Julian Speroni can not have been clearer when asked about his commitment, and fight, to regain his place in Palace’s starting eleven.
It was twelve years ago that the Argentinian signed for a newly promoted Eagles side, and since then he has clocked up 387 appearances for the club (one game away from equalling goalkeeper John Jackson’s record of 388 appearances in all competitions). However, having only featured once this season, Speroni says he is as determined as ever to be called back into first team action – regardless of the record breaking feats he might achieve in the process.
“It’s been a tough season for me, it’s been a challenge. The injury before the beginning of the season kept me out for a while and I was just happy to be back and get my place back, then someone else had the chance to play and I had to respect that and be professional. I’m not someone who wants to escape from challenges, of course I want to play football and I’m going to try to get my place back and do all I can to do that. It’s the manager’s decision to play me or not, but believe me I’ll do all I can to get back in that team."
With Wayne Hennessey taking the position of first choice stopper this season, Speroni has had to make do with a place on the bench, alternating with Alex McCarthy who is also competing for top spot. However, at 36, Speroni is wise to
the challenges of playing a position which can only fill one place of an eleven man team.
“I’ve been through a similar situation when I first signed for the club and I think the secret is to keep going, when you have your chance to play you need to make sure you’re 100% prepared so that’s what I’ve got to do, keep a smile and always try to be positive around the place and keep training the way I always train and hopefully when I have a chance to play again I’ll perform well."
Speroni is set to take his place for the final game of the season between the sticks, the manager announced this at his pre-match press conference, but it is not a sentimental call-up as Pardew will be looking to close in on twelfth place and gain a final confidence boost before next Saturday’s FA Cup showdown at Wembley.
Talking about this weekend’s opposition, the goalkeeper says the Saints have a model all teams would want to emulate, and Palace are well prepared for what will be tough game down on the south-coast.
“They’ve gone from strength to strength since League One, then Championship and now Premier League, and how they’ve grown in the last few years has been amazing and it’s a good example for other clubs to follow - they’ve been doing all the right things.
“Going forward they are strong, they put a lot of balls in the box and they always create chances but also as a defensive unit they are hard to break down. We need to be prepared because they’ve got top top players who can change the game in a second and we need to be ready for that.”
With only one league game left this season, and with a chance to potentially surpass Jackson’s record achievement at the south London club, Speroni says it was never something he could have envisaged when he started playing for the Eagles.
“When I signed for the club in 2004 if you’d asked me if I’d be here today or about to equal a club record I would say no chance, the fact that I’m here now playing almost 400 games for the club is just incredible and I’m so proud of it. To be put on a list with those guys like John and legends of this club it’s unreal for me, so hopefully I’ll manage to break it but it wasn’t something I was worried about, I just want to play football."
to watch Alan Pardew’s press conference ahead of the game this Sunday away to Southampton.