Some players you simply forget, after all. Maybe they didn’t play much, or they signed without fanfare and left similarly under the radar. But some are footballing household names who once graced the Selhurst turf in red and blue – and many of us have no recollection of it. It's time to look back on some of the best...
Begin to construct an all-time Crystal Palace XI, and you may have already made your mind up on a left-back – but a three-time Premier League winner and seasoned England international is lurking. Admittedly, his best days may not have come at Selhurst Park, but as one of the greatest to play the game the discussion is worth having.
As well as his trio of league titles, Ashley Cole can look back on seven FA Cup winners medals, a League Cup, Europa League and Champions League triumph and 107 caps for the national side – still sixth in the all-time list. He is a four-time member of the Premier League Team of the Season, a two-time member of the UEFA Team of the Year and – somewhat more surprisingly – winner of Chelsea’s Goal of the Season award in 2010.
But it all started in SE25. Well, sort of. Joining local side Arsenal as a youngster, he began to climb up the ranks at the club he had supported as a child. He made his first-team debut at just 18-years-old in 1999, and signed a professional deal at the club – but a regular first-team spot was still some way away.
Then an opportunity presented itself. Down in south London, there was a club in dire need of hungry young footballers with an abundance of talent and a desire to prove themselves on the big stage. Crystal Palace were in trouble, and the fight against relegation to the third tier was on. Constantly in or near administration, financially desperate and with pitifully small resources, the Eagles were relying on the inspirational leadership of Steve Coppell to survive. Transfer targets had to be imaginative.
Terry Phelan had arrived from Everton earlier in the season, but his impressive performances had seen him recalled to Merseyside soon after and Palace were scrabbling around once again. In came Forssell from Chelsea and a fiery youngster from north London, who had been impressing for Arsenal’s youth sides as a left-winger and – occasionally – as a left-back.
Ashley Cole made his debut away at Grimsby and stood out in defeat; it was clear that Palace had a serious talent on their hands. His form on the left-hand side proved crucial as the Eagles inched towards safety. A goal-line clearance against Charlton Athletic was vital, but he standout was a moment of inspiration to keep Palace in the second tier.
Selhurst Park was bubbling with tension as Blackburn Rovers arrived in town, with the thousands in attendance aware that three points would secure Division One status for another season. It was a stage set for heroes, and the teenage Ashley Cole stepped up and was counted.