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Find out the stories behind the defining photos of 1990 and 2016

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Games as significant as FA Cup semi-finals provide abiding imagery of iconic days, caught against a sprawling backdrop of colour and containing the extremes of emotion that football is able to conjure.

Palace have won two FA Cup semi-finals in their existence: beating Liverpool in 1990 and Watford in 2016. Both matches remain two of the greatest days in club history.

In the latest official Palace podcast, We Were There, about the 1990 semi-final, Guardian photographer Tom Jenkins says: “I picked up my bag and cameras and just ran on the pitch. I think I was a bit delirious, to be honest with you. I was just like a headless chicken.

“Part of me is thinking: ‘Oh my god, Palace have just beaten Liverpool and are in the FA Cup final. Part of me was thinking: ‘I have to take some pictures here and try and be professional’.

“Wherever the palace players went I just ran with them, partly in joy and partly just to take some pictures. It was crazy.”

Neil Everitt was a club photographer at Palace from 1976-2021, capturing everything from Wembley clashes to relegation heartbreaks. He was on-hand in both 1990 and 2016, crouched pitchside with his cameras and recording the action to showcase it all these years later.

The 4-3 Liverpool win stands out for two reasons: the first, naturally, is it remains one of football's greatest clashes. The second, Everitt's favourite photo was captured that day. Outside Villa Park as Everitt set to work inside was well-known photographer Stuart Roy Clarke, who took the following picture.

Image: Stuart Roy Clarke
Image: Stuart Roy Clarke

Clarke tells cpfc.co.uk of it: "I went along to both semi-final games that day, April 8th 1990. With the swirl of clouds and balloons at Villa Park, some of the drama to me was with the weather playing out on the facade of the most beautiful stadium in England.

"SEVEN goals here. Six goals later on at Maine Road. Palace were to avenge Liverpool, and get through to the final at Wembley."

Everitt calls that shot "simple and tremendous", and, ahead of Palace's next semi-final, has looked back on his own snaps, discussing the images that have cemented our memories.

Here's what he remembers of two momentous days.

On 1990, Palace 4-3 Liverpool

I went to the semi-final in '76 when we lost and we all felt we should have gone through.

We’d had a relatively easy run to the [1990] semi-final and then came up against Liverpool, who at the time were almost unbeatable as far as we were concerned. It wasn’t a game I really wanted to go to – I just didn’t want to see us lose another semi-final.

I remember it being a bright day and an early kick-off. It was one of those where you get some days you can’t hit a cow’s a**e with a banjo and others where you get everything.

That was one of the games I seemed to be in almost the right place for everything – certainly goal-wise. The final was the complete opposite!

In those days we were taking some colour photos and some black and white, because I was supplying the local papers in black and white and the programme wanted colour.

It was dark rooms and black and white prints, putting them in an envelope and delivering them around to the papers. I seem to remember having quite a few to drink post-match, then doing the pictures, and then sobering up overnight and delivering them very early the next morning!

The first-half was mostly taken in colour. Ian Rush was key to us in that game – he was key for Liverpool. Of course he scored the first goal and then luckily from our point of view went of injured.

They lost their main talisman, which evened it up slightly from our point of view.

This one is before extra time, when Stevie Coppell is trying to get that last bit of effort out of them for the last half-hour.

At that time you’re thinking about what you’ve already got and trying to predict what’s going to happen. I could have done with being around the other side, because I had Coppell with his back to me. But you have to take what comes.

By this time all bets were off. The game was getting silly, but when this one went in you thought: ‘That has to be it now.’

There were a lot of tears, I must admit. You suddenly realise what you’re about to do or what the team’s about to do. That tends to be when you’ve got a minute to think, when the action’s at the other end of the pitch – which it often was, in fairness!

I find it easy not to celebrate in these moments – I don’t celebrate much now, as a supporter. I’m so used to it. When I was a supporter before being a photographer I was quite lippy, but now I don’t say much at all.

I’ve moved down the touchline for this one and there’s a whole phalanx of photographers on the other side. It would have been nice to get Coppell in there but there’s no way past the stewards on the touchline.

You’re stuck with that position but it means you get [Kenny] Dalglish – this would have been waiting for the final whistle.

[Dave] Madden, here, looks like he’s watching Sunday league!

In those days at full-time the photographers just went on the pitch and, of course, you have things happening all over the place. There are players all over the place celebrating so it’s very difficult – you see what you can get.

I tried to follow Wrighty to a degree but you’re aware there’s other stuff going on.

I think [his absence] was felt to be very crucial by fans... I think, in all fairness, just about 99% of Palace fans who went were of the impression we’d go there and lose.

Most of the focus was on Wrighty because he wasn’t playing, and as a result there were a load of photographers around him, fighting for the best position all the time.

This was the first time fans used balloons, if I’m not mistaken.

Whether it was because it was the first time is why it felt the most impressive, I don’t know. But to me it’s never been topped.

On 2016, Palace 2-1 Watford

The tension, the passion, is very much the same as 1990.

It’s more difficult now photographing than it was when I started. It was a lot easier when I started. Okay, the equipment is a lot better now than then. But at the same time it’s more difficult because in the '70s the chances were you’d get a picture of a goal being scored because the player would be relatively alone or not particularly hemmed in by defenders.

Now the game is everybody up and everybody back, with packed penalty areas. In theory you have a picture of a goal but it’s obscured by the defender, or the ball is obscured by a defender, or everything is obscured by a defender. Back in the '70s it was a lot easier because the game was more open.

The team in the early '80s had been a lot of old hands, the club had no money, Ron Noades had come in and we couldn’t even put out a Reserve team half the time; we’d put out part-time window cleaners to make up the squad. Coppell came in and things started to change.

Andy Gray came back to us having been with us as a junior. Andy Gray changed things – he came in before the others.

He was younger than the others and seemed to have a lot more enthusiasm than the other players. He suddenly made a difference. Then you had the likes of Tony Finnigan come in, then Ian Wright, then Mark Bright.

I knew them quite well – they were all youngish, a few years younger than me but not by much. They grew up together, so it was very special. A lot of them played together for a number of years.

The likes of John Salako and Ian Wright I don’t see very often but we always chat when we see each other.

The winning goal. You choose a position based on where everybody else is and it’s either right or wrong. I could have done with being right in that corner there, really.

But sometimes with that if you’re sitting back from the goal-line on the sides the players run to celebrate and then immediately turn away to their colleagues, so you’re actually sometimes better off on the side. Everybody behind the goal in the corner will have the back of the player's head.

You have to balance the players celebrating with wondering what’s going on on the bench. While you’re taking this picture there might be a much better one going on between two players.

This is presumably at the final whistle. [Alan] Pardew is just about to do something, because it could be I had the camera trained on the final whistle to get that before getting the players celebrating.

Covering the cup final as a photographer is nerve-wracking. The tension and stress is huge. You’ve got to take lots of gear because you want to get lots of stuff but you’ve got to leave gear all over the place. If you win it you’re doing the box, in the changing rooms after.

There’s a lot of stress, hassle and gear. It is a nightmare in many ways. If I was to miss out on that I wouldn’t worry too much, but I’ve said from the third round that we’re going to win it this year.

This yefar i I'm watching from the stands and we score, yes, a part of me would probably wish I was there with my camera. But of course there’s no guarantee I’d get the picture.

You can’t regret those kind of things, and I’m enjoying being a supporter again.