Newcastle Fans: Why Crystal Palace Are In Love With 'Super Al'

Deconstructing a legend.
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Deconstructing a legend.

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Newcastle Fans: Why Crystal Palace Are In Love With 'Super Al'

Just as strongly as Newcastle fans seem desperate to rid themselves of Alan Pardew’s services, Palace fans are praying that he is on his way to Selhurst Park. It is quite unusual for the vast majority of the followers of both clubs involved in the movement of a manager to want the same thing. But then again Pardew is unusual and it is worth exploring just why he divides opinions so stridently.

To understand a little bit about the esteem he is held in by all Eagles it is important to go back to his origins as a player. When Steve Coppell brought him in 1987, he had not exactly ripped up many trees in his early years as a footballer, playing for a clutch of non-league teams such as Whyteleafe and Dulwich Hamlet before moving to Yeovil, who were still a non-league team back in the late 1980s.

He arrived with low expectations and on a suitably modest transfer fee of £7,500. Pardew the player could never be described as a prima donna.

The fact was that he was ‘one of the lads’ and someone we as fans could relate to easily was very much part of his appeal. He was never a gifted player and his moniker “Super Al” was initially used as a piss-take. He was viewed as an honest, workmanlike squad member who would deputise for the likes of the vastly superior Andy Gray and Geoff Thomas.

His game was based on effort and application and we all love a trier. He did come to the fore in the 1988/89 season and was an integral part of the team that won the Play-Offs Final against Blackburn, as Wright and Bright developed into the prolific strike partnership that then prospered in the top division and carried us to the club’s most successful period.

As most Palace fans will delight in recalling, the defining moment came of his career came at Villa Park in the 1990 FA Cup semi-final, when against all the odds he scored the winning goal in 4-3 win against the mighty Liverpool.

This was the Liverpool that boasted the likes of Beardsley, Barnes and Hansen and here they all were being humbled by a glazier. Not only that but he was part of the team that earlier in the season had been shellacked 9-0 at Anfield. His goal was a fittingly scruffy affair, headed in after a scramble from a corner. Nothing flash or beautiful but that was the moment his iconic status was cemented and the “Super Al” chant changed in its tone to one of reverence rather than amusement. 

He left the club in 1991, the season we finished third in the top division, the apex of Palace’s achievements. The many fallow years after the Team of the Eighties had disintegrated were forgotten and Pardew shone out as the epitome of the determination in that group of players to make the most of their ability and punch above their weight.

Some twenty-four years later he is on the verge of returning. He’s not a messiah but hopefully will serve as a reminder of the best years and a return to those heady days of the late 1980s / early 1990s.

Richard’s first book The A-Z of Football Hates is available in bookshops and online

Follow him on twitter @rcfoster and @AZFootballHates