Crystal Palace at Wembley: My eye-witness account

I didn’t make it over to London for ‘the £120m game,‘ Crystal Palace’s play-off Final against Watford that saw my beloved Eagles gain promotion to the Premier League. But I did make it back to the UK for their first appearance at (the old) Wembley, for the FA Cup Final in 1990. By fortuitous coincidence, a Facebook connection just asked me about that match, right as I was doing some much-needed spring-cleaning in the storage room, and I was able to find the account I wrote of my visit home for the New York Press, some 23 years ago. The scans follow below.

There are some amusing, now almost quaint references in the story. To the old Division One, for example, rather than the Premier League. To Liverpool’s “domination” of English football, to the fact that 1990 was the first year the Semi-Finals were broadcast live – but that, in pre-Internet, cable TV saturation days, the only way for me to keep track of the score, even in New York City, media capital of the world, was to get on the phone with friends back in London. And there is a certain irony in writing about how, even for Manchester United, the FA Cup was “not a trophy people volunteer to give away,” considering that, only a decade later, the newly dominant United would choose not to even compete for it. Perhaps the most amazing comment of all is that “the number of British football millionaires can be counted on one hand.” Was that ever possible? Apparently, in 1990 it was. Can you imagine such a thing?

There is also a glaring error, which I might put down to pre-Internet lack of fact-checking both at my end and at that of the paper in question related, perhaps, to the haste at which I wrote this piece and the paltry $100 I was paid for it. (I loved the New York Press though: I had almost total carte blanche to write what I wanted, and the free paper – itself a novelty – gave the Village Voice a much needed kick up the arse. It provided a launching pad for the likes of Neil Strauss, Amy Sohn, Jonathan Ames and many others, some of whom, like Wif Stenger, became life-long friends.) Founding publisher/editor Russ Smith recently interviewed me for his online magazine SpliceToday.) Anyway, to the error: I’m not sure why I said that New Order named a song after George Best; does anyone else? On the other hand, I seem to have been perfectly kind to Manchester in general, which is fortunate given that I’ve spent so much time in that city in recent years.

If nothing else, the piece recalls the importance of the FA Cup, something that has sadly diminished in recent years. It would be fair to say that the recent Palace-Watford Play-off Final, even though it was a match between teams that had finished third and fifth in the old Second Division, was, in this year 2013, much more important to Palace’s future. For those who went to Wembley on Monday May 27 2013 and saw Palace gain promotion in the flesh, I imagine that some aspects of this account will nonetheless ring familiar. The story never gets old.

Oh, and if you were wondering, I ended up marrying the American ‘girlfriend,’ Posie, she who flew over on her own that Cup Final day and who suffered at my obsession with the Cup Final replay during her brief introduction to my British way of life. We celebrate twenty years of marriage this June 26… Partly because she freely allows me to indulge my undying love of the Palace, such as getting up at 6am on a Bank Holiday morning to catch a bus to New York City and watch Palace gain promotion in a dark bar in Manhattan… And spend the rest of the day celebrating. Ta, luv.

There’s plenty more on subject of the Palace in Boy About Town. For now, click on each thumbnail to enlarge.





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October 2021