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.
The 1988/89 memory lane trip kicks off with a blockbuster interview with Mark Bright!
Having missed the play-off places two seasons before, how determined was the changing room at the start of 88/89 to ensure you got over the line?
It made the squad more determined, we’d been so close for two seasons. I think we all thought this was our time; we had a good young team and a manager who had learnt a lot from the previous two seasons. It’s easy to say now but we were driven and focused on promotion that season.
Jim Cannon left in the summer but there still seemed to be a changing room full of players who, despite their age, were showing a great deal of maturity and character.
Yes, the average age dropped to the mid-twenties. We knew we could score goals and we had a good defence, I believe we conceded less than the two teams who finished above us.
At the end of the year, Eddie McGoldrick and Stan Ternent came in and Ian Evans moved to Swansea City. It was a time of change, what differences did these changes make?
Eddie was brilliant for us. I’m not sure how many assists he got but he gave us quality delivery from set pieces and wing play. In came Stan Ternent, a no-nonsense charismatic coach. ‘Get that ball into the penalty area and leave the rest to those two,’ he used to say about Wrighty and myself. I think February-March was massive for us, we only lost two league games. I think that was the time we believed we could definitely do this.
March saw the 2-1 victory against Brighton in a game which Kelvin Moreton awarded five penalties – four to Palace. You scored and missed one along with John Pemberton. What was being involved in that game like?
The Brighton match was one that anyone attending will never forget. Amazingly, all the penalties awarded were actual penalties; I scored the first one and hit the post with the second. The rule was if you missed one you had to hand over duties to the next player, they sent a search party to look for Pembo’s penalty and the party hasn’t been seen since!
April proved a massive month with eight fixtures that saw six wins and the club up to fourth. How crucial was that spell?
It was crucial, confidence was running high and we felt we could beat anyone. We had belief in ourselves and how we played. We thought no one could live with us, we were tough to play against. The six wins just confirmed to us that it was on, at this stage we were without the injured skipper Geoff Thomas but Dave Madden was doing a great job in the middle of the park.
After coming from behind in two play-off games, Ron Noades had realised his dream of leading club into the top flight – it was a great achievement for the squad Steve Coppell had built over his six years.
Both the Swindon Town and Blackburn Rovers results still rank as my favourite achievements, every emotion was felt in those two matches. Wrighty and l scored against Swindon and Eddie’s goal against Blackburn away to make it 3-1 to them gave us hope for the return leg.
There were amazing scenes at Selhurst Park for the next match. The best feeling for any player is promotion into the old First Division. Ron and Steve had realised a dream, the next two seasons were equally amazing to make it three years of unrivalled success at the club. It was a remarkable journey for one and all.
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!