During their pre-season training camp in Belgium, Palace’s under-23 squad paid their respects to those soldiers who fell in battle at Ypres in World War I.
Richard Shaw’s Professional Development League South winners began their preparations for the 2018/19 campaign by visiting the Belgian National Football Centre in Tublize last week where they used the excellent facilities to put in some hard graft ahead of their pre-season friendlies in the home of the World Cup bronze medallists.
During their stay in the region, the squad visited Ypres and attended landmarks such as the Menin Gate, Tyne Cot Cemetery – the largest WWI cemetery - and Duchy Farm Cemetery, where a local guide provided the players and staff with detailed background to what they were visiting, describing the sheer scale of the war, the brutality of the conflict and the sacrifices seen.
At Duchy Farm the team laid a wreath at the grave of Jimmy Speirs, a footballer who played in the 1911 FA Cup final for Bradford City against Newcastle United, a game staged at the Crystal Palace. He would score the winning goal in the replay at Old Trafford but when football was suspended at the end of the 1914/15 season due to the outbreak of the Great War, Speirs volunteered his services.
He fought and was wounded in the Battle of the Somme in September 1916, but after returning to the conflict he was tragically killed in Flanders, Belgium in the Third Battle of Ypres - the infamous Battle of Passchendaele.
Shaw’s squad’s productive and poignant five-day trip came to an end last Friday, setting them up nicely for the season’s kick-off next month, while also handing them a reminder of the sacrifices made by their contemporaries over a century again.