Monday, January 29, 2007

Eagle Eye – a brief history of the Palace fanzine

Eagle Eye’s founder John Ellis explains how the fanzine sprang to life in the late 1980s

I wasn’t sure what the reaction would be when, in October 1987, I wandered into Norwood boozers flogging the first issue of Eagle Eye.

For 30p I was offering 16 pages of loosely typed photocopied ramblings, hoping that it might strike a chord with other people who felt about football, and more importantly Palace, the way that I did.

Although someone called me ‘Ron Noades’s son’, the reaction was remarkable. People wrote back amazed that there were other Palace fans out there who still cared for the club deeply and who retained, despite the living hell that was the first half of the 1980s, a sense of humour and perspective that was missing from just about every other aspect of football discussion.

Leading the way for the new fanzine ‘movement’ were the general magazines When Saturday Comes and Off the Ball. I did a few things for the former, but when I told its editor Mike Ticher that, really, all I knew about was Palace he encouraged me to start Eagle Eye. With the help of a Pritt stick, a dodgy typewriter and a couple of friends, things soon took on a life of their own.

For the next seven years, Eagle Eye blazed away at all the ills of football and gave many people an outlet not only for their frustrations but also to be creative.

The game was in a sorry state, no doubt, the media and the clubs themselves were clueless, and to admit to being a football supporter was akin to sending yourself to social Siberia (or, worse, Coventry). People genuinely assumed that you went off to war at weekends, when the reality was that you stood with your hands in your pockets on a half empty terrace, behind a big fence cursing the efforts of no-hopers like Tommy Langley and David Price.

It scarcely seems credible today that an entire nation has become so completely swept up in the game, there’s no escaping it and sometimes I think that’s not such a good thing. There’s saturation coverage that no politician or big brand can afford to ignore and yet, from a Palace point of view, we still have to put up with articles or hear pundits talking about us in a way that bears no relation to the way the fans view the club.

At times the fanzine sent the club, and particularly Noades, up the wall, but they couldn’t deny that it’s heart was pure Palace. Put simply, Eagle Eye followed by Palace Echo and now the BBS have given the fans a voice and, on reflection, the best thing they did with it was to identify for themselves what this club is all about… and it’s a damn sight more than just ‘winning is everything’.

This article first appeared in the book Palace Till I Die


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