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      The Don Rogers story: watch on Palace TV


      For Palace fans of a certain era, Don Rogers represents glamour. The sideburns, the long hair, the moustache. The movement of the hips, the quick feet, the goals. But to Rogers – who celebrates his 78th birthday today, 25th October 2023 – himself, football is a very simple game indeed.

      “Keep your left leg on the touchline as a left winger,” he says, remembering the advice from former manager Bert Head that stayed with him throughout his career. “The other thing he always said was: ‘Take him on.’

      “Never once did he say: ‘You shouldn’t have done that, you should have passed the ball.’ It was always: ‘Take it on’. That is what I tried to do.

      “I enjoyed every bit of time I had in football, and I played in good times. I knew where the goal was, I liked to go around goalkeepers. That was it really.”

      It sounds oh so simple, but it leaves out one crucial ingredient: supreme talent. In a feature length interview with Palace TV, Rogers reflects on an extraordinary career that left an indelible impact on all those who watched him play in south London.

      Don Rogers | Crystal Palace Cult Hero

      Rogers’ footballing ability became clear from an extremely young age, and as a student there was a battle for his services.

      “I got to about 13 or 14 and football suddenly came on the horizon,” he remembers. “I got in the Somerset schoolboys team. Scouts came along from Swindon Town and Bristol City and watched me play.

      “Bert Head, who ended up signing me for Palace, was manager at Swindon at the time. He came down and picked my dad up, took him to the game, brought me back in the car with him and had the forms in his car. I signed the forms, and an hour later the Bristol City manager came along and wanted me to sign as well.

      “It was lucky for me that he was an hour late, or I might never have done what I did!”

      Rogers quickly established himself as one of the most exciting outside lefts in the country. For those youngsters among us, for ‘outside left’, read ‘traditional winger’. Why not let the man himself explain?

      “Outside lefts were supposed to stay wide, get the ball, go past the full-back and get crosses into the box for everybody else to score,” he says. “It sounds very easy, but that was basically what my job was. It took me about five years before I realised that I could score myself!

      “The great thing for me was that when I received the ball, I got a great big cheer. I could hear when the ball was coming to me, the cheer from the stands. If I didn’t get much of the ball they would be shouting: ‘Get it out to him!’”

      “It was good for your ego.”

      When Bert Head moved from Swindon to Palace, he remembered Rogers’ ability. Soon enough, he was back to try to sign him.

      “Bert came to my house to see me, and I immediately said yes,” Rogers remembers. “First Division would be brilliant for me. I played on a Saturday afternoon, and had no idea what was going on. When I came off someone said: ‘They want you to go up to the boardroom’.

      “I was sat in a little room and they were chatting in the boardroom. They called me in and said they had agreed a fee with Crystal Palace, and I said: ‘Fine.’ That was that. I was looking forward to going and playing in London and in the First Division.

      “[Palace] was a very friendly club. I loved it there. Everyone was friendly. There were two or three bars that we went to after the games to speak to everyone. It was a bigger operation than Swindon.

      “The first thing I found out, which was brilliant, was that, when I went into the dressing room after training, everyone was throwing their kit on the floor. I thought: ‘What is going on here, then?’ We used to do our own washing [at Swindon].

      “I thought: ‘That’s great, we don’t have to wash our own training kit!’ That is one thing I remember from the start. It was completely different.

      “You can’t be luckier than I was [on my debut against Everton], scoring the only goal and winning 1-0. That’s a dream start – it means everybody loves you, doesn’t it.”

      One item that Rogers cherishes is the programme from 16th December, 1972 – perhaps his most iconic moment in an iconic Palace shirt: the ‘Don Rogers’ shirt, as it became known, in no small part down to the events of that afternoon.

      He strolled out looking confident, trademark long hair and moustache in place. “I don’t know when [that style] actually happened. I look back on myself now and think: ‘Was that me?!’

      “I kept it. I shaved my moustache off once and [my wife] cried for two days, so I grew it back and I haven’t shaved it off since.”

      So here he was, moustache in pristine condition, ready for the kick-off against Manchester United. 90 minutes later he had scored twice and set up two more in a five-goal demolition of the recent European champions.

      “I always remember that game because we went in one of the bars and there was a bottle of champagne and two glasses waiting for us after the game,” he says, chucking at the memory.

      “It was great, I thought. Palace had never done anything like that in all their time in the First Division. Along with the League Cup final with Swindon, that is probably the best overall game I have ever played.

      “If I am feeling a bit [down], I will put that on my phone and watch eight minutes of that. It makes me feel really good. That never goes away, that game.

      “A lot of people over the years come into the shop, Crystal Palace fans, and they all bring that game up. Every single one of them.”

      To watch the full interview with Don Rogers on Palace TV, click HERE.