All this week, as we look forward to welcoming our heroes from 68/69, 78/79 and 88/89 back to Selhurst Park for the Everton game this Saturday, Crystal Palace will be looking back at the anniversaries of those three glorious promotion campaigns for the Eagles.
Catch up with David Swindlehurst as he takes us through the highs of that 78/79 campaign!
What was the feeling around the club going into the 1978/79 season?
It was exciting times for us all. We had been going well the season before until Ian Evans broke his leg, so we were hoping for a better finish than the ninth-place we ended up in. We had to build again, so Jim Cannon went to centre-half with Billy Gilbert alongside him, and with Paul Hinshelwood, Kenny Sansom, Peter Nicholas and John Burridge in the team we were strong and hard to beat.
That meant if we went a goal ahead, we tended to get a win or a draw and we accumulated the points that way. Everyone put a shift in and we defended from the front, so the forwards were the first ones to close people down. We all had our own specific jobs to do, and worked well as a team.
How important was the good start to the campaign to build confidence?
Having that number of points under our belt in those first few months really set us up to sustain the run for the rest of the season. That helped build camaraderie in the dressing room but also out on the training pitch, also with an eager competitiveness.
Even in training we would be kicking lumps out of each other and the manager would have to wind us in a little bit at times. Nobody wanted to miss out so you had to perform in training to make sure you were on the teamsheet on a Saturday.
How difficult was it to not get carried away and start dreaming of promotion?
Terry Venables was very much one of those managers who was a great believer in taking each game as it came, and you haven’t gone up until your name is on the trophy. We weren’t allowed to get carried away and Terry made sure that we kept our feet on the ground. He said to stay focused and go into each game with the attitude that it’s another game to win, because otherwise we would get caught.
The final five all proved to be tight games, such as the 1-0 win at Orient and the Burnley game was one. You had to earn the goals in those days of the second tier and battle right to the end, just like you still do today in the Championship.
You scored in the final game at home to Burnley, what are your memories of that special night?
I remember getting to the ground quite early and it was already two-thirds full with an hour or so still to go, so you could sense something special was on the cards if we could perform. When you got out into the stadium the place looked amazing with fans even sitting along the touchline.
The volume of noise after the first whistle must have intimated Burnley and I thought throughout the game we were all over them and should have scored earlier than we did, but Walshy’s goal in the second half and then mine late on saw us come through with the right result at the end of the night, and for Palace fans all the more pleasing because we pipped Brighton to the title as well!
This interview originally featured in the matchday programme. To get your hands on the exclusive Steve Kember interview for Everton, sign up for the digital programme below!