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Danny Granville Discusses Palace, Promotion and Life Now as a School Teacher

3 November 2018

Danny Granville, now coaching children at a Hertfordshire primary school and in the Arsenal academy, played 386 games of first-team league football for nine different clubs.

In his time, he pulled on the monochrome shirts of Chelsea, Manchester City, Leeds United and, of course, the famous red and blue of Crystal Palace.

But it's perhaps the last of these for which Granville will be remembered best for. During his six years in south London, the defender earned promotion to the Premier League in 2004 and netted a now iconic free-kick in 2002 to score the only goal of a game that defeated local rivals Millwall.

Granville spoke ahead of Palace's upcoming game against Chelsea this Sunday about his career with the Eagles and life now after retirement.

On the free-kick against Millwall, he said, "Stepping up, I think Tommy Black fancied it. I was confident taking free-kicks and, yeah, stepping up to that I just managed to catch it and it came off the underside of the bar at the Holmesdale end.

"That game - the atmosphere was unreal. Millwall obviously had all the away end but the atmosphere was unreal. And to score that - as you can see with the celebrations, they're probably a bit embarrassing really - was just amazing and, ironically, my mum’s side of the family support Millwall and Palace: it’s half and half. After, we went into the player’s bar and the Palace lot were buzzing. Millwall, they were good as gold. That’s one of my fondest memories. I was on cloud nine to be honest and you could see what it meant to the Palace fans afterwards."

Scoring a rare goal wasn't Granville's only highlight in a Palace shirt, however, and the defender was a key part of the Eagles' promotion winning side of 2003/04. That season, Iain Dowie took the club back into the Premier League via a play-off final victory over West Ham United.

"I wasn’t actually playing in the first half of the promotion season but I remember I got in and we were third from bottom. Obviously Dowie came in and I would have run through a brick wall for him, he was really good. All good, good people and it was just a breath of fresh air when they took over. We managed to get on a wave really and didn’t look back.

"Andy Johnson was flying. You had [Neil] Shipperley, Michael Hughes. It’s probably the fittest - and Andy Johnson said this as well - probably the fittest I’ve ever been in my career because we obviously did morning sessions but then, in the afternoon, we’d do boxing stuff [and] we’d go swimming. But we didn’t look back, we just kept winning, winning, winning."

To go all the way and earn promotion, however, took a little more effort for Granville than most.

"[Sunderland away in the play-off semi-final] was a really feisty game and I thought one of them caught my shin, I had a massive gash and you could almost see the bone. Dowie was going mad and I threw my shin-pad down in disgust. Anyway, I watched back on the video after and it was Julian Gray! I went to play it up the line and Gray’s gone to back-heel it and somehow he’s lifted my shin-pad and just gashed me.

"Dowie’s going mad, going ‘look at the state of his leg!’, but with your shin there’s not much skin and I think I had about 12 stitches. [We had] West Ham coming up and I think we had about a week to 10 days before the game and I remember just going on my own and really putting myself through the paces. No one saw it, I was just on my own training in preparation. In that game, I had the biggest, clumsiest shin-pad on!

"We just did a job and managed to secure a win at West Ham at the Millennium [Stadium]. After what had happened that year, no one fancied us. The results went for us. There were so many twists and turns that season."

The next season, though, Crystal Palace were relegated back to the Championship on the last day of the season following a 2-2 draw with local Premier League rivals Charlton Athletic.

"I still can’t believe that we went down on that final day. I think we shouldn’t have gone down when you look at it. We had a terrible start to the season but then we picked up and got some great results. I remember beating Liverpool, [and against] Manchester United we drew 0-0. We had some real good results but we had a lot of draws. Then, obviously, the one at Charlton. We should never have gone down but there you go."

Overall, Granville played 138 games for the Eagles, the most for any club in his career. Having spent six years in south London, the defender had become a familiar face and looked back on his time fondly.

"It’s sort of highs and lows really but I remember the highs. That’s the thing with football, when you reflect on your career, it is a rollercoaster really. When I look back on the time at Palace - the promotion season and Premiership season were unbelievable. I look through all my old clubs and I’m honoured really to have represented the teams that I have."

Now, having hung up his boots following a stint at Hemel Hempstead, Granville has turned his attention to coaching. Working in various roles, the 43-year-old is helping children both in school and at academy level. While it was difficult to leave professional football behind, things are going well with the students now in awe of their teacher's former rivals.

"I work a bit at the Arsenal academy on a part time basis and do a bit of coaching. I do a few schools and do a bit of PE work. It’s just something that I started when I first packed up. [The transition] is difficult at first. Since you’ve left school, [football] is all you’ve known. Everything’s sort of been structured so nothing prepares you for it. All of a sudden - bang - it’s done. What do you do now?

"You get respect [as a former footballer] straight away. There’s a picture I’ve showed them [the kids] of me tackling Ronaldo and they can’t quite fathom it! It’s fantastic."

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