This is the seventh instalment in Football FanCast’s Legacies series, which pays tribute to those players and managers who leave a compelling story behind as they move on to pastures new.
Julian Speroni waved an emotional goodbye to Crystal Palace on the final day of the 2018/19 season following a 5-3 win over Bournemouth, ending a 15 year association with the club after signing from Dundee in 2004.
In our latest legacies article, we look at a player who’s about as close as they come to being a one-club man without officially being one.
Speroni arrived at Palace when the side were still in the Premier League, only to play six matches and suffer relegation, so it’s fair to say his first season wasn’t a particularly memorable one.
In fact, he didn’t begin to truly have an impact at Selhurst Park until the 2007/08 season, when he firmly established himself as the club’s number one and started all 46 Championship games.
After a series of off-field dramas, Palace found their feet again under Dougie Freedman before the arrival of Ian Holloway, who managed to guide the side back to the Premier League with a 1-0 win against Watford in the play-off final.
However, the arrivals of Alex McCarthy, Steve Mandanda, Vicente Guaita have limited Speroni’s opportunities as he’s grown older and he was firmly on the periphery from the summer of 2015 until he eventually left the club.
Speroni made a whopping 402 appearances for Palace, surviving through all the heartache and off-field problems at the club.
He was a vital part of Palace’s rebuild and his 110 clean sheets contributed enormously to that.
Clinching promotion to the top flight represented his greatest achievement in south London, and the closest he came to silverware was in 2016 when Palace lost 2-1 to Manchester United in the FA Cup final – though it’s important to note he was an unused substitute that day.
There’ll be a handful of dark memories of his time at Palace that the Argentine keeper will want to forget, but they play a part in what was ultimately a character-building journey full of highs and lows.
A personal highlight will undoubtedly be Palace’s victory against Watford that secured promotion in 2013.
Watford had just overcome Leicester City in the most dramatic of play-off semi-finals, but Palace proved a bridge too far as they climbed into the promised land, an enigmatic footballing sphere they are yet to leave.
Despite some wonderful victories in the Premier League, most notably at home to Chelsea and a dramatic three goal turnaround against title-chasing Liverpool, which later came to be known as “Crystanbul” – clever, right? – the Wembley win will certainly go down as the sweetest moment of Speroni’s career.
Speroni left with Crystal Palace in his heart, something he made very clear to fans in his final speech at Selhurst Park.
His loyalty has been unquestionable, and his dedication and passion unmatched. He’ll be sorely missed.
His legacy will not only be defined by his vital part in taking Palace back to the top flight of English football, but also in the unwavering loyalty that he has demonstrated.
Speroni goes down as a club legend.