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      Link-up: The unlikely story of the McJedley midfield


      From Wright and Bright to Zaha and Bolasie. Palace’s history is full of players who’ve formed memorable partnerships. Here, we look at arguably the most solid – and easily the best named.

      In August 1984, in a suburb in south-western Sydney, Michael John Jedinak was born, quickly to become known by his nickname: Mile. Six years later, and more than 10,000 miles away in Cardiff, a young boy called Joe was about to kick his first football. In Glasgow, two-year-old James was about to do the same.

      There are limited sets of consequences and circumstances that would cause these three to meet – but meet they did. On deadline day in September 2014, the foundations of ‘McJedley’ were laid.

      The Crystal Palace trio that was to dominate midfield in south London for two years was, of course, formed of Wales’ Joe Ledley, Scotland’s James McArthur and Australia’s Mile Jedinak.

      All three were established internationals. Jedinak made his debut for Australia in 2008, and featured in the 2010 World Cup opener against Germany; his leadership skills at club level soon translated to the national side, and as captain he guided his country to the 2014 tournament in Brazil. He completed a hat-trick of World Cup appearances at Russia 2018.

      If Jedinak shone on the national stage, Ledley was present for what is perhaps Welsh football’s finest hour. After suffering a broken leg during the 2015/16 season, he raced back to fitness and played in all six games as the Red Dragons fought to the semi-finals of the European Championships, beating favourites Belgium along the way.

      As for McArthur, there was to be no fairytale international tournament for Scotland. But still he represented the country with pride, collecting 29 caps.

      188 international caps between them – it’s not a bad record. That said, the McJedley partnership is remembered in south London not because of their stellar careers elsewhere, but their connection at Selhurst Park. Even if it was only brief.

      Jedinak was already a hero in south London when his fellow midfielders arrived. He had been the heartbeat of the side that stormed to an unlikely promotion in 2013, and was joined by Ledley in January 2014.

      After Palace took one point from their first three games in the 2014/15 season, the McJedley partnership formed when McArthur arrived from Wigan Athletic. He had already enjoyed some career in English football, winning the FA Cup in 2013 against Manchester City.

      But keeping Palace in the Premier League looked to be a difficult task. Tony Pulis had resigned 48 hours before the start of the season, and Neil Warnock would only last until December before Alan Pardew took over.

      McJedley played together 15 times in that Premier League season as Palace defied all expectations to secure a 10th-place finish.

      Three different managers? That’s a challenge. Three central midfielders? That works just fine.

      The partnership formed a remarkably strong line in Palace’s midfield, as three popular, bearded hard men breaking down attack after attack and allowing the likes of Wilfried Zaha, Yannick Bolasie and Jason Puncheon to push on.

      “Yeah, I knew we had been named that,” Ledley laughed in 2020. “Macca was a great addition, not just as a player but as a person. Such a great character.

      “It was just a really good trio. Jedinak sitting deeper and doing all his defensive work, and then me on the left and Macca on the right. I really enjoyed playing in that midfield.”

      The pièce de résistance was surely the 2015/16 season – the second and final year of McJedley. The Eagles’ Premier League campaign was a tough one despite a strong start that saw them in fifth on Boxing Day, but a 13-game winless run after Christmas meant they survived by just three points.

      In the FA Cup, however, they made waves. Their run to the final was hardly the easiest, seeing off Southampton, Stoke City and Tottenham Hotspur in the first three rounds. Jedinak and Ledley played together until the quarter-finals, before McArthur stepped up at Wembley.

      Palace beat Watford in the semi-finals, facing Manchester United in the showpiece final for the first time since 1990. It ended in heartbreak, but the south Londoners had defied all the odds just by being there.

      That was to be Jedinak’s penultimate match for the club, moving to Aston Villa at the start of the following season. McJedley was no more, but Ledley and McArthur played on together for one more campaign, starting 17 games alongside one another in 2016/17.

      The partnership may not have lasted long, or even have appeared much while it was possible, but for those matches that required a steely midfield triumvirate, Palace had the perfect combination.

      It helps, of course, that it had a legacy-ensuring nickname.