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The Curse of the Scousers

January 23 2003

Liverpool FC

Liverpool FC

When I saw the fourth round draw, my face dropped. Liverpool. I had an expression on my face similar to the one Bill Murray has in Groundhog Day each morning when Sonny & Cher blast through his slumber... writes Matt Harvey.

The Scousers are the one team who have defined my Palace supporting years because when I first started going to Selhurst, they were the team to beat, the Arsenal of their day, the footballing geniuses.

And my relationship with them has been a love-hate one because I've had so many knocks, highs and melodramas at Palace-Scouser games.

It all began when I was a wide-eyed teenager who really believed Palace could do something and ruffle a feathers but the late-80s was, with hindsight, a stupid time to start supporting the Eagles.

It gave you false impressions. Palace then were a team going somewhere, which an ambitious and talented manager, a strike force who could really put it about and a ground which was not laughed at by the likes of Reading when they visited. They were happy days because anything seemed possible.

However, in the winter of 1989 a game changed my life. It genuinely scarred me. That game at Anfield, when the Scousers ran riot, our boys were uncordinated messes, trying like King Canute to hold back the tide (but like him failing miserably) and it was then my bubble was burst.

The next day at school was a 'mare, the glory-boy Redhill-Scousers gave me grief, they rubbed it in like I'd never had it before and I felt let down by Palace, something up to then I had not experienced. It laid down a golden rule for the future - never trust Palace.

However, come April of the following year I set off for Villa Park, with my new cup semi-final scarf and Croydon Advertiser baseball cap in hand.

I was nervous, so were the other south London souls there and after 120 minutes of one of the best games I have had the priviledge of attending, we did it.

I won't go into it because it has simply become a defining moment of Palace history but my goodness did we do it. And we broke Kenny Dalglish's brain at the same time. What could be better?

We done them at home at Christmas the following season. What a day. ITV was there which, kids, at the time was a great honour.

I stood on the Sainsbury's with Baldini and watched Mark Bright score a bizarre goal seemed to confirm the fact that the revolution was well and truely in effect and we were soon to inherit the earth.

Then, the day of the Eggchasing World Cup Final in 1991, we went up on Coach Number 2 and sat and watched another of the greatest Palace matches I've ever seen.

When Geoff Thomas scored in front of the Kop, and gave them some as well after burying it, I remember thinking "this is one of those things happens once in a lifetime". Sweet. And how I right was I.

Even a Scouse twat having a swing at me in Stanley Park after the game didn't spoil it.

Then things went wrong, we started losing to the Scousers, including that awful day in 1994 when Ray Wilkins became, officially, our worst ever player.

81 minutes played in his Palace career, one booking and we lost 6-1, the misery of what was going to follow that season was summed up in one game.

Then there was the Coke Cup semi-finals, when we got beat at home and away by the Scouse with Robbie Fowler getting the glory. The good old days were well and truely over.

The games in the 1997/98 campaign didn't really mean much because the Scousers had been replaced by the Rags as England's number one but in 2001, our cup run gave us a chance for a little nostalga - the Scousers were stirring again under some Frog and fancied their chances as big shots.

Enter Clinton Morrison, a man known for his quiet dignity, to stir up the fixture by scoring the winner at Selhurst and then following it by giving Michael Owen some goal scoring tips (something which given their current circumstances is laughable).

That semi-final second leg at Anfield lives long in my memory. 5-0. 5-0. 5-0. It's a recurring nightmare. It hurt, it still does. At least we

outsang the Kop, or the library as I know them from my trips up there, and Alan Smith got the chop not long after.

But again the Scousers had changed my perception of Palace. Now it was never, never, never, ever trust Palace. I also had a stinking cold that day, which was not aided by witnessing a mate's puke enrusted all over his company's people carrier and then having to

listen to a an idiot (whose nickname is 'Dangerous' for obvious reasons if you've met him), call everyone he passed on the way to the ground 'Scouse c****').

So just like Bill Murray, I know what to expect, but I don't know what's going to happen. Palace can made to be look world-beaters or prize chumps, and it doesn't matter if the TV cameras are there or not.

So my advice in order to enjoy this fixture to the fullest is don't park your car within one mile of the ground (unless you want your motor to be devoid of its stereo, hubcaps, roof, and anything else those scally's can get away with), don't wear any jewellery and don't go with with any pre-conceieved ideas.

I'm going to a have a few drinks beforehand and let the madness unfold again.

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