June 20 2006
Let's not forget the role legend Steve Kember played in one of the greatest matches in the club's history, writes Danny Hayes.
The 1-0 victory over Stockport on the final day of the season five years ago now was certainly Kember's finest moment at Palace, but was also crucial in where Palace are now.
Relegation to the Second Division then and Palace would almost certainly not have graced the Premiership last season and the great sight of AJ’s burger munching celebration would not have existed at Selhurst.
For me, being too young to remember the fantastic FA Cup run in 1990, this goes down as the greatest Palace game I have witnessed. Not just because of the importance surrounding the game but also because of the amazing atmosphere generated at Edgley Park. The relief and excitement after the game rivalled that of the two successful play-off victories.
It was only a week before this game that Alan Smith had finally been sacked after another dismal performance at home to Wolves. Palace needed two victories from their last two games, and after a fantastic 4-2 victory at Portsmouth in midweek, the future of the club rested on this one match.
At the time there would have been no place for the likes of Clinton Morrison, Hayden Mullins and Dougie Freedman in the Second Division and Palace fans feared the worst after the disastrous couple of seasons beforehand.
Simon Jordan had come in with the plan to take Palace back to the Premiership, would he have stayed on if Palace had got relegated? The answer is more than likely no. Jordan is a clever businessman and would surely of cut his losses, leaving Palace in a perilous position.
So the importance of this game was clear for everyone to see, yet with 87 minutes on the clock, the score remained 0-0 and Palace looked doomed for relegation.
But up popped Freedman with what he described as the most vital goal of his career. It was a fantastic goal aswell, picking up the ball in his own half, evading two defenders, before coolly slotting the goal home sending the Eagles fans into ecstasy.
Palace had won, yet even then the tension had not subsided, they needed Birmingham to hold on against Huddersfield, and with five minutes remaining it was hearts-in-your-mouth stuff. But thankfully Birmingham did us a favour and we survived.
Following that dreadful season, Kember failed to realise the potential he showed in those two games, and was sacked. Palace have achieved promotion and relegation since.
With the new season not far away and a new manager in charge, aspirations are high at Selhurst. But we can't forget the importance of that Stockport game and the role Kember played in that great escape and in what was a truly memorable match.
Palace: Kolinko, Austin, Mullins, Berhalter, Smith, Thomson (Black 77), Carlisle (Hopkin, 65), Riihilahti, Forssell, Morrison, Freedman.
Subs not used: Gregg, Hankin, Evans.
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