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Johnny Byrne: 59 Years On

13 October 2015

Today marks the 59th anniversary of Johnny Byrne's full league debut for Crystal Palace, when he started at centre forward in a 0-0 draw with Swindon Town at Selhurst Park.

It was the beginning of a remarkable career, which saw the Surrey-born striker score over 100 goals for CPFC, represent the England national team at senior level and later star for West Ham United - who are, coincidentally, the Eagles' opponents in the Premier League this Saturday!

Byrne played for five clubs across two continents during his quarter of a century in the game. And it all started in the South East of England, with Byrne joining Crystal Palace after spells with Epsom Town and Guildford City as a youth player.

Born on 13th May 1939, Byrne was just 17-years-old when he made his Palace debut on this day in 1956. He went on to make 14 appearances for Palace, then called The Glaziers, during 1956-57, scoring just once.

In the following years, Palace continued to progress alongside Byrne's ever-improving goal tallies. In 1957-58 he scored seven in 28 games, with the Glaziers finishing 14th, then in 1958-89 he racked up 17 goals in 45 appearances. Palace, who were founding members of the Fourth Division that year, finished seventh in the table.

In 1959-60 he scored 16 in 42, with Palace taking eighth place in Division Four, and doubts soon arose over his future at the club. However, he stayed and held down a regular place in the Glaziers' forward line, smashing a post-ward record 30 goals in 1960-61, with Palace gaining promotion to the Third Division. They scored 110 goals that season, with Byrne's strike partner Roy Summersby hitting an impressive 25 himself.

Byrne earned the first of his 11 international caps whilst playing for Palace, becoming the first player at the club to do so in 38 years when he made his senior debut in 1961.

He moved to West Ham United in 1962 for £65,000, which was a record fee between British clubs at the time, where he enjoyed enormous success. Byrne continued to represent England - finishing his international career in 1965 with eight goals in 11 appearances - whilst with the Hammers, and also one the FA Cup in 1963-64. That season saw Byrne beat legendary England captain Bobby Moore to his club's Hammer of the Year award.

Byrne returned to Palace in 1967 for a less-prolific season than he had previously experienced, but it took his total to 101 goals in 259 games for the Glaziers. He left for struggling Fulham in 1968 and went on to play in South Africa with Durban City, before making a one-off appearance for Hellenic FC whilst coaching in Cape Town.

He finished his playing career in South Africa, remaining in South Africa until his untimely death from a heart attack in 1999, aged 60.

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