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.
One of Crystal Palace's finest ever shot-stoppers, John Jackson here talks about just how he joined the club in the first place and his career up until promotion in 1969.
How did you initially come to be a Crystal Palace player?
Arthur Rowe spotted me playing for a London grammar school against an FA youth XI made up of players from other London teams and he got in touch with my teacher, and from that conversation I ended up having a couple of games with the Palace reserve side aged 18. Then when I joined full-time, I eventually took the opportunity with both hands, literally!
How did you go from that point to being one of the club’s best ever 'keepers?
Without a doubt that would be because of our coach, George Petchey. He used to work me hard but the harder you worked at your game the more you learned and the better you would become. He made me a more confident player which led to me being more vocal behind the back four, and I always remember Thursday being called shooting practice day so it would become a session where I would put in a massive shift!
What did you make of your teammates who you would win promotion with?
I wouldn’t say that our squad at that time was full of outstanding players and with no disrespect to any of our guys, I would call us journeymen. I look at big John McCormick, really solid and worked hard and got on with the job but he was ready to put his hands up if mistakes were made. John Sewell was another solid defender and Mel Blyth was someone always ready to do the best job for the team.
The more experienced ones were complimented by some of the younger lads getting their chance like Steve Kember and David Payne to name two, although it was a real team effort with everyone working hard for the same goal, which is why it was so special when we achieved promotion.
What do you think was the key factor in the surge towards promotion in the campaign’s latter months?
There was some bad wintry weather which meant quite a lot of cancellations so we had some games in hand, and I remember at the beginning of the year [coach] George Petchey said that even though we had slipped down the table due to not playing, he still believed we could get promoted. The next week we won and from nowhere a run was underway, and of course the rest is history. George was certainly confident in his words and I think the way he put the message across gave the boys great belief that to have games in hand may be to our advantage, and so it proved.
How do you recall that season finale against Fulham nearly 50 years on?
We went into that game on the back of a 0-0 draw at Preston North End that as good as sealed our promotion, so some of the lads may have thought the job was done but we found ourselves 2-0 down. A few words were said at half-time by the manager and coach and we went out, turned it around and won 3-2.
It was a weird sensation to be two behind because we hadn’t been in that position for some time but once we got the first goal, before we knew it we were walking off as winners at the end of an amazing season, and that promotion was extra special as it was the first time Palace had been promoted to the top-flight.
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!