With the club’s highest-ever finish still very much on the cards once normality returns, Martin Kelly’s enforced break from football will be a less stressful one than had this lockdown occurred during the 2016/17 season, we’d imagine.
For Kelly, Palace’s penultimate game of that season at Selhurst Park against Hull City is the one he dubs: ‘the game that changed my career.’
“With Palace, the game against Hull in the ‘16/17 season where we needed to win at home,” Kelly begins to recall that 90 minutes like it happened yesterday. “We ended up winning 4-0 – but the pressure in that game I had never witnessed whilst playing.”
To win so empathically and keep a clean sheet in the process, against a side in the bottom three, who, with a victory, would’ve gone one point behind Sam Allardyce’s side with just a game to go, speaks volumes of Kelly and his teammates’ character.
But Kelly reveals just why that game went so perfectly despite so much resting on it: “The year before Punch [Jason Puncheon] scored against Norwich City, and I seem to remember us having to win then again.
“I was on the bench for that, and understanding the importance of that Norwich game helped me a year later when we were facing another relegation battle and the whole season had come down to that one game.
“I remembered being part of that team, which did make the pre-match nerves a little bit more than usual, but that was understandable with us facing the thought of relegation or not.”
With the Tigers failing to register a shot on target in the game, you could certainly make a case for Kelly being a Man of the Match contender. However, Kelly knows exactly who to thank for those three points: the vocal red and blue support.
“Every home game is fantastic and during that game especially, hearing our fans in a must-win game spurred us all on, as it does with every game we play in.
“After that game was finished, that was a real turning point for me as a Palace player,” Kelly begins to close out. “I remember thinking: this club has meant so much to me up to now and even more so after that pressure game and we’ve been able to give the fans another season in the Premier League.
“Looking back that game always stands out as vitally important. It has pushed me on since and it changed the course of us staying in the Premier League for the next few seasons and to keep Palace where they should be with the fan base we’ve got.”
We’ve got Kelly…