It was exactly three years ago today that a Kevin Phillips penalty sent Crystal Palace back to the Premier League in a 1-0 win over Watford at Wembley.
At the end of what had been an utterly absorbing season, Ian Holloway’s Eagles ran out 2-0 aggregate winners over bitter rivals Brighton, before taking on Gianfranco Zola’s Watford team in the showpiece final.
After a campaign which had seen the heartbreaking departure of Dougie Freedman to Bolton Wanderers midway through October, a Palace side spearheaded by the attacking drive of Wilfried Zaha, Yannick Bolasie and the prolific Glenn Murray continued to put defences to the sword under Holloway’s guidance, surviving an end of season scare to secure a place in the play-offs with a dramatic win at home to Peterborough on the final day.
The 90 minutes that was to follow under the famous arch of England’s national stadium has more than likely taken a few days off the lives of 30,000 or so South Londoners, who, full of hope and desire, looked on as one throughout an utterly pulsating clash which would eventually result in the biggest domestic payday any club can receive in one hit.
For neutrals the game may not go down as a classic, as Palace, without the services of the aforementioned Murray (thanks to a horrific ACL injury) turned to Aaron Wilbraham to lead the line; a man who, whilst never lacking in drive, didn’t strike the same sort of fear into opposition centre-backs as his noticeably more moody teammate.
The decisive moment, poetically brought about by a trademark piece of trickery from the always dangerous Wilfried Zaha, saw the old man of the Palace team Kevin Phillips hammer home a penalty kick from 12 yards. The palpable sense of nervous energy that hung over the red and blue half of Wembley really wasn’t necessary in hindsight, there was no way Super Kev was going to let the opportunity to seize glory pass him by.
It is a day which will rightly live in the memories of Palace fans until their dying breath, with the video attached above doing a fine job of summarising the anxiety-ridden wave of emotion we all rode for a little over two hours.