As the World Cup continues, so does our look back at the different countries that Palace players have represented over the years. Today, we focus on Scotland and a special day for an Eagles legend.
When you think of David Hopkin’s best goals, immediately his famous last-gasp curler against Sheffield United in the 1997 Division One play-off final springs to mind, or his lob and strike against Wolves in the previous game.
However, there is a hidden gem which came five months after his Wembley heroics, and indeed proved to be the crowning moment of his international career.
After netting in both the semi-final and final to guide Palace back into the Premier League, the red-hot, flame-haired Scotsman was drafted into Craig Brown’s national team squad and made his debut in June 1997 against Malta before getting the nod for a World Cup qualifier against Belarus a week later.
Despite controversially swapping the Eagles for Leeds United that summer, Hopkin was once again included in the Scottish party for the return game against Belarus in September, which took place at Aberdeen’s Pittodrie ground. He started on the bench, but after 50 minutes he was introduced and was celebrating just four minutes later when he tapped home Ally McCoist’s scuffed shot for his team’s second of the afternoon.
But the day would get even better for Hopkin. After Blackburn Rovers’ Kevin Gallacher completed his brace, two minutes from time Hopkin did the same, and in some style.
Picking the ball up midway inside the Malta half, he knocked it past a sliding defender to reach the edge of the area, and then whipped it outside of another backtracking defender before tying him in knots. Then, having manoeuvred enough space for a shot, he rifled into the bottom corner past a helpless Valeri Shantalosov to put the icing on a 4-1 Scottish victory.
Injuries meant that was as good as things got for Hopkin as far as the Tartan Army were concerned. He would play just one more minute in the build-up to the 1998 World Cup and was omitted from Brown’s final squad, and he would only claim three more caps during an unsuccessful qualification attempt for Euro 2000, ending on a total of seven.
However, no-one can ever take that great day in September 1997 away from him, when he added another wondergoal to his ever-growing showreel.