Revealed! Thirty years of Palace secrets

In 1971 Hy Money went to watch Crystal Palace with her son. Ever since she has been photographing the club - in action and behind the scenes. Paul Newman talks to her about her remarkable archive, and her struggle to be accepted in a male-dominated profession
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When Martin Money announced that he wanted to go to the Palace as a treat for his seventh birthday, his mother sounded a word of caution. "We can't guarantee that the Queen will be there," she said. "Not that Palace, silly," Martin retorted. "I mean Crystal Palace. It's a football club."

The subsequent visit to Selhurst Park proved to be a life-changing experience for Hy (short for Hyacinth) Money, a housewife and mother of four young children. Not only was the royal flag flying - Gerry Queen scored for a Palace team beaten 5-3 by Manchester United in May 1971 - but the match-day occasion, from the milling crowd outside to the frenetic action on the pitch, captivated her. Money decided there and then that she wanted to become a sports photographer.

Thirty-five years on, her Palace work has been assembled in a 380-page book. Hy on Palace is a fascinating collection of pictures, not so much of the on-pitch drama (though Money is an accomplished action photographer) as of the soap opera behind the scenes.

Money, who was born in Bangalore and came to Britain at 19, was given access to almost every nook and cranny of life at the Palace during the chairmanships of Arthur Wait, Ray Bloye and Ron Noades, though she has visited Selhurst Park less frequently in recent years.

For nearly 30 years from 1971 Money photographed directors, managers, players, wives, girlfriends, families, back-room staff and supporters. She was behind her lens when Malcolm Allison met Palace's players for the first time as their new manager, when Alan Whittle had his hair permed, when the porn actress Fiona Richmond stripped off at a training session, when the Prime Minister of Rhodesia called and when Mark Bright and Ian Wright celebrated promotion in the dressing-room bath.

"A lot of the photographs are pictures which men just wouldn't think of taking," she said. "I think when people see this little lady taking their photograph that rather disarms them. They're used to strapping male photographers barging their way through."

The prospect of a woman elbowing her way to the front did not impress those male sports photographers who signed a petition in an unsuccessful attempt to stop the National Union of Journalists admitting Money.

"They couldn't handle the idea of a woman sports photographer," Money said. "They were very hostile. They'd ask if I'd brought my knitting with me. One of them bumped into me one day and said: 'Sorry, sir. I didn't see you standing there.'

"I remember going to an athletics meeting at Crystal Palace and placing myself behind this line where the photographers were supposed to sit. A gang of male photographers then arrived and all sat in a line in front of me."

Thankfully, Money says, the men on the other side of her camera have been more welcoming. "I went to take pictures of Muhammad Ali at a restaurant in London," she recalled. "The other photographers were all twice my size. I had my earrings ripped out and my glasses knocked off in the crush. Muhammad Ali could see I was struggling and said: 'Gentlemen, give this lady a break!' Somebody shouted out: 'She ain't no fucking lady!' They all burst out laughing. He was the only gentleman in the room.

"I've always got on well with goalkeepers. I remember one day when all the action was down the other end in Palace's half. The opposition goalkeeper kept flirting with me. He asked me for my number. I just pointed at the number on my photographer's bib.

"I remember Palace playing Chelsea when it was so cold that my camera felt like a block of ice. I could hardly press the trigger. Peter Bonetti was running backwards and forwards trying to keep warm and alert, because nearly all the action was down the other end. He could see I was cold, so he took his goalkeeper's gloves off and gave them to me. The next minute Palace attacked and scored. The ball went through Bonetti's bare hands. I said to him: 'I'm so sorry'."

Money recalls only two examples of chauvinism from people within football. "I was working at Palace during one game, wearing my orange photographer's bib, when Brian Clough shouted out: 'Hey, you, Four Eyes! Get off the pitch!'

"I pointed to my official bib, but he said a football pitch was 'no place for a woman'. He called a steward and told him: 'Get rid of her.' Terry Venables was in Palace's dug-out and asked what all the commotion was about. Terry told me to stay where I was. Clough said to Terry: 'Oooh, it's like that, is it?' I think it was because his team was losing. He was using a lot of foul language.

"The other occasion was at Tottenham. Bill Nicholson, the Spurs manager, saw me and said: 'What have we got here?' I showed him my pass, but he said the only way that I could take photographs would be if I sat behind an advertising hoarding so that nobody would see me. 'This isn't a circus here,' he said."

Noades has bought 40 copies of Money's book, though there is one photograph which infuriated him at the time, when he had been accused of racism in comments he had made about black players.

"Ron's wife, Novello, phoned me to say she'd have an exclusive photograph for me at a match," Money said. "She told me not to let anyone know that she had tipped me off. She was sitting next to Ron in the front row of the directors' box. She took off her jacket and was wearing a T-shirt saying: 'My husband is not a racist'.

"The only problem was that part of it was tucked up under her armpit and the words you could read were: 'My husband is a racist'. She was pretending she couldn't see me and I was frantically trying to get her attention, trying to tell her to pull the T-shirt down.

"Ron realised what was going on and didn't want anything to do with it - as you can see from the photograph. After the match he went absolutely mad with me, saying I had abused his hospitality. It was then that I told him that it was his own wife who had set me up to take the pictures."

Hy on Palace is published by Crystal Palace fans' Centenary Publishing (PO Box 2005, London SE25 5EN)