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Speroni: I'm A Palace Fan

9 October 2016

Julian Speroni has spoken of his bond with Crystal Palace fans, riding the "rollercoaster" with them over the past 12 years and his pride in closing in on a club record in a Cult Heroes interview with the Premier League.

During his time in SE25 Speroni has seen it all, all the highs and lows imaginable, having spent over a decade at the club, something he never imagined he would do when he signed for the Eagles once they had gained promotion to the Premier League under Iain Dowie.

"I remember when I signed in 2004, if you had asked me back then 'how long do you expect to be at the club?' I probably would have answered 'about four years' - that's usually how long a player stays at one football club. The fact that it's been 12 years - and this is my season number 13 - it's just incredible, just incredible," he said.

"I enjoy every minute. I've never had a reason to go because I was always enjoying my football. I went through tough times, but also great times. I enjoy every minute of it.

"It's been a rollercoaster for me personally, but also for the club. I've seen promotion campaigns, relegation battles, administration, Championship, Premier League - I've seen it all really. We've managed to get a group together every single time and that's helped us pull through those difficult situations and also got us to where we are now. We're probably enjoying the most settled time for the club and it's great. It's great to see the club where it should be in the Premier League and enjoying the good times."

Speroni has enjoyed his fair share of good times, as he says, and it's clear that one of his favourite things about the club is the fans, whom he has a special bond with. He stuck with the club through it all, putting in some incredible performances along the way and lifting the Player of the Year award a record four times - winning it three years in a row between 2008 and 2010 - making it easy to see why he's so adored. 

"It's hard to explain, it's really hard," he says of his relationship with the Palace faithful. "They know me, obviously as a footballer you're in a position where everybody can see you and what you do on the pitch - and some times off the pitch as well you can be in the spotlight.

"The Palace fans know me, they know me really, really well. I can walk the streets around Selhurst Park and they know who I am, they know where I live and also what I do every time I step on that pitch. They know that whatever happens, whatever the result, I will always give my 100%. I never keep anything for myself, every time I step on that pitch I'm going to give it all and I think they've appreciated that over the years. And as I've said many times before: I'm a Palace fan, after all these years I know how they feel because I'm one of them and I think they really appreciate that."

The 37-year-old also admitted that his passion for the club also meant that when things weren't going so well he would take it harder than the average player.

"Oh believe me, I take it home some times! If we have a bad day it takes me a while to recover and also I can enjoy the good times: the promotion campaign, Wembley, that is something that will stay in my heart forever, and of course the fans remember all of that."

Palace fans are known for the noise that they make at Selhurst Park, cheering the boys in red and blue on for the full 90 minutes regardless of the result, in the rain and in the sun. Speroni is clearly grateful for the support he's had over the years and feels it is part of his duty to enlighten new players when they arrive in SE25.

"It keeps you going, if you're going through a tough period - which in every season a club normally will - they push you forward," he said. "They push you forward and they get you motivated, they give you that something extra that you need to push through.

"Every time a new player comes to the club I always try to make them understand what it means to play for Crystal Palace. It's a place unlike other clubs, the fans they're just incredible and I want them (new players) to understand that. It's part of my job as a senior player to make sure they know what it is and the passion behind it, the relationship we have with the fans and the fact that we're close to them. Every matchday we walk through them, you can see that closeness between us players and the fans. That's something that's very, very important, so we need to keep that up."

There's one moment for him which stands out when discussing the fans' impact from the stands.

"The perfect example for me was Liverpool at home where we were 3-0 down with 11 minutes to go, we scored a goal and the crowd just erupted," he says enthusiastically. "They were shouting and singing and it got louder and louder and louder. Then we managed to score another goal and then I could see it coming. I think if we could have played another five minutes we could've won it! That was, for me, the perfect example of what the fans can do for you.

"I would definitely visit [Selhurst Park] as a fan and would like to help the club in some way," he says, when asked about his life after Palace. "I don't think too much about that right now, I'm still a player and I'm healthy and I want to carry on playing. I have a passion to play football, so I'm not thinking too much about that, but in the future I can't see myself really being apart from Crystal Palace. I'll always be close, I want to help the club to move forward and hopefully I'll be able to do that."

Having been with the club through thick and thin, the dark depths of administration to the heights of the Premier League, there is now the chance to rubber stamp his legendary status by smashing a club record. No goalkeeper had ever made as many appearances for Crystal Palace as John Jackon until Speroni started in the final game of last season against Southampton.

Now, one more game will take the Argentine clear of Jackson and into first place, something he hadn't even realised until he closed in on the record.

"To be honest it was not something that I was thinking or that I was worried about, but it kind of happened where I was closer and closer when somebody said to me 'you're two games away from tying the record,' and I went: 'hmm, okay!'" He laughs.

"I managed to tie the record last season and now I need one more to overtake and become the goalkeeper with the most appearances in the history of the club, which is something that as I listen to myself say it I think it's just crazy, I can't really believe it. It would be nice to have that record."

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