turn it around was amazing. 

"Even to go beyond the game, we still could have gone bankrupt, the club could have folded," he added, remembering the events that followed Palace's league survival. 

"The way the fans responded to that, marching on the bank in London, where they were having meetings, was definitely a turning point for the club. Who knows what would have happened in that meeting if they didn't see all those people outside! 

"I've a massive, massive respect for the Palace fans [for that] and for the way they've carried it on now. They really are a part of Palace and I don't think the club will ever lose that identity, it's fantastic."

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