‘Alright Captain,’ said the husky voice at the end of the phone. ‘Fancy coming to watch Palace on Saturday?’
‘Huuuuuuuuum,’ I mused, not suitably enticed, ‘How much?’
‘It’s only a tenner,’ replied my mate Andy, a lifelong Palace fan.
‘That’s cheap’ I responded, my voice probably higher pitched than I wanted it to sound. ‘Alright then mate I’ll come along, see you Saturday.’
There aren’t many football matches around that you can watch for £10 in this day in age, not in a professional set up and not without leaving the country anyway. A visit to Aggborough to watch Kidderminster Harriers costs a good man £14 for the privilege, and even a trip to the local boozer, to watch big screen football, is likely to set you back £10.50.
That’s working on the consumption of drinking three average priced pints in the ninety minutes of game time, and the twenty minutes taken up to include half time and pre/post match analysis.
I set off, for Selhurst Park, buoyed by the unlikely October sunshine and the quality of my reasonably priced Boot’s ‘Meal Deal.’ This was turning into a cheap day. The sun had persuaded a sea of football fans to parade up and down the streets, of south London, in shirts of red and blue.
The close proximity of the stadium attracted a carnival atmosphere. A DJ played tracks that took you back to the early 90’s, a cluster of Eagles perched outside the ‘Glaziers’ clubhouse to keep kids amused. Men with ever reddening faces looked skywards nursing pints and cigarettes.
The shrewd marketing of a Crystal Palace £10 ‘Family Day’ had attracted all and sundry to the famous old stadium. Even a panicked fox ran around the ground whilst a trained Eagle flew lengths of the pitch on the lead up to kick off. Perverts were also treated to the scantily clad delight of ‘The Crystals,’ the club’s efficiently synchronised cheer leading team.
The match itself was an absolute thriller, and an awakening to what lower league fan’s regularly inform me is ‘real football.’ Despite dominating the early exchanges, the in-form Palace went two goals down in the space of three minutes, thanks to goals by McCann and Paterson.
Then it turned into the Wilfred Zaha show. The exciting 19-year-old capped a great week, of two mid-week goals and an England U21’s call up, with two more goals either side of the break.
Home fans chanted ‘he’s just too good for you,’ and bounced up and down to The Dave Clark Five’s ‘Glad All Over’ every time that the Tannoy system celebrated a goal. The ‘Eagles’ extended their lead to 4-2 with goals from
Delaney and Murray, before a Burnley pulled one back through Austin to create a nervy final ten minutes. The match finished 4-3 and proved to me that Wilfred Zaha will follow Victor Moses footsteps into the Premier League in the not so distant future.
The £10 ‘Family Day’ had been a hugely successful experiment. Average attendances for Palace this season have been 15,585. On Saturday they attracted their biggest gate of the season, with 20,863 (not counting the fox, eagle and ‘Crystals’) in attendance. Working out at approximately £1.43 per goal I would have been a fool not to have gone.
image: © OliverN5