It took John Motson quite a while to work out who had found the end of Andy Thorn’s hopeful flick-on. The Holte End at Villa Park had gone fully bananas, a pitch invasion by ecstatic Crystal Palace fans appearing imminent by the time he announced: “It’s Pardew!”
It is a quarter of a century since that scrambled goal put Palace 4-3 up over Liverpool and sent them to the only FA Cup final appearance in their history.
Pardew has been round football’s block more than most since that sunny afternoon, both as a manager and a player, but when he arrived at Selhurst Park as manager six weeks ago, it was principally that one goal that gave it the air of a homecoming.
It is a memory that will be at the forefront of the mind of any Palace fan old enough to remember it, when the club host Liverpool in the Cup’s fifth round, but there are many others competing for space.
Not merely last season’s remarkable 3-3 draw, which assistant manager Keith Millen, a boyhood Palace fan himself, yesterday said was “the best atmosphere I have ever experienced at Selhurst”.
Liverpool will also remember their 3-1 defeat here earlier this season. These are memories, according to Millen, “that can play on your mind.
“It’s not the most luxurious dressing room when you come to Selhurst. Certainly, not the away team – ours has been done up now. Whether they’re scarred from the last two games, who knows?”
Pardew himself is unwell and has, according to Millen, been keeping his talking in training to mere instructions.
It is an obvious contrast but almost none of Saturday’s players will recall that semi-final, from a different era.
“The current players’ goal is to make history themselves,” Millen said. “They and I would want to be part of a successful Crystal Palace team that maybe wins the FA Cup one day, and then it’s you that’s the hero further down the line.
“It’s good to remind them of the history the club has had, especially against Liverpool, and I’m sure Alan will tell them a few stories tomorrow, but it’s about them making history themselves.”
Curiously, at the final whistle at Villa Park, Pardew himself didn’t join in the wild celebrations, led by Thorn and Andy Gray. It is possible that history was weighing on his own mind. Ian Wright would be back for the final, having had his leg broken against Liverpool at Selhurst Park in that January.
Back in the September before, Palace had lost to Liverpool 9-0, the biggest winning margin and worst defeat in the clubs’ respective histories. Eight different players scored for Liverpool that day: Steve Nicol, Steve McMahon, John Barnes, Peter Beardsley, Glenn Hysen, Gary Gillespie, John Aldridge and Ian Rush, names that read like a roll call of that club’s last great era.
Today’s men from Merseyside will be just as keen as their opponents to make a bit of history.Reuse content