Back in the Day: May 26th - David Hopkin Looking to Curl One
Monday 26th May 1997
Crystal Palace 1-0 Sheffield United
League Division One Play-Off Final – Att: 64,383
Manager: Steve Coppell
364 days earlier, personally, I had suffered my first true heartache as a Crystal Palace fan. In injury time at the end of extra time at Wembley, Steve Claridge’s shinned effort found a way into the top corner and Leicester were on their way to the Premier League at the expense of Palace.
After a topsy-turvy campaign, Sir Steve Coppell, who had replaced Dave Bassett earlier in the season, had steered Palace to a sixth-placed finish. From there, the Eagles had despatched Wolves in the Play-Off Semi-Final, thanks to Dougie Freedman and David Hopkin, and only Howard Kendall’s Sheffield United stood between Palace and the Premier League.
It was a blazing hot day! The sweat patches to Kendall’s lime green shirt and the worry that David Hopkin looked like he might melt into the Wembley turf showed that it was certainly not the sort of weather to be playing football in and the game suffered as a result. The two sides had met six weeks in a fiery affair at Bramall Lane, and many expected the fireworks to be reignited between the two sets of players – but it was even too hot for that.
Neil Shipperley headed over the best chance of the first half, when he really should have scored, and Hopkin almost slid home a Bruce Dyer cross in the second. The Blades rarely threatened at the other end, with only a speculative Jan Aage Fjortoft volley giving Carlo Nash anything to worry about in the Palace goal.
With the game drifting towards extra time, and the inevitable sunstroke that would follow, something magical happened. The entire Palace end started to sing in unison and the players on the field wearing Red ‘n’ Blue took notice. Suddenly there was a little more spring in their step, and a passage of pressure started to build. “We love you Palace” gave Hopkin the energy to charge down the keeper and force his clearance out of play. From the resulting throw, and with the clock ticking towards ninety minutes, Dean Gordon picked up the ball on the edge of the area and let fly from with his weaker right foot. His effort was deflected wide for a corner:
“…now it is a worrying time for Howard Kendall’s Sheffield United. The Palace fans away to our left are out of their seats, can they win it?”
I remember being furious at the time that we took a short corner, but my fury was mislaid:
“And the corner is taken, and Simon Rodger floats it in, and it’s cleared by Tyler again.”
The ball drops twenty-five yards from goal and Hopkin has only enough time to control the ball with his left to get a shot away with his right. He executes everything perfectly – as did the commentator:
“David Hopkin, looking to curl ONE!... ABSOLUTELY AMAZING! HALF A MINUTE TO GO AND CRYSTAL PALACE HAVE DONE TO SHEFFIELD UNITED WHAT LEICESTER DID TO THEM A YEAR AGO!”
A handful of touches later and the game was over. Palace were back in the ‘big time’.
David Hopkin’s Goal
Tuesday 26th May 2015
Crystal Palace 4-3 Dundee
Julian Speroni Testimonial
After ten years at the Club, Julian Speroni was awarded a testimonial – and what a night it was.
When Dundee were announced as the opponents earlier in the year, many Palace fans were a bit disappointed that the game would not be played against a more “glamorous” opponent. By the end of the night, everyone was grateful that Jules had stayed loyal to his roots in British Football.
1,758 Dundee fans made the trip to Selhurst Park and created a fantastic atmosphere and the two sets of fans forged a relationship on the evening that still endures a year later (writing in 2016) on all social media platforms.
Yannick Bolasie, Chung-Yong Lee and Dwight Gayle put Palace into a 3-0 lead before Carreiro scored the only goal of the night past Speroni. Gayle grabbed a second before the break when all of the subs poured into the game
On the hour Alan Pardew and John Salako entered the field, and a cross field ball from the then Gaffer to Salad was poorly controlled. The mock argument had the crowd in hysterics. Neil Ashton put in an appalling tackle that drew pantomime-esque jeers and laughs from the crowd, and even a tweet from Steve Parish:
Dundee pulled back two late goals through Charlie Adam and Kerr – but the hosts held on for the post-game bragging rights.
Palace Team: Speroni, Ramage, Hangeland, Delaney, Ward; Zaha, McArthur, Bannan, Bolasie; Lee, Gayle
Palace Subs: Price, Butterfield, Lawrence, Riihilahti, Pardew, Salako, Morrison, Ashton, Pedercini, E. Speroni, Borsalino, Barrionuevo, Fendley
Dundee Team: Gourlay, Irvine, McGinn, McPake, McAllister, Stewart, Tankulic, Gadzhalov, Adam, Carreiro, Wighton
Dundee Subs: Konrad, Nemsadze, J. Black, A. Black, Kerr, Colquhoun, Caballero, Sara, Carranza, Ketsbaia
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