Hey, Darren Ambrose! Ooh, ah, I wanna kno—oww, how you scored that goal!

No seriously, how did you score THAT goal?

You all know the one that I mean. The 40 yard howitzer that stunned a nation ^.

(^Nation being people that watch the Carling Cup Quarter Finals, or YouTube…)

Ambrose is well known for wonderful goals, ask any non-Palace fan who our best player is and you’ll invariably get the response, ‘Darren Ambrose’. However Ambrose divides opinion amongst the Selhurst faithful, particularly this season.

On the one hand Ambrose is a match winner and big game player, scoring big big goals in important games. On the other, he is best described by the ‘gentleman’ who sits behind me in the Holmesdale Road stand, who we have affectionately nicknamed ‘F***k’s Sake’ due to his penchant for pessimism and expletive filled outbursts. Whenever Ambrose is brought on, or passes vaguely near the play, FS will shout one of the following:

“He won’t run.”

“’He’s not gonna challenge is ‘e?”

“Oh Ambrose can’t head it”

Ambrose is an enigma and can frustrate and delight in equal measures. One particularly frustrating game at Selhurst recently I said that could not understand how Ambrose continues to get in the team. It was politely pointed out to me that he is our top scorer and had set up something like 10 of of Palace’s last 12 goals.

Signed on a free from Clowntown in 2009 following their ignominious relegation into the lower echelons of the Football League, he proved to be an intriguing signing by then manager Neil Warnock. When I enquired about Ambrose amongst my Charlton associates, they were mildly disinterested that he had left them to join their most hated rivals. The feeling was that he had started well, and his Charlton career had petered out somewhat. He had been in the team that got relegated after all.

Ambrose had joined Charlton from Newcastle after his big money move there from Ipswich Town had largely fizzled out. Perhaps the same is now happening at Palace, he started well, so well and had two great seasons. I took much joy in posting on Facebook every time Ambrose slammed home goal after goal in his first season, to take his tally to 20 (more than he scored in four seasons at the Valley). Who could forget that massive goal he scored up at Hillsborough to keep Palace in the Championship?

Ambrose has had something of a stop-start season this year, and has struggled to find consistent form due to some niggling injuries, although has managed to play in 27 league and cup games. He’s also grabbed nine goals, to put him top of the Palace scoring charts. This has included goals in important games such as the equaliser away at hated Brighton and THAT goal at Old Trafford in the Carling Cup Quarter Final. I remember posting on Facebook at the Amex arena when Palace were a goal down and saying that we needed to get Ambrose on – he’s a big game player. Freedman sent him into the fray on 78 minutes. Wilfred Zaha equalised in the 79th, and Ambrose had grabbed the winner by 88.

The rumours of Ambrose moving away have always been there, and every time he wins a match he will be linked with a move to the Premier League or a bigger club. Neil Warnock, his former manager at Palace, is a constant suitor. Warnock tried to snaffle Ambrose away to QPR whilst Palace were in administration, but the incoming chairman managed to persuade him to stay.

In my eyes, Ambrose will always occupy those two spheres of inconsistency and magic, but if you’ve got a player that can come off the bench and win you a game from a losing position, then it’s worth having him there!

My top five Ambrose moments that have written him into Palace folklore:

  1. Incredible 37 yard free kick vs Aston Villa in the FA Cup
  2. Winner against Brighton at Amex Arena
  3. 45 yard screamer vs Manchester United at Old Trafford in the Carling Cup Quarter Final
  4. The goal at Hillsborough on the last day of 2010 season to keep Palace in the Championship
  5. Just back from injury, Ambrose bent a wonderful curler from wide left, into the top right hand corner vs Watford at Selhurst in a run-of-the-mill league game.