To Palace fans of my generation it’s impossible, when talking about a trip to Villa Park, not to cast our minds back to that lunchtime game on April 8th 1990. This was probably the greatest Palace match of all time. For those too young to remember it, the highlights can still be seen on the BBC website
It wasn’t just the fact that we beat the mighty Liverpool (and they really were mighty – they won the league that year and had done so six times in the previous 10 years) but the fact that they had humiliated us 9-0 earlier in that season. It’s a game that I will remember forever.
The winning goal was scored by Alan Pardew at the Holte End which, in those days, was a giant standing terrace holding a staggering 20,000 spectators. It was certainly a rival of The Kop at Liverpool as the greatest terrace in English football. Also in that Palace team were John Salako, Richard Shaw and Mark Bright who all work for Palace today. For me it’s wonderful to have these former players involved at the club and, of course, we also have lifelong Palace fans Andy Woodman and Keith Millen in our dug-out as well.
Matches against Aston Villa at Villa Park have been a little less successful. We’ve only won there 3 time in the league in 15 attempts. My favourite memory from an away game at Villa, is from Boxing Day 2013 when Dwight Gayle came on as a substitute in the 72nd minute, in what was a fairly dire 0-0 game, and scored a sensational solo goal in the 90th minute to give us a precious away win - as we were 17th in the league at that time. Last season’s game was a rather forgettable 0-0 draw but it also marked Alan’s first game as newly appointed manager which he watched with us from the Directors Box.
Villa Park is one of the finest, classic football stadiums of England and, although it has been modernised over the years, it has retained a terrific character. Not far away is one of my favourite pubs in the country and I doubt that I’ve ever been to a match against the Villa without a stop at the magnificent Bartons Arms. This Victorian classic boasts one of the finest pub interiors in the land with many ornate features including remarkable ceramic tiles and stained glass windows. Oakham Ales make it must-stop for the thirsty Palace fan.
With a great victory at Southampton, in front of new shareholders David Blitzer and Josh Harris, on Saturday, our remarkable away form continues. However, Villa are desperate for the points and tonight’s game is all set to be a tense and exciting affair. Whilst we won’t match the amazing turnout of 4500 Palace away fans that we saw on Saturday, I’m sure that the red and blue army will be in good voice once again.