With Palace in FA Youth Cup action against Bolton Wanderers on Friday night, we rewind the clock 41 years to celebrate the last time the Eagles got their hands on the silverware.
Having beaten Everton to win the FA Youth Cup for the first time in the club’s history in 1977, youth coach John Cartwright was still able to call upon the services of most of his players again for the 1977/78 campaign, some of whom were already gaining plenty of first-team experience in the Third Division under Terry Venables such as Kenny Sansom, Ian Walsh and Vince Hilaire.
That experience proved valuable in the previous season, so when the 1977/78 competition began, Palace once again fancied their chances. The cup run began with a single goal victory over Fulham at Selhurst Park in December 1977 via Les Carter’s strike, and in February Chelsea were dispatched 3-0 on their own ground where Jerry Murphy scored twice and Terry Fenwick added the third.
A goalless draw at home to Leeds United was followed by a 1-0 victory at Elland Road where Steve Lovell was on the scoresheet, then in the fifth round it was Port Vale who were sent packing 3-0 from SE25 with defender Kevin Dare, Steve McKenzie and Steve Leahy the scorers.
In the two-legged semi-final, the Eagles were paired with West Bromwich Albion and it took four games in 17 days throughout April to sort out the winners. The first leg was at Selhurst Park and a goal from Lovell earned a 1-1 draw with the return leg a week later at The Hawthorns ending goalless, which meant a third encounter was needed.
This took place three days later at the same venue and again a draw ensued, this time 2-2 with Murphy and Hilaire claiming the important strikes. So it was back to Selhurst Park and this time the young Eagles put on a convincing display to record a 3-0 victory as Murphy and Hilaire again inflicted the damage, with the Irishman finding the net twice.
This elongated semi-final meant that the final now be a single-game affair at a neutral ground, so for their fifth game in a month the team, and a sizeable number of Palace fans, made the journey to Highbury to face Aston Villa. As in the previous year, the cup would be claimed by a single goal and, as in 1977, Fenwick was the matchwinner, rifling home a 35-yard shot in the 35th minute to earn Palace the trophy.
It had taken 10 games in all to manage it, with the cornerstone of the team being a virtually unchanged back four of Chris Sparks, Dare, Billy Gilbert and Peter Nicholas in front of goalkeeper David Fry, with Cartright’s team conceding just three times during the run. In midfield, Fenwick played in all the games and Murphy missed just one, with Hilaire always on the left wing and up front Carter and Lovell worked as the striking pair.
After successive Cup successes, Venables began to integrate even more youngsters in his first-team as Palace began their climb from the third tier, and a year later six of the Youth Cup winning squads would feature in the famous win against Burnley that brought promotion to the top-flight, giving birth to the Team of the Eighties.
See if Palace can go all the way again in 2019 by beating Bolton Wanderers at Selhurst on Friday at 19.00. Tickets are just £5 for adults and £1 for concessions and under 18s. Find out more and buy yours now to support the next generation of Eagles!