Date: 6th December 2012 at 10:49pm
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The legendary SeasideEssexeXile on a ground containing a familiar face in the dug out

Selhurst Park – Crystal Palace

A trip to the capital for most Pool fans is usually associated with a visit to the nation`s home of the beautiful game and Wembley. Mention Holloway and London in the same sentence and most people will think of the largest female prison in Europe and not the manager of the divisions` top teams. Strange isn`t it? It doesn`t seem that long ago when the same man had a chance to retake top spot with a different team, but on that occasion he got his tactics all wrong and blew the opportunity. Here`s hoping lightening does strike twice.

How to get there

It`s not getting to London that`s the problem it`s getting to one of the most awkwardly placed grounds within the capital that takes the time.
M55 M6 South then either the M40 or the M1 which ever suits. Last time we went we took the 40. Once you hit the circular lovingly known as the M25 leave at J7. Follow the signs for the A23-Croydon. At Purley bear left onto the A23 at its junction with the A235 Croydon. Pass roundabouts and junctions with the A232 and A236 as you pass Croydon, after which the A23 bears left at Thornton Heath (at the Horseshoe pub roundabout). Here you must go straight over, into Brigstock Road (B266), passing Thornton Heath Station on your left and bearing right on to the High Street. At the next mini roundabout, left onto Whitehorse Lane. You are finally here.

An alternative route is to leave the 25 at J 10 and follow the A3 towards London. After about ten miles you will reach the Tolworth roundabout at which you turn right onto the A240 towards Epsom. After about three miles turn onto the A232 towards Sutton. Follow the A232 through Sutton and Carshalton and just before reaching Croydon, turn left onto the A23 north towards Thornton Heath’. Then as above.

The sat nav guided us in last time around. The postcode for Selhurst Park is SE25 6PU. We parked on the road right by the Clifton Arms.

For the Virgin lovers amongst us the nearest stations are Selhurst or Thornton Heath both accessible via Victoria, Clapham Junction, London Bridge and East Croydon – it’s a 10-15minute trek from here. You can also use Norwood Junction station (Victoria), but is a little further away. Do not use Crystal Palace station it`s nowhere near the ground?..

The Ground

In 1922 the site, a former brickfield, was bought from the Brighton Railway Company for £2,570. The stadium (designed by Scottish stadium architect Archibald Leitch) was constructed by a Humphreys of Kensington (a firm regularly used by Leitch) for around £30,000, and was officially opened by the Lord Mayor of London on 30 August 1924. There was then only one stand (the present Main Stand), but this was unfinished due to industrial action; Crystal Palace played Sheffield Wednesday and lost 0-1 in front of 25,000 fans.

Two years later, in 1926, England played Wales in an international at the stadium. England amateur matches and various other finals were also staged there, as were other sports including boxing, bicycle polo (in the late 1940s) and cricket and music concerts (in the 1980s). In addition to this, it hosted two games for the 1948 Summer Olympics.

In 1953, the stadium’s first floodlights were installed consisting of numerous poles around the 3 sides of terracing and four roof mounted installations on the Main Stand, but were replaced nine years later by floodlights mounted on four pylons in each corner and six installations on the Main Stand roof. Real Madrid marked the occasion by playing the first game under the new set of bulbs – a real footballing coup at the time for third division Palace, as it was Real’s first ever match in London.The ground remained undeveloped until 1969 when Palace were promoted to Division One (then the 1st tier of English football) for the first time. The Arthur Wait Stand was built, and is named after the club’s long-serving chairman, who was a builder by trade and was often seen working on the site himself. Arthur Wait was notable for overseeing Palace’s rise from the 4th to the 1st Division in the 1960s. The Whitehorse Lane end had a new look with a ‘second tier’ of terracing and brick-built refreshments and toilets along the top.

Due to the Safety of Grounds Act, the Holmesdale Road terrace (or the Kop as it was known) had to be split into three sections for safety reasons and this meant the poor facilities fell in the away part. So new facilities were built at the back of the other two parts. In the Summer of 1981, the Main Stand terraced enclosure was re profiled and replaced by seating.
In 1981, Palace sold the back of the Whitehorse Lane terrace and land behind to Sainsbury’s for £2m, to help their financial problems and the size of the terrace at this end was effectively halved when this end reopened.

Charlton Athletic moved in as temporary tenants in 1985, and became with Palace the first league clubs in Britain to agree such a ground-sharing scheme. In the Summer of 1990, the lower half of the Arthur Wait Stand was converted into all-seater with the assistance of Football Trust Grant Aid, due to the Taylor Report following the Hillsborough Disaster. Two rows of executive boxes (48 in total) were constructed above the Whitehorse Lane terrace on the roof of Sainsbury’s supermarket in 1991 and it was roofed and it was made all-seater in the summer of 1993.

Charlton moved back to The Valley via West Ham’s Upton Park, and Wimbledon F.C. replaced them as tenants in 1991. The Holmesdale terrace was demolished in 1994 and replaced a year later with a two-tiered 8,500 capacity stand. The roof cladding of the main stand was also replaced, the previous one having started to leak.
When Mark Goldberg bought Crystal Palace, he bought just the club and former Palace chairman Ron Noades retained Selhurst Park. Chairman Simon Jordan took out a ten year lease on the ground upon his purchase of the club in 2000 and Noades received rent from Palace. In fact as at January 2008 the ownership of the ground is held by Selhurst Park Limited, a company that is itself owned by a variety of other companies including an HBOS venture capital company and also companies which are part of the Rock Property empire owned by Paul Kemsley a former director of Tottenham Hotspur. In April 2008 a 25 year lease was granted to Crystal Palace an an annual rent of £1.2m. When the Rock group went into administration in June 2009 the management of the freehold was taken on by PWC acting on behalf of Lloyds Bank PLC who now own HBOS and who had a mortgage over the ground. Simon Jordan never owned the freehold or had any interest in it and his reasons for claiming he had bought it are unknown

Selhurst Park is a bit of a mish mash. With a current capacity of 26,309 the old wooden seating with the obligatory pillars in our view reminded me of Hillsborough, now it`s our East. There is behind one goal perched up high is a giant screen. PHT once remarked “wonder if we’ll ever get one of those?” Whilst a number to text your MOTM flashed across the screen during the latter stages of the game. Talk about cash cows, the number wasn’t free of course and so another money making idea came to KOKO`s head. Away fans are sat towards a corner in the Arthur Wait Stand. Room for 2000 here although I expect around the 1000 mark to travel this weekend.

Where to drink

On our previous visits The Clifton Arms (the nearest boozer to the ground) was/ is our pub of choice. Land early enough to avoid the doormen. Due to comparisons with Rotherham`s now legendary Butchers Arms we once left the warmth and set off on a 10 minute hike to a pub of choice for most Pool fans – The Prince George. Nearby are a Wetherspoon’s & The Railway Telegraph.
As we got a soaking going back to the ground I wished we had settled for the Clifton.
Ale is on sale inside the ground.

Plod & Stewards

I found the stewards here to be a bit picky. Constantly telling fans to sit down and not to sing towards the home fans sat behind the goal & who can ever forget the old women chase over the seats a couple of years ago.
For the old bill – it’s the met. As usual a lot will depend on what side of the bed that the individual peelers will have got out on, and this will dictate their attitude towards us.

Fear Factor Rating – 2

Oh Ollie Ollie Ollie. Bananarama once sang a song with the Funboy 3 titled “It ain`t what you do, it`s the way that you do it”. If ever there was a song to sum up his Pool tenure that`s it. Thanks for all the wonderful memories, but come 5pm on Saturday here`s hoping that it`s Appleton`s Tangerine Army that are the top of the pops and our funboys have the 3 points in the bag. That`s what gets results.

Onwards + upwards