Crystal Palace officially opened their incredible redeveloped Academy on Thursday (28th October), with a range of iconic faces on hand for the day.
Club icons from former players to former managers, coaches and Academy graduates and other senior figures were all present to watch England manager Gareth Southgate cut the ribbon on a £20m project years in the making.
Five of them, Academy graduates Clinton Morrison, John Bostock and Alex Wynter, and Ian Holloway and Julian Speroni, caught up with Palace TV to share their views on the development and occasion.
Find out what they had to say in the videos below.
“They’re spoilt nowadays, to be fair. When I started out it was Tooting & Mitcham and they were struggling. You heard Gareth Southgate earlier saying about the hot water running out; I was one of the first ones to get in that hot water for the first session and the second session!
“This is fantastic. If you’re a young player here, you should be inspired to do well because these facilities are better than some first-team places.
“The future’s bright here. If I’m a youngster and I’m coming to look at this, I’d want to sign for this football club straight away.
“Good luck to the football club; it’s an amazing club, I was here for nine-and-a-half years and had great times. I wouldn’t be the person I am today without Crystal Palace.”
“It’s something we were talking about when I was here as a manager. I remember Steve was talking about buying something quite a way out. I just came in off the Training Ground and said what I felt: really, for me, Palace is this area, and if you can get in this area then get it. Boy, oh boy, he’s gone and got one just over the road that the first-team won’t be happy with because they’ll be like: ‘Why aren’t we over there?!’
“This is a Category 1 facility and that means you can get all the best kids from everybody else, paying very little and you’ll have a chance of putting that wonderful shirt on their chest and that beautiful eagle sat there. You’ll have hungry people, not just spoilt ones.
“For me, they [young players] are your heart, your legs and your enthusiasm. What you need is great senior pros around them to put the reins on them a little bit and guide them a little bit. But without their enthusiasm, without their fearlessness, without Wilf [Zaha] wanting it and taking him [Marco Cassetti] on at Wembley, it would never have happened.”
“You have to be there for them [young players] to give advice and support them. They’re wild, they’re free, they want to show us what they can do and we had to be patient and we had to be there to support them all the way. We had so many great players come through the Academy. Now, with all these facilities, I think there’s more to come.
“It’s no surprise we can see so many old faces. You’d rarely see that in other clubs or other places, where an old manager who’s left the club comes back and feels part of this family.
“It’s an amazing feeling when you come back and see all your old teammates and old managers all part of the same project. Some started early, some started later along the way, but they’re all here, and it’s great.”
“It’s a massive day for the club. To look back at where I started and when I started at Palace to see where the club is now, it’s incredible.
“I’m a local south London boy so [Palace] was just my escape. Palace was everything to me growing up, and coming through the ranks was a dream come true. I’m sure there are a lot of other Academy players with the same dream. Hopefully with a place like this it will aid and help other kids.
“I think the whole culture of south London is so rich. I’m not talking about wealth or finances, just in terms of culture. People growing up in the surrounding areas such as this have experienced life in many different ways, and I think that… creates a great environment for creativity, for hunger, determination.
“Growing up in the area I grew up in there wasn’t many ways out. Football is one of them, which is why I think the club and community at large has benefitted from having such a rich and diverse environment. South London is a special place.”
“Coming back today, like John said, and seeing all these familiar faces, it’s a bit of a throwback. It’s nice to see everyone still so close.
“This facility gives [Academy players] every chance possible. We heard Steve Parish saying there at the opening: it’s not all about football. They will have a career after. I’d just say enjoy every moment of it because it doesn’t last forever. But at the same time give your all because there’s no better place to learn to play football than this in south London.”