Euro 2012 – Made In South London
Well, we’re deep into the summer recess now, and with no league or cup action to satisfy our footy cravings, we turn to the Euros.
Here’s my latest blog on players and staff at Euro 2012 with strong, or extremely tenuous links to Crystal Palace FC.
Where better to start than the manager of the England team?
Roy Hodgson grew up in Croydon and was on the books at Crystal Palace as a school boy during the mid-1960s. Hodgson never quite made it as a pro player, knocking around the non-league ladder before finishing up at another local club Carshalton Athletic. (Author note – I’ve actually played a couple of games for Carshalton too, although I think it was the 7th team or something!)
Hodgson has selected as his right hand man a coach with much stronger links to the boys of SE25. Ray Lewington joined Crystal Palace as coach in the late 1990s, before becoming assistant manager to squint-eyed gaffer Alan Smith. Following Smith’s demise, Palace had a short-lived spell where they tried to adopt a more ‘continental’ approach to football management with Lewington being appointed as Head Coach, but again this did not really work out. Lewington has been around the football circuit from managing Brentford to coaching in the Premier League with Fulham, and is highly respected amongst the footballing fraternity.
You might think this is where the Palace connection’s to the England coaching staff ends, but no. Ray Clemence, one of the two goalkeeping coaches that Hodgson is taking to Poland, is actually Dougie Freedman’s father in law. Clemence’s daughter Sarah is married to our Dougie, lucky lady. Not a lot of people know that… If I can stretch the tenuousness of these Palace connections to breaking point, clearly Gary Neville, another of Hodgson’s new coaches, is a Palace fan.
Who could forget him describing Darren Ambrose’s wonder strike against Neville’s other love, Manchester United, as “…the best goal I have ever seen an opposition player score at Old Trafford.”
So, what players heading for Poland and Ukraine have any connections to the Red n Blue army? Well the most obvious one is Ashley Cole. Before Cashley was tainted by the glitz and glamour of the Premier League, he was loaned out to Palace from Arsenal in the 1999-2000 season making 14 appearances in the red and blue, scoring once. It was during this period that Cole made 2 appearances for England under 20s. Cole now holds the record for the most capped England left back, eclipsing another former Palace player, Kenny Sansom in 2011.
Away from England, Paul McShane was a last minute called up to the Republic of Ireland squad. In fact, the call up was a slightly controversial one, replacing Kevin Foley who was in Trappatoni’s originally announced final squad of 23. McShane, the flame haired defender, spent the latter half of the season on loan to Palace from Hull. The big Irishman had hoped to get some game time in order to impress the Ireland manager enough to make the plane to eastern Europe. Clearly Palace had worked their magic again.
Another Irishman started out at Palace too. Stephen Hunt came through the Palace academy and made three appearances for the first team before moving to Brentford under the influence of Sir Steve Coppell. He followed Coppell to Reading before moving onto Hull, and was relegated this season with Wolves.
Slightly more exotic, Cédric Carrasso, the third choice French ‘keeper had an extremely brief interlude at Crystal Palace during the 2001/02 season. He came on for the injured Matt Clarke during a 0-0 draw against Birmingham City. Carrasso had been on loan from Marseille at the time, as part of his rehabilitation following a broken leg. Hopefully his roly-poly physique of that era can be attributed to his lengthy lay off, and having broken into the French squad, he now has the frame more befitting an international level athlete! Carrasso has is now plying his trade at Ligue 1 side Bordeaux.
So, will a connection to Palace be a good omen to those out in Poland and Ukraine? History would suggest otherwise. Remember England crashing out at the group stage in 2000? Who was in goal for the final game against Romania? Former Palace keeper Nigel Martyn. Martyn, a top drawer club keeper for Palace, Leeds and Everton, never really captured the same form at international level and performed poorly on the night.
What about 1996? What a great tournament! Would have been even better if former Palace skipper Gareth Southgate hadn’t pea-rolled the decisive penalty comfortably into the German keeper’s arms in the shoot-out. Anyway, not sure if Southgate can claim to have any remaining Palace connections, having been disowned by a lot of Eagles fans due to his development of the much criticised Elite Player Performance Plan (EPPP).
It felt as though he was handing the keys of the very academy that brought him through, over to the dirty handed agents and scouts of the Premier League. We all want the national team to do well, but does it need to cost the integrity of the league, and the soul of small clubs like Palace?
Come on England! PS Keep your eye out for the number of players wearing red and blue striped boots. It’s surprisingly high.