Goalkeeping cult hero Gábor Király made 108 appearances for Palace, keeping 33 clean sheets, and is fondly remembered by football fans for his trusty, trademark pair of grey jogging bottoms.
The shot-stopper became the first Hungarian to play in the Premier League, having joined the south London club in 2004. Speaking to Palace TV in a wide-ranging interview in Szombathely, Hungary, he reflected on a difficult first season in English football which ultimately ended in relegation from the top flight. “That team was like a family and we helped each other and were very close with each other," he said. "It was a huge part of my life. You have to build a team. A lot of people came but you have to build a team, a good team. It was not an easy job for Iain Dowie.
“It was very disappointing to go down, because in the last four games we didn’t lose. We won against Liverpool 1-0, away at St James' Park with Newcastle 0-0, away against Southampton 2-2, against Charlton 2-2. We didn’t lose in four games and we went down. We didn’t lose the game, but we lost the season.”
The Palace fanbase left its mark on the ‘keeper, who said: “I was very disappointed [with relegation] but what I saw on the pitch after the Charlton game from our fans was unbelievable. They clapped us and gave us hope for the next season to bounce back, to come back.
“Palace fans are more family fans. After this losing season, I met with Crystal Palace fans and they said: ‘thank you very much, Gabor, you play for Palace.’ I had to say: ‘no, no, no, I have to say thank you to be here.’ The fans said, ‘no: players, staff, managers move after four or five years, but the fans are still here forever’. After this feeling I got it: the fans are most important in the club, not the person who played on the pitch, not the person who stayed on the bench: the club is most important. I learnt exactly that.
“You feel after that season, the chairman, the staff want to be together again because we were strong, we had a good team, we had good people. We got to the play-off and against Watford, we lost 3-0 at home and away we drew 0-0 and we learnt. You have to keep going and that time it was very important for the whole club to stick together. I know after, the eagle flew a little bit down but it’s coming up and this is important. In football, you have to learn from your mistakes so the club always stays at the top.”
Király would leave the club in 2007, yet remarkably aged 42, he was still playing in the top division in Hungary for Szombathelyi Haladás, and fills his spare time running an Academy for hundreds of young footballers. He retired recently, but will forever be remembered by Palace fans.
Kiraly will be in attendance for Palace's clash with his former club Hertha Berlin today and you can buy your tickets for this clash here. Under 12s go free, so bring the family with you! Also make sure to keep an eye out for his exclusive interview in the official Palace programme!