Saturday, 12 July 2014

Argentina and South London's greatest goalkeeper

It is kind of fitting that with Argentina about to play in the World Cup final that Julian Speroni is celebrating 10 years as Palace's goalkeeper. Actually that is not quite accurate. It is 10 years since Speroni signed for Crystal Palace, a career book ended by very different experiences in the top flight.

In 2003/4 Palace under Dowie had been promoted via the playoffs. For reasons that now escape me Palace were without a first choice keeper and used a number of loan signings, with Nico Vassen doing the job in the play off final. Vassen had made enough of an impression on the supporters to even have his own song. Not complex it was his name sung to the tune of 'Lip up Fatty.' Agsin for  reasons that escape me Vassen didn't want to stick around and we signed the Argentinian from Dundee who wore a pony tail a la David Seaman. 

Speroni's start was pretty shocking where behind a newly promoted defence he made a series of blunders, most famously at home to an Everton side who were themselves struggling up to that point. For a keeper Speroni is small, and in a league where commanding you box matters lots he seemed a bit lightweight.Dowie lost confidence in him and the big charismatic and decidedly odd Gabor Kiraly was brought in. At this point JS disappears from view. I guess I expected him to slip away like so many of the other unimpressive post promotion signings. For two seasons after he hung around playing second fiddle to the increasingly annoying Kiraly and then Scott Flinders. 2007/8 everything changes. Starting the season as no 12 he makes 40odd first team appearances of growing assurance to go with the undoubted reflexes to become player of the year. When Palace went into one of their periods of administration he stayed loyal to further enhance his status as not only a great keeper but good human being. The ultimate reward, a return to the Premiership could have been a double edged sword. Like much of the team he struggled early on, and even when the saviour Pulis arrived the vultures were circling. A contract running out and the Christmas signing of Wayne Hennessey suggested that the future would not be his. But this time he didn't choke on the big stage, instead turned in some of his finest performance to keep Palace in games, and keep Hennessey on the bench. 

He has earned a new contract though in my heart of hearts it won't take much for Pulis to ease him to one side. It has been a wonderful but strange path he has trodden at Selhurst. How many 'big foreign signings' languish in thr reserves foe three years only to emerge to become an ever present talisman for the team for the next seven.