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      OTD: The Malcolm Allison era begins & Jim Cannon debuts


      On the afternoon of March 31st, 1973, a new face emerged from the tunnel at Selhurst Park and greeted the home fans for the very first time. Little did those in the crowd know that the club would never be the same again.

      The stylish and charismatic man in the dugout – the one and only Malcolm Allison – hit the ground running, guiding Palace to victory over Chelsea in their first London derby success in the First Division – after 34 unsuccessful attempts.

      Crucial in the performance was a young prospect named Jim Cannon, making the first of a record 660 appearances for the club – and scoring Palace’s second with a header from a Don Rogers cross.

      Allison’s tenure was off to a memorable start – and the rollercoaster didn’t stop there.

      “When Malcolm Allison came to the club, I've never seen such excitement,” legendary club photographer Hy Money remembers. “I said: ‘Can I come and take a photo of you with your fedora in your office rather than on the pitch?

      “‘Would you mind putting your hat on?’ He said: ‘Fine’. I said: ‘Would you mind lighting up a cigar?’ He said: ‘Fine’.

      “I said: ‘Could you put your feet up on the desk?’ I just thought it would be such a good photo!”

      Something special was happening at Selhurst Park. The Glaziers became the Eagles, and the red and blue home kit was introduced – out went the claret and blue.

      The trademark fedora became iconic, but the idea stemmed from a rather unlikely source: Jack Tinn, Portsmouth manager for twenty years between 1927 and 1947. Under Tinn, Portsmouth won their first FA Cup in 1939, and the basis of his side went on to win back-to-back titles after his departure.

      As Portsmouth progressed through the rounds and towards Wembley, Tinn engaged in a strange tradition. He wore spats, fashionable fabric shoe covers, on the touchline.

      “When Jack was asked why he wore them, he said: ‘We’re going to win the FA Cup with these spats,’” Allison explained when asked about his unique headwear. “I think they were 40-1 in the betting and they went and won it.

      “So I thought: ‘Well, nobody can really see spats so I’m going to wear a fedora.”

      Allison’s charms had an instant effect on the players.

      “I got to Crystal Palace and Malcolm Allison said to me: ‘This is the sixth time I have tried to sign you,’” Peter Taylor remembers of their first encounter. “I found that amazing. At that time it was so different to now. Now you would hear it in 10 seconds because of agents.

      “It was the first thing he said to me when I walked into his office – it was the second time at Palace and he had tried four times at Manchester City. It was just so different and exciting. I played in the first-team at Southend but being the young, local player I think it was easier to leave me out because the manager knew I wouldn’t give him any hassle.

      “All of sudden now I was going to play in front of a big crowd. I was going to play with Don Rogers and Alan Whittle. There just seemed a buzz about the place.”

      This was the genius of Malcolm Allison. It was impossible not to be caught up in his self-assurance and joviality; his boisterous nature wasn’t an affront to reality or a hubristic expression of overconfidence but an invitation to dream big and stand tall.

      “Every time I walked into his office I walked out feeling a better player,” Taylor says. “He gave me so much confidence and belief that I could be a really good player for him, and it was lovely.

      “I know there are times when you have to give people a rollicking, and I'm sure he gave me a rollicking every now and then, but lots of times he made me feel 10 feet tall by telling me what I could do, what I should do and how to go for it.

      “The first year I got there we got relegated at Cardiff. I cried in the changing room – I cried because we got relegated but I think I cried more for Malcolm. I felt so sorry for him because I thought he was such a good manager, and I didn’t think he deserved it.”

      Nonetheless, the Eagles – as they were now known – upset the odds and reached the FA Cup semi-finals, the first side to do so from the Third Division. Southampton awaited at Stamford Bridge, and it was a test too far for Allison’s side. Defeat at the final hurdle, and a subsequent failure to gain promotion, saw Allison resign in May, 1976.

      Despite relegations, heartbreak and plenty of off-the-pitch intrigue, few who saw Allison emerge from the tunnel on that sunny afternoon in 1973 could have imagined the impact he would have on the club – a club still shaped by his ideas to this day.

      No one could have summed his improbable allure up better than the young debutant from that day.

      "Malcolm Allison put Palace on the map,” Jim Cannon concludes. “No other man could single-handedly take a club from the First Division to the Third Division and still become an instant hero."