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Selhurst Park
Crystal Palace v
Swansea City

Saturday September 13th, 2008, 3pm
Championship League
By Lee Jones 

(Swansea City fan)

This was another new ground for me following Swansea Cityís promotion from League One. Palace has always been a side from the 70ís for me because of the glamorous sash trim kit which I was always keen on as a teenager. Swansea had a similar one which we refer to as the Barcelona kit but my family were never rich enough at the time to buy me it!

We have friends who are Palace supporters and we decided to make a weekend of it by driving up Friday night and staying with them. My friends son and mine are the same age and both mad on their own team so a bit of banter had been going on especially as they had been down with us when we had beaten Forest 3-1 at the Liberty.

Swanseaís other results had been quite promising having beaten Plymouth away and drawn with Wednesday and beating Premiership team Hull in the Carling Cup, all this following our opening day 2-0 defeat at Charlton. I was hoping for a better memory of a London trip.

Having stayed in Reigate we travelled in by train to Norwood South junction which took about half an hour and was no problem. We arrived outside the Station to find quite a few Palace and Swans supporters arriving at the same time but there were no problems and there was quite a heavy police presence including many Police from South Wales.

There was quite a few Swans supporters dressed as Smurfs I donít really know where or when this started but this year I have seen it at almost every game. They had the full kit including blue body paint all over. It always looks a bit surreal to me. Later that day friends have told me of a very odd incident at Leigh Delamare service station on the M4 involving the Smurfs, a man in a prisoner outfit and a crying half naked man. This incident has become a talking point with all Swans fans whenever Palace is mentioned!

Anyway I digress I obviously had my own personal guide so we decided to have a pint or two before going to the ground. The most obvious pub to go too was The Cherry Trees which was directly opposite the Railway Station however there was a large sign saying home fans only and a burly but friendly doorman. We decided to chance it as long as I didnít talk too loud. (A bit difficult for me usually)The pub was run by some Polish people and it was very obviously a home pub with loads of England /Polish flags together with Palace memorabilia.

We had a few pints and watched Liverpool v Man U on Sky. There were filled rolls for sale and the beer was good. Inevitably a few Palace fans clocked my accent and we had a good chat about the game and their dissatisfaction with Palace who had not won a League game so far. I suddenly had a feeling that we were going to lose!

I really enjoyed my time in The Cherry Trees and wish that there were more pubs/fans like this around the country without the fear of problems. The police walked through the pub regularly for some reason which slightly worried me as there were always South Wales Officers with them and I was worried I might get thrown out as it was a designated home pub. We made our way to the ground and I grabbed a bag of chips from a kebab shop on the main road. I shouldnít have bothered. I would think there is reasonable food in South Norwood but I didnít find it.

We walked through the side streets with my friend and there was a mixture of home and away fans mixing with no problems. Away fans are seated in the Arthur Waite stand which was entered directly from the street. Selhurst Park reminded me of what a football grounds used to be like all round the country prior to the ďnew stadiumsĒ.

There was a bit of a cramped entry to the stand which brought back memories of the days of terraces. The rear of the stand looked very old with wooden rows of seats very close together. There were also a few pillars obscuring the view from the back. My seats were in the 5th row from the front, and basically with the netting over the first couple of rows was basically the front row. The seating was quite good with enough leg room and a clear and close view of the action. The rest of the stadium looked quite modern and appeared larger on the inside than on the outside. There was a large screen behind one of the goals to the right from our stand which give a good view of replays etc.

The talk in the pub was that the Palace manager Neil Warnock had upset some of the players and this was the first game that Ben Watson would be playing in, Warnock seemed to split opinions with most fans. The atmosphere was quite good in the ground with the majority of the Palace noise coming from the stand to our left which was called the Holmesdale Stand or something similar. The Swans supporters were in good voice and generating a fair bit of noise with plenty of banter between the fans. The policing and stewards were very good with just the right amount of intrusion. The toilets were old and cramped but clean and tidy. I didnít try the concessions but it was absolutely crammed every time I was in the area.

The game kicked off and Palace seemed more up for it than us for the first ten minutes. The only thing I was pleased about was that Palace had reverted to the traditional sash strip for this season. The inevitable happened after 28 minutes Ben Watson took a free kick from what appeared to be very wide and a very long way out. Our keeper Doris de Vries watched it bounce all the way to the back of the net 1-0 Palace. We started passing the ball about but there was no penetration half time came and the abuse really started from the Palace fans well from my mates anyway who were virtually within touching distance.

The second half started and we looked a bit more our normal selves and we had a few chances but Palace who couldnít have bought a win had another fine goal which was taken well. The game was over and the final score was 2-0. The big screen much to the delight of the home fans showed both goals on a regular basis. They also showed highlights of the near misses by the home side. I donít know if that is the norm because we didnít look like scoring for most of the game and had nothing to show.

We met our friends after the game and walked back to the train station to be fair they didnít rub it in too much. The train journey back was normal for the UK and we got back to Reigate in about 40 minutes. There was a good mixture of home and away fans on the train and the atmosphere was pretty good. All in all a good day despite the result, I think that the Palace fans and club have had a fair share of ups and downs and seem to be pretty laid back about games generally but still passionate about their club. 

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