Only eight players in Palace’s history had ever scored 100 or more goals for the club – Ted Smith, George Clark, Peter Simpson, Johnny Byrne, Ian Wright, Mark Bright, Dougie Freedman and Clinton Morrison - but now, you can add Gemma Bryan to the list.
Rather aptly, it was almost exactly a century ago that Ted Smith became the first man to reach 100 goals in his Palace career during a four-goal haul against Bristol Rovers in October 1919. 99 years later, history virtually repeated itself as Gemma Bryan helped herself to a hat-trick at Portsmouth Ladies that saw her become the first woman to hit three figures in red and blue.
The striker has joined an elite list of just nine players who have scored 100 or more first-team goals for the Eagles, but what makes Bryan’s milestone all the more remarkable is that she is only in her third season with Palace Ladies, and it took just 69 appearances for her to make history.
“I’m really proud,” she said after achieving the feat. “I never really thought about hitting the big 100, but as I got closer people kept reminding me how far away I was.
“When it happened it was a bit strange as we’d just kicked off and after about 20 seconds I scored. When we were celebrating I turned around and saw the fans had made a massive banner with me on it. That made it even more special; the support we get week in, week out is superb and it’s made a difference as the team want to put on a performance for them as they give up their time to watch and encourage us.”
The remarkable rise of the fledgling club goes hand-in-hand with Bryan’s arrival at the start of the 2015/16 campaign, who had found herself in the footballing wilderness thanks to injury. But after being cajoled to join in with a few Eagles training sessions, the rest is history with Palace now sitting top of the Women’s Premier League in just their second season at that level.
Looking back at her path to today’s success, the 30-year-old said: “I started at Charlton and then I had a brief spell in America but I got injured and had to come back. I then got playing for Watford but then I had a relapse of an ACL injury and spent a year-and-a-half out. Once I was fit again, Pam McRoberts was playing for Palace and suggested that I come down, and I trained once and got the bug again.
“It’s changed massively since I first joined - we’ve gone from a part-time team to something which is now almost semi-professional. We’ve built season by season; we got promoted in my first season, then settled into the Women’s Premier League by finishing in mid-table, and this season we’re currently top. We’re always setting new standards.”
The evolution continues with the club’s recent application to be a part of the newly-founded Women's Championship next season coinciding with a push for a league and cup double, and Bryan is hopeful there will be four reasons to celebrate at the campaign’s conclusion, including her push to retain the Golden Boot she won last season with 27 goals already to her name this term.
On the WSL application, she added: “It’s huge for us. The publicity women’s football is getting at that level is huge and that’ll make the game more attractive, and hopefully that’ll see us get some bigger crowds.
“We’ve also got the Capital Cup final against Charlton to look forward to, but regarding the league we have to just keep winning games and hope the others drop points. At the moment, we just want to finish as high as we possibly can.”