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Saturday, January 27, 2007

Small dreams of a Palace fan

Gorn and lost the f***ing Cup
We’re not even going up
We’re no good
In fact we’re bad
We are the Palace
We’re mad!

So much for the Football Association Challenge Cup then. Another sad exit this afternoon and, by all accounts, a second half performance as bad as any seen at Selhurst Park so far this season (and Gawd knows there have been a few).

Staying away from any Palace match can never be considered a good choice, but given the ticket prices and the seeming inevitability of the capitulation, the 50% of our core support who opted not to go for whatever reason probably made the right decision.

What makes it especially sad is that a group of fans, inspired by a chap called Away Day Eagle from the BBS, attempted to put some much needed life back into the competition with a finely executed tribute to Malcolm Allison. They even got themselves featured in the Sun with a classic picture harking back to the swashbuckling Palace cup run of 1976. In all, more than a hundred fans took the trouble to don fedoras, drag sheepskin coats out of wardrobes or pick them up from charity shops and, with champagne flowing in the pubs and inflatable cigars and bubbly bottles waving, they sought to lift the flagging spirits of the club.

I’m sure they had a brilliant time, but it’s a shame that the fun had to end so soon. Today could have been the start of something. Just think of it, we could have been drawn against someone like Spurs away in the next round. You could easily imagine the snowball effect as more and more fans picked up on it and a sea of south London charm swept over the soulless wasteland that is north London. Picture it now, after clinging on like grim death against arrogant Premiership opponents a rare sweeping Palace move ends with the only goal. Into the quarter finals then and, by now, the club have stepped up a gear. Given a reasonable draw against some beatable side or other, the fedora force enthuses players and fans. The self-belief and media frenzy carries us to a semi-final probably against someone like Bolton, Blackburn or another dour bunch of northern gits with no sense of humour. Palace start off as the usual shambles but somehow hang on, then late on there’s a scramble and out of nowhere a red and blue sock appears to poke home the winner. Bedlam! The whole place is an orgy of hats, kipper ties, Rubettes LP covers, platform shoes and inflatable champagne glasses. Big Mal, God bless him, smiles.

That’s what the FA Cup has needed pretty much since the last time we made it to Wembley. An end to soulless all-Premiership encounters, this would be a final to capture the hearts of the nation. With a 70s inspired Palace at Wembley, the entire David Bowie back catalogue would re-enter the charts, Man About the House would be given a prime time re-run on BBC One and the players get themselves fitted out in cup final suits resplendent with 36” bottom loon pants and oxblood Doctor Martens. Ford re-issues the Cortina MkIII as a special tribute edition… only available in white with a red and blue sash running diagonally across the bonnet.

All that could have been ours… but now the dream has been crushed by the ineptitude of a Palace team quite frankly not fit to lace the boots of its counterpart of 30 years ago. As one BBS poster grimly noted, Peter Taylor wouldn’t pick the 1976 version of himself to play in this current side. It’s enough to make you weep.

Now all we’re left with is the prospect of a season fizzling out before the last dregs of January and another feeble cup attempt to forget. Someone else on the BBS reckoned this was about the worst time to try something like a fedora revival because the team is incapable of raising itself beyond the distressingly ordinary. I reckon it was a noble attempt to lift a season that has been going nowhere pretty much since the first game of the season. It’s pretty hard at moments like these to say ‘we don’t care we’re Palace fans’.

Still the FA Cup still twinkles, so handshakes all round to Preston. This time next year, will be our year, eh?

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