Firstly I would like to welcome the owners, management, players and supporters of champions Leicester City to Selhurst Park this afternoon.
I would like to congratulate them on last year’s incredible season as well as their good result on Wednesday in the Champions League, and we wish them well for next week’s second leg.
It’s pleasing that we’re beginning to make our home ground a fortress again, and that was evident on Monday night when we beat Arsenal for only the fourth time in our history. I've lost count of how many times I have personally watched them mesmerise us, including in 1990/91 when I got up at 5am in Canada only to see them beat us 4-0, and even though we did win in 1994 it felt like a lifetime until the final whistle went!
Whether you’re a fan or chairman, it can be tough being a Palace supporter but nights like Monday really do make it all worthwhile. I thought every player was magnificent and although the media focused on Arsenal’s deficiencies, everyone present knew we deserved the victory on our own merits. It was also fantastic to listen to your raucous support throughout, which seemed to get louder as one of our best ever top-flight victories developed.
Back down to earth, and despite winning five out of the last six we are still only six points clear of the drop zone, so we all need our game faces back on and see if we can get as close to finishing the job as possible today.
As well as it being a big day for the team, it is also a chance to introduce you all to the new-look Palace for Life Foundation, which will be showcasing all the good that they do in the local community. Under the guidance of chairman Ed Warner and chief executive Mike Summers, we have invested in and worked together over the past few months to bring the Foundation closer to the club, which culminated with the re-launch on Tuesday at Selhurst Park.
I attended that, hearing first-hand about their work from people such as Angel O’Dwyer, a part-time community coach who has been mentored by the Foundation for the last two years as part of their employability programme, helping to turn her life around. It’s fantastic to hear about these success stories, and the club will continue to do all it can to support the Foundation. We have a part to play in helping to inspire south Londoners to achieve their potential, and the Palace for Life Foundation will be key in ensuring that happens.
They employ over 35 full-time staff running educational programmes, coaching in the community and turning around disaffected and socially excluded youngsters. Next season there will be a vast array of new fundraising initiatives, which I hope as many of you as possible can get behind so we can help more young people in south London.
As the Foxes showed last season, anything can happen so we can’t be complacent after the win on Monday. If the players can match the performance levels on the pitch, and the fans do the same off it, then I’m sure that perfect mix could be enough to take another giant leap towards safety.
Up The Palace!