Ask any continental for the reason he feels attracted to British football and he will undoubtedly point out some of the clubnames, which sound like sheer poetry. A club by the name of Crystal Palace was present at the first meeting of the Football Association at the Freeman’s Tavern in Great Queen Street in London on 26 October 1863. Palace, wearing blue and white at the time, were a working men’s team, founded by employees at the Crystal Palace in 1861. The original “Crystal Palace”, a ‘nickname’ provided by the local press, was a large glass structure built in 1851 from the design of Sir Joseph Paxton. The famous glass and iron palace was erected in Hyde Park for the Great Exhibition of 1851 and moved shortly afterwards to Sydenham Hill in South London. There it became a theme park until 30 November 1936, when it burned down.
The original Crystal Palace team competed in the first FA Cup held in 1871/72 and reached the semi-finals. Not long after that, the club disbanded. In the early days of the last century, the vast acres surrounding the palace itself had turned into a pleasure park, including an open arena that served as a host for FA Cup Finals, hosting a crowd of 120,000 for the 1913 Final. The ground’s owners took up the idea to form a football club and to enter the Southern League. They were thwarted however by the FA who rejected the application. They were suspicious of the fact that any team might have home advantage in a Cup final!! Palace’s founders therefore formed a separate company and became tenants of Crystal Palace. The FA duly admitted the new team as members in 1905.
Crystal Palace had to vacate the Palace ground when it was commandeered by the Admirality in 1915 during World War I. Keeping the same name, the club moved to the Herne Hill Velodrome in 1915 and four years later to a ground called The Nest, formerly the home of Croydon Common FC. A few years later, Crystal Palace vacated The Nest in favour of Selhurst Park. The site was a brickfield belonging to the London, Brighton and South Coast Railway Company. The club commissioned the famous architect Archibald Leitch to design their new home.
Historically The Palace club was always associated with shirts that were red (sometimes this was described as ‘cardinal’) or claret with blue sleeves and white shorts, introduced by the first Secretary-Manager E.F. Goodman who joined the club from Aston Villa and took the Birmingham club’s colours with him. There have been deviations of course. In the late Fifties and early Sixties the team adopted a kit that catches the eye of the enthusiast. A white shirt with a broad claret-blue-claret hoop was set off by the black shorts. A triumph of design.
In the early Seventies the team again found themselves in the top flight and celebrated with a succession of more eye-catching designs: claret shirts with light-blue pinstripes, unusually (for the time) set off by a yellow trim, to be followed by two separate designs of white shirts with broad claret and sky-blue stripes down the front. Probably the most popular strips at the Palace have been the original claret and blue shirts and the all-white one, with the diagonal red and blues sash which was first used in Palace’s successful run to the FA Cup semi-finals in 1977 and then from 1977-1983 and 1984-87.
From their inception, the Crystal Palace Football Club has always been known as “The Palace” or just simply as “Palace”. Three other nicknames have also been employed at different times. In its earliest days the club was dubbed “The Crystals” in the local press, but even before the end of the first season, 1905-1906, this had become “The Glaziers” because of the club’s association with the great glass Palace. It was this nickname that stuck, even after the club had moved to Herne Hill, The Nest and Selhurst Park. In the summer of 1973 the old nickname was dropped at the instigation of Malcolm Allison, and replaced by the more aggressive sounding “Eagles”. Traditionalists were a little disappointed at the change but in the end it was accepted
Allison also ditched the claret and sky-blue in favour of red-and-blue stripes to imitate the Barcelona look. However, the club’s first colours returned for a short period between 1978 and 1982, when a striking red and blue diagonal chestband impressed the opponents. A step back into club history, or a pure coincidence that that was the change strip worn by Manchester City during the Allison years. Who knows?
Palace’s first badge features the Crystal Palace Exhibition Hall where the club was formed. In the early Seventies, when sporting white shirts with two broad claret and blue stripes, the full club’s name appears in an elegant script. The present badge shows an eagle, perched on a football, with the contours of the famous glass and iron structure clearly visible.