A legendary figure among fans of both clubs, Byrne – who sadly passed away in Cape Town, South Africa, on this day (27th October) in 1999 – was born in West Horsley in Surrey and lived in South Norwood.
As is so often the case for bright footballing talents, Byrne proved a late bloomer at youth level, having represented amateur sides Epsom Town and Guildford City Youth until shortly before his 16th birthday.
His potential was identified by his schoolteacher Vincent Blore, perchance also a former Palace and West Ham player, but Byrne reputedly required four trials with the Eagles before manager Cyril Spiers was fully convinced of his talents.
After representing Palace in the 1955/56 and '56/57 FA Youth Cups, impressing enough to be selected for England’s youth sides, Byrne signed his first professional contract on his 17th birthday in May 1956.
He went on to make his professional debut for the club five months later following an injury to Mike Deakin, and while the goals did not initially flow for Palace’s hot prospect – Byrne scored just seven times in 28 appearances in 57/58 – those numbers soon picked up as the forward developed his trademark confidence and swagger on the ball.
A mere 1.7 metres tall, Byrne’s stocky figure and quick feet made him a popular figure among Palace supporters, with many enjoying the entertainment of his consummate class, while he earned the nickname “Budgie” due to his talkative nature on the field.
A deep-lying centre forward before the position became widely adopted, Byrne’s hold-up play, close control and eye for a long ball made him not only a prolific goalscorer but also a valuable creator for his teammates.
As Byrne’s confidence grew, so too did his influence on the field: after scoring 17 and 16 times in respective seasons in the Fourth Division with the then-Glaziers – including a brace in Palace’s club-record 9-0 victory over Barrow – his best campaign yet earned him international recognition.
In 1960/61, not only did Byrne net 30 of Palace’s 110 goals as Arthur Rowe’s side won promotion - a post-war record for the club, matched only by Glenn Murray in 2012/13 - but Byrne became the first Fourth Division player to win a cap for England’s Under-23s, featuring against Wales in a 2-0 win in February 1961. He would play twice more for the side over the subsequent month, scoring once.