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Life at the top

May 31 2004

Play-off final at Cardiff

Play-off final at Cardiff

After a miraculous season, Jamesey looks back... and forward, too

Now that that the Cardiff dust has settled and the reality of our achievement has sunk in, I think I can say in all honesty that 03-04 was the most amazing season I have endured and enjoyed in half a century as a Palace supporter.

From Christmas Charlies to May Marvels. We have passed our exams with flying colours and next term we are in the big boys' school.

Perhaps readers will forgive me if I touch upon some points already made in past columns but the amazing growth in our HOL young membership in recent months means that some facts are worth repeating.

I didn't go to Cardiff but made it a family affair on the TV. I only hope that the four children present who are too young to know what football is all about yet, will absorb some of the maniacal enthusiasm of their parents, grandparents, uncles and aunts. They will be the future of our club.

Our fans at Cardiff were a real credit to the game and it was highly emotional to see the scenes before and after the final whistle.

Needless to say the bookies have made us favourites for relegation next year and they could well be right. If you look at our two previous experiences in the Premiership, the omens are not good.

But - and it is a very big But - we now have a completely different set-up.

We will definitely not go on the Goldberg route (1997-98) of buying big foreign names for colossal sums of money, most of whom turn out to be total rubbish. (The big exception was, of course, the sublime Attilio Lombardo, a superb player and a real gentleman too.)

We will not go on that route because we have a sensible and poundwise chairman and an inspirational young manager who just would not allow it.

My advice to young fans is to keep your expectations realistic and just enjoy a season, or maybe more, in the big time.

Personally, I intend to grasp the opportunity of visiting grounds like Old Trafford, St Jameses and Villa Park. I was always too skint or too work-orientated to ever go too far away before.

Now is my chance and whatever happens, I am going to enjoy it, and you will have the priceless privilege of reading all about it!

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