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First Team

Speroni opens up on the time he almost turned his back on football

11 May 2019

Having spent 20 years in professional football, Julian Speroni has enjoyed quite the career.

And with a decade and a half of that career spent with Crystal Palace, south Londoners can certainly be grateful that their Argentine No.1 entered the profession and ultimately gave his service to the red and blue of SE25.

But things might not have always ended up that way. Were it not for two unique events in the shot-stopper’s life, Speroni may never have entered football - or, at least later, European football - at all.

Speaking with the official Palace programme, Manos De Dios revealed that there once was a time he came close to turning his back on the sport entirely.

Speroni Dundee 1.jpg

Casting his mind back to a childhood spent in Saavedra, Buenos Aires, Speroni recalled his first adventure into competitive football…

“I started playing football for my school when I was eight-years-old and then when I was nine, a friend of my dad asked me if I wanted to go and play for a football club and I said: ‘yeah, okay, I’ll try it.’

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“In those days kids didn’t play in small goals so they put me in a huge goal and I thought, ‘what is this?’ In school we had the little, five-a-side goals but I went to play for this football club and it was weird. I didn’t like it actually. I went back home and said to my dad, ‘I don’t want to go back there, I want to play for my school.’

“But then my coach came to my house because he lived close to where I used to live and he spoke to my dad and said: ‘I want to bring him back, I saw something special in him.’ And so my dad asked me, ‘do you want to go back?’

"At first I wasn’t sure about it but then I started making friends with the other kids, I started enjoying it and I went back and that’s when my career started.

“Who knows [if I’d have become professional if I didn’t join that club]? It’s crazy because it’s the little moments where your life can go one way or another and that was an important moment for me.”

But a chance display of determination from the young Speroni’s coach hasn’t been the only bizarre moment which helped the now 39-year-old on his journey into English football, as a rather dedicated habit earned the ‘keeper his move to Dundee back when technology perhaps would have impeded such a switch.

With analysis hard to come by in 1999 for a young, largely unknown goalkeeper in Argentina, it’s just as well that Speroni had taken matters into his own hands…

He explained: “At the time I was working with some agents and they contacted Ivano Bonnetti, who was managing Dundee. Nowadays you can go online and check every single player but in those days you didn’t have that so I sent them a VHS!

“They were looking for a young goalkeeper there and there was a connection with these agents because they had six Argentinian players at the time [with Dundee] so they knew the place very well. They were looking for a young goalkeeper so they watched the video with the goalkeeping coach and they liked it. They decided to give me the chance.

“Funnily enough, my dad used to record every single game for me when I was playing for the [Platense] reserves. I played two games for the first team also in Argentina so I put all of those clips together but it’s funny because those videos make you look great. You don’t include the goals you conceded! Anyway, it worked for me.

Speroni Dundee 2.jpg

“I remember my dad used to record the games for me because I used to analyse. I’d ask my dad to come and film it so I could watch it back and see what I was doing, what I could improve and how I can work on my game.

"It was a great tool for my game, a great tool and I learned a lot from it. And also it gave me the chance to send it away and other people could see what I could do.”

You never thought you’d read it, but thank goodness for the old fashioned VHS.

Palace face Bournemouth tomorrow at 3pm, and you can read more from Speroni as he reflects on his early days and subsequent 20 year career in an exclusive interview by picking up a copy of the official matchday programme.

This is the final edition of the season and is packed full of great features, with Wilfried Zaha, Scott Guyett and Nya Kirby all speaking alongside Speroni and others! Hard copies only cost £3.50 from vendors around the outside of Selhurst Park or you can grab a digital version by clicking below...

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