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Glory Years: Bobby Woodruff gives account of remarkable 1968-69 season

25 April 2019

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.

Bobby Woodruff was a regular fixture in Palace's promotion push in '68-69, and here he recalls the events of that season.

How did you initially come to arrive at Palace back in 1966?

Bert Head was at Swindon Town when I was a youngster and he gave me my chance at just 17 years of age and really looked after me as my manager in those early days. When the opportunity came along for me to move on he sold me to Wolves, but when things didn’t work out so well during my third season up there, he was on the phone to give me the opportunity of moving to Crystal Palace and I certainly didn’t wait long to take him up on that chance.

Having been at the club for a few seasons beforehand, did you think we would challenge for promotion heading into 1968/69?

In the two previous seasons we had been in there with a real chance. However after Bert Head made a few signings, we were ready for a challenge. We had individuals who would play a major role in our success that season. Palace fans of that era will not need me to tell them what an impact Steve Kember had, while centre-half Alan Stephenson and goalkeeper John Jackson made up a perfect spine of the team.

One of the team’s threats that season was your famed long-throw, how did you develop that?

It first started at Swindon and in those days it was the done thing for the wingers to take the throw-ins, and we suddenly started to realise that I could throw it slightly further than most. I worked on it quite a bit and rather than it just be a weapon for players to go for at the near post, eventually I was able to aim for the far post. Hopefully the strikers in the Palace team felt that they benefitted from the way I was able to help create havoc in the opposition box.

The highlight for you that season came in March, what do you recall of that month?

We went into the away game at eventual champions Derby County on the back of a few matches unbeaten. A win up there would be such a vital one for our group of players who were still trying to believe whether this was going to be the season that mattered.

We completely outplayed them and even though I got the goal on the night the referee cancelled out a couple more! Even so it was such an important result because other people started taking notice of what we were capable of. A few days later we played Birmingham City and won by the same scoreline, so those wins were the ones that really pushed us into contention.

Injury caused you to miss the successful run-in, how difficult was that from a personal point of view?

A few weeks later I got a knock from Jim Barron against Oxford United; I was flat out on the floor and ended up with a broken collarbone. That put me out for the final seven games and had to sit in the stands watching the lads get promoted rather than being out there in the thick of the action, but you never know we might not have got promotion if I was out there!

It was quite a time to be watching from the stands and obviously the rollercoaster of the 3-2 win in the final home game. I can still remember the level of support from those fans around me as they went mad with delight, and when the lads came out to celebrate near the Directors Box that rounded off a memorable day.

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!

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