25th April 2011
Crystal Palace 1, 0 Leeds
'The ground lies in what can only be described as a nondescript residential void between urban outer London and the dreary suburbs of Croydon'
After severe criticism of some grounds across the country and as a Palace fan I have to approach Selhurst with a blind fold, a little caution and direct honesty.
Straight to the point Selhurst Park has fallen victim to delusions of grandeur, promotion, relegation, administration and neglect. This has left it in recent times with it's sibling football club reluctant to spend any money until recently on a property that was not technically there's. A somewhat odd situation and equally bizarre football ground with each side being built at varying times through out it's fairly short history and leaving at what others see as mismatching monstrosity or a complete joke (honest enough for you?).
However with talk of a proposed move back to Crystal Palace park and ironically it's supposedly spiritual home there are many such as myself who would rather the club stays where it is and try and attempt to progress without a snazzy new giant lampshade to parade in. Just as Arsenal no longer represent Woolwich South London, I believe Palace since there move in the 1920s now correctly represent Croydon and the surrounding areas.
I have not been to the Emirates yet but I bet most Arsenal fans would admit it doesn't have any of the character and charisma that Highbury had and maybe this is a lesson that some of the clubs with older grounds should take heed. That's not to say I would oppose a lick or paint here and there or some much needed structural improvements but it could be a complete disaster being relocated to some soulless industrial estate miles away from the area you represent. Or far worse could be the situation of having your sporting club completely uprooted for purely financial reasons a policy that has been common practice in America and something here that happened to Wimbledon F.C in the 90s.
A view from the lower Holmesdale Stand with Arthur Wait Stand and Whitehorse Lane End.
Okay back to the report. My season ticket is in the modern but neglected two tiered Holmesdale stand behind the goal. This was previously the famous Holmesdale Terrace knocked down under the Ron Noades regime in the 90s and was intended to pave the way for a new upgraded stadium. With the selling of the club (and not the ground !) to Mark Goldberg and his eventual bankruptcy it was only the Holmesdale and Sainsburys ends that were modernised.
Holmesdale as seen from the side entrance. Also the spot for an unofficial puff for all you nicotine addicts.
Opposite lies what is affectionately/insultingly known as the Sainsbury's End or officially the Whitehorse lane End. As stated before each were constructed in the 90s and really brings home the vast contrast between these two ends to the now ancient Main Stand built in the 1920s and slightly newer Arthur Wait Stand. Above the Whitehorse End seating area are located the executive boxes looking more like a line of caravans perched on top of the stand.
Away supporters are contained within one section of the Arthur Wait but have recently this season been relocated away from the Holmesdale corner which really has had a detrimental effect on the general atmosphere of Selhurst Park. However some of the home section known as the 'Palace Ultras' based in the Lower Holmesdale have made splendid efforts to add some much needed noise via a drum and relentless chanting and singing throughout the games.
Added to this have been improvements in the entertainments including a real flying eagle, noisy but decent PA system and the very popular ( with Dad's and school boys ) Palace Crystal cheer leaders ( who now resemble erotic pole dancers rather than the previous spotty school girls). Selhurst has a maximum capacity of 26,000 but there has been a steady decline since the Premiership days and now attendances average around 15,000.
Prices for Selhurst considering the somewhat uncomfortable seating, smelly toilets and threadbare food facilities are extortionate. I believe its a whopping £30 for away supporters and even the Lower Holmesdale behind the goal will set you back £25. Not exactly value for money but with the added razzmatazz, occasional promotions and family fun days something that is palatable to us Palace fans. Marks out of 10 for Selhurst would have to be 5 out 10 ( my heart says 10 out of 10) but it does have the advantage of a good on the whole friendly atmosphere unless Palace are playing Brighton or Millwall.
A faded Palace mural from the centenary year 2005 outside the Main Stand area depicting some of the greatest players to wear the red and blue, claret and blue, red white and blue etc
No pie report for Palace as I refuse to pay over £3 for a pie ( £3.60 for a pie is a bloody disgrace !) and instead sometimes opt before kick off to go over to Park Road adjacent to the stadium to a Chinese takeaway where you get a chicken balti for £2 (wow !). Selhurst has for some years been franchised to various over priced food chains and I for one will do anything but give them my custom even if it means going without at half time. Beers are also served but like other grounds don't attempt to take them into the playing area of the stadium.A good tip for you away supporters would be arrive to the ground early and head for Sainsburys and have a proper coffee and snack at a decent price and far better quality. Remember that Sainburys closes on match days half an hour before kick off so head for there at least an hour before the game to guarantee shorter queues and maybe a seat. Therefore Selhurst pies get a big fat zero out of ten I'm afraid.
Also no programme report as my programme saturated home has no more room for any more Palace memorabilia yet for the standard £3 you get an award winning publication full of the usual stats, news and photos with the occasional free SE25 magazine.
View from the Holmesdale End with Main Stand
Today Palace were up against the ex mighty Leeds United trying desperately to resurrect past glories by attempting to return back to the Premiership via the play offs. Palace in contrast were fighting to stay up in the Championship and with only three games to play needed a home win to help avoid the dreaded drop to League 1.
Eagles manager Dougie Freedman has instilled a more defensive backbone into the team with improved home performances yet this had been derailed recently with a 2,1 defeat to fellow relegation stragglers Scunthorpe the week before. He opted for the surprise front line of Jermain Easter and vetran Stefan Iversen leaving Everton on loan forward Vaughan sitting on the bench and a strike force lacking any real pace but plenty of physical presence.
It was in all honesty a tense but dire game with Croydon's finest scoring a quick goal via midfield maestro Neil Danns and then holding out to a very poor Leeds team with no effective penetration. Leeds took a foothold for most of the second half easily having the majority of possession but they never actually looked like scoring and some credit must be given to the usually suspect Palace defence.With results going Palace's way it looks almost certain they are guaranteed Championship football while Leeds now depend on the results of others and to win there final two games.
As I usually write about the area I travel to I will attempt an honest report on Selhurst itself. The ground lies in what can only be described as a nondescript residential void between urban outer London and the dreary suburbs of Croydon. No nearby sights of importance to write about unless you wish to visit Crystasl Palace park and it's obsolete Victorian dinosaur collection that even the most geeky 10 year old would snigger at.
For those of you looking for some famous London land marks then apart from the TV towers you will be very disappointed.
Crystal Palace TV transmitter and not the Eiffel Tower unfortunately
Transportation however is good having a number of buses and three train stations to travel to and I would imagine that access by car is easy enough although it would be recommended to arrive early due to limited parking.
There are a number of pubs around the ground although to avoid crowds it may be a good suggestion to head for Thornton Heath or Norwood Junction. There is a rail man's club positioned just outside Selhurst station along the alleyway that is very friendly quiet and conveniently placed. There is a £1 entry charge but the beers are priced at much lower prices than pubs and the groovy retro ambiance is worth the price alone. On Saturday evenings for some added entertainment ( but be respectful ) there are sometimes really awful pub bands that play live to a captive audience of retired aging rail workers and their families. The days of the legendary 'Muddy Waters' strippers pub are long gone and the rail-man's club is probably your best bet locally.
If clubbing is your scene then head for the glitzy neon lights of Croydon and some guaranteed sights that will terrify all but the most hardened of away ground explorers.
Having the advantage of being a Selhurst regular I will add further pics below throughout the following seasons depending on my blogging enthusiasm and commitment.