Celebrating 'Crystanbul' and a season to remember
I genuinely feel sorry for people who aren't into football, or sports in general, because they don't get to experience moments like this. Moments when you feel part of something special. Moments when everyone comes together for one cause and achieves it against all odds. Moments that make the hairs on the back of your neck stand up. Moments you'll never forget.
How do people who aren't into sports get their buzz? Moments like Palace's late, great, crazy, brilliant 3-3 draw with Liverpool give you a natural high nothing can compete with.
"Crystanbul," brilliantly coined to poke fun at Liverpool's famous three-goal comeback against AC Milan in the Champions League final in Istanbul 2005, will live long in the memory for all Palace fans. And for Liverpool fans for different reasons, and they didn't even lose.
But it was more than just a point picked up against a very good, title-chasing team; it was the manner of the comeback. Finding three goals in nine minutes when it looked for all the world like Liverpool would run out comfortable winners. Palace's resolve despite having nothing to play for in terms of league position is what made the night so special. It typified what the Eagles have become under Tony Pulis: committed, bordering on psychotic. A relentless work rate driven by pride more than anything else. A duty to the fans who have been so, so brilliant all season.
And there was quality in there, too. We're not just talking a classic underdog clogging their way to victory. Palace's second came from an excellent 70-yard run by Yannick Bolasie and a neat bit of skill before finding Dwight Gayle, who finished first time expertly. And the second was the result of a beautiful chest pass from Glenn Murray to Gayle who fired home with the sort of poise you'd expect from a player who had played all season, not just 77 minutes since Boxing Day.
This team has a bit of everything; passion, ability, organisation, entertainment value. Premier League ticket prices might be exorbitant, but when you're watching a team like Palace it does feel like value for money. Especially as you get to be part of the greatest set of fans around, who themselves are just as entertaining. Supporters in the Holmesdale rallied and raised money to produce another excellent visual display as the team walked out. No other fans in England do what they do.
Gary Neville called Palace fans "the best all season by a million miles" and he's spot on. Whatever has been unfolding on the pitch -- and there have been lots of highs and lots of lows -- the Eagles' supporters have been unabating in their backing. Take Crystanbul, for example: as Liverpool's third goal went in the noise from the home fans got even louder. They didn't care that their team was three goals down; they are just grateful to have a club and enjoy watching them play. And that ferocious noise pretty much did the job of sucking the ball into the net. Three times!
Twitter was going crazy with love for the Palace fans during the game; pundits, ex-pros and fans from other clubs all commenting on how brilliant an atmosphere Selhurst can produce. For me, this is the thing to be most proud of this season, in what's been a sensational year for the club. Fans these days don't have much of a say and the only thing they can do is turn up each week and make noise, and boy, do the Palace fans make that their own. But will they do it on a cold Tuesday night in Burnley next season? I'd put my money on it.
Someone on Facebook posted, "It's a privilege to be a Crystal Palace fan," and they're right. I feel lucky to support such a great club, with a squad that plays with the sort of passion I think I would if I were out there.
I've been fortunate enough to see plenty of great moments supporting Palace throughout the past 22 years -- four promotions, two last-day relegation survivals, two rescues from administration -- and each time it's brought me closer to the club. A club that these days listens to its fans, communicates with them on a daily basis, and as a result, that bond between fan and club has never been closer.
So yeah, I'd say it's been a pretty good 24 hours and a pretty good 10 months at Crystal Palace Football Club. Rounded off with a final home game of the season that will live long in the memory. Here's to next season when we have to do it all over again. And I can't bloody wait.