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      Jim Cannon at 70: Palace's players, progress and potential


      Club legend Jim Cannon celebrates his 70th birthday today (2nd October 2023) – many happy returns, Jim!

      Speaking to earlier in the year, the club's record appearance holder – who clocked up 660 games for Palace, having come through the club's youth system – believes Palace can take pride in its decade-long stint in the league – and its future prospects on and off the pitch.

      Cannon explained: “The expectations here have changed. When you first come in, you just want to make sure you stay in the Premier League.

      “In the earlier years after getting promoted, the quality of players maybe wasn’t as good as we have now. Being a more established team now, the players you’re looking to bring in have to be a little bit better than maybe what we had five or six years ago.

      "You can't take anything for granted. Southampton have been in the league for 10 years and they’ve just been relegated.

      “I think we’ve proven that we can bring in quality players. We’ve got two of the best centre-halves in the country [in Marc Guéhi and Joachim Andersen]. I think we’ve got one of the best right wingers in [Michael] Olise, and [Ebere] Eze has just found a new lease of life, when you think about how long he was out for.

      “The whole thing has changed and once you become a bit more established it gives the club more leeway to work on things. We’re not the richest of clubs, but if we keep moving up slowly and doing what we’re doing then I’m sure we’ll continue to do well and compete.

      "For every club, it’s really a case of trying to improve every year."

      Progression has not only occurred with playing staff, but also off the pitch and at youth level, where the club has established itself as a Category 1 Academy with a brand new facility which was formally opened in October 2021.

      Cannon reflected: “Football’s different from when I played!

      "There was a squad of 14 and we were called apprentices. We weren’t Academy players [like you know today] - one or two would get through, and the rest would just fall by the wayside.

      "Now, it’s totally different - you can see by the investment the club have made in the Academy, it’s not just about getting players into the first-team, it’s also about progressing players on.

      “It’s been great to see [young players in the side]. When I played, there were five youth team players in my team when I was 22 or 23. It’s just nice – it gives the kids something to aim for.

      “If you’re playing in a [top-six side] for instance, hardly any of their players would come through, because they can just go out and spend £60 million on someone. We can't do that, so Roy’s given players like Aaron Wan-Bissaka or Tyrick Mitchell a chance, and lo and behold they’ve proven themselves as good players.

      “Sometimes you just need to give them a few games and you suddenly think ‘oh, this guy’s going to be good.’ It's nice to see."

      On the buildings themselves, Cannon shared an anecdote: “Facilities were slightly different when I was coming through!

      “As a 16-year-old, I needed treatment on my knee. The medical room was just off the first-team dressing room, which we weren’t allowed in, so the physio – who wasn’t actually a physio, he was a kitman, trainer, physio – took me into the dressing room and laid me down on the bed.

      “He said ‘I’ve got to switch the light out,’ so he switched the light out and then leant up, took the bulb out of the light fitting and then plugged a machine in for me to receive some heat treatment! It was one man and his dog!

      "I was at the opening of the [new] Academy. Seeing the gymnasium and the facilities was just amazing.

      "We had one great coach, a chap called Ernie Walley, who taught us well and got quite a few players into the first-team, which is the main thing. So it's slightly different compared to today!”

      Drone flight through the new Crystal Palace F.C. Academy

      Looking ahead to the future of the club – this season and beyond – Cannon’s highlighted the potential of the new Main Stand development.

      “Looking at building the new Main Stand is a must, and to attract players you need the facilities as well," he noted. "We’ve got the fabulous Academy to bring young players in and the first-team training setup is exceptionally good as well.

      “We’ve got to just keep progressing, improving the team and the stadium, and hopefully bring more people in.

      "Everything’s looking good, but of course you can't stand still or take anything for granted, and I know the people who run the club don’t do that. It’s just a case of what we do this year and beyond.”

      Click here to explore Palace's Premium Hospitality options – whether you're in Speroni's Restaurant, the 2010 Club or Legends Restaurant you'll have the opportunity to mix with Palace icons, including Jim, from all generations.