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Palace heroes: Johnny Byrne

January 7 2009

Johnny Byrne

Johnny Byrne

Prolific forward Johnny Byrne was one of Crystal Palace's most talented players of all time and Dave Betts was lucky enough to see him play.

Johnny was a sublime footballer who could be described as Attilio Lombardo/Matt Jansen/Andy Johnson/Don Rogers all rolled into one.

He wasn't the most physical but he was able to ride challenges with balance and agility. At the time, I don't think we could believe he was ours.

With fellow striker Ronnie Allen, the Press called it the Byrnes and Allen Show - a popular US 1950s import comedy show more famous for its reputation than content - not like our pairing.

Charles Buchan from Football Monthly had him on the cover, so of course I bought it, expecting pages of stuff on him and Palace. It was a total scam, just "Cover picture Johnny Byrne - Crystal Palace". It was still worth it though.

I saw him against Barrow when we thrashed them 9-0 doing the Matrix "come and get me" bit with his foot on the ball, then heading for goal.

His move to West Ham and the booze did it for him - I think he was even in an advert for Watney's with the West Ham team. He was in Alf Ramsey's England squad but blew his chances of the 1966 World Cup squad which was a real shame.

Bryne was a good cricketer too. My granddad, who was a real Holmesdale-ender from the 1940s, used to stand at the top of concrete step on the Old Stand end and would grin when "Budgie" had the ball.

He just loved it that we had such a talented player at last. On the final game with the terracing, I stood on his spot and said goodbye to him and all those real Palace heroes who played for us.

Come on you Glaziers!

Byrne's goals fired Palace out of the Fourth Division in 1961 and he was capped for England as a Third Division player before West Ham smashed the British transfer record to take him to Upton Park. After playing European football and winning the FA Cup plus further England caps, Byrne later returned to the Palace to take his Glaziers goal tally to 101 and ended his career with Fulham.

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