Ok, so I am well aware how misleading the title can be. So let me clarify, this is NOT an article about injured players! Instead, I am looking at a Palace XI made up of players that for me, personally, were massive losses that were tough to get over or accept.

The idea for this article first came to mind when I was piecing together the Christmas Palace XI article. As I squeezed Mile Jedinak into that festive line up, it reminded me of how much I genuinely missed having that warrior of a man at my club! Now, because my mind has adapted itself to always thinking about possible Back Of The Nest articles, I started to think about who else has played for us over the years, that their absence has felt like a huge loss to me and been difficult to get over. Amazingly, I was able to put together a starting eleven, who would have thought it!

Now, let me explain a little on how I have decided this. There are some players that, as weird as it may sound, I just adored at this football club. Players who epitomised everything that I felt this club stood for, and meant to me. They were players who, to this very day, I wish I could see in a Palace shirt again, and would love to have at the club in one capacity or another.

There are also some players who were absolutely fantastic, who would have taken this club to another level and been legends here, but for one reason or another, we never got to experience that. Both of these types of player have come together and form this starting eleven.

Oh, and for those who may think it was a struggle, It wasn't. In fact, I could have probably named a subs bench! There are a couple of names I could have put in. Tony Popovic is one, but then I realised he played about five seasons and chose to leave on a free, so didn't qualify for a starting spot. Julian Speroni is another. My all time favourite player, I absolutely love this man and even though he hasn't yet left, I fear his retirement is coming and I have missed seeing him play for us this past year. However, there is another keeper who I always bring up in these kind of discussions, who simply had to get the number one shirt. One other I will mention, was AJ. Andy Johnson nearly made the team because quite simply, we had been desperate for a player like him for years, and we did not replace him until Glenn Murray came along. Again, there is another name, perhaps just mentioned, that deservedly gets the nod. So, without further ado, here is my Absent Eagles XI. Oh, and just for a change, I have dropped my usual 4-4-2 I use on anything football related, and have gone 4-3-3!

MANAGER - Steve Bruce

So, for me this is the most likely choice, despite the fact that the very reason he is in this team, has made me have a serious dislike towards him for years! The guy is a snake, and I will never forgive him for walking out on us to join Birmingham. Not only that, but he immediately unsettled Jovan Kirovski, and then came back to sign Clinton Morrison. Also, because of Bruce, we got lumped with Trevor Francis and his dire football, in what was blatantly a failed attempt by Simon Jordan to stick it to Birmingham. It is undeniable though, the effect that Bruce had on us in his short time. I was at his first game away to Rotherham, where he came out into the ground early and told a few of us fans about the incoming Tony Popovic, before we came from 2-0 down to win 3-2. I was also at the game away to Wolves, where we beat them 1-0 to go top. We were playing brilliantly, and promotion was on the cards. Then the Birmingham rumours started, our performances dropped and Bruce quit to move to the Midlands. I really believe that had he stayed, we would have been promoted that year and gone on to bigger things. Bruce had other plans. But as a manager, he certainly qualifies as someone who was clearly taking us places, but we were robbed of that journey.

GOALKEEPER - Matt Clarke

There was no more fitting choice than this man. Signed from Bradford, Matt Clarke was simply a quality keeper. Nigel Martyn had owned that number one spot, and his departure left a huge hole in our team. Matt Clarke in my opinion, would have been the long term replacement, and would have been a pleasure to watch. However, injury took him from us, and that large hole remained unfilled until one Julian Speroni came along and made the spot his own. What could have been had Clarke stayed injury free? Only good things I'm sure.

RIGHT BACK - Marc Edworthy

Most definitely my favourite right back I have seen in a Palace shirt, although Aaron Wan-Bissaka is certainly likely to take that crown! Edworthy had pace, loved a tackle and was just always reliable in our back line. He had plenty more to give us, but Terry Venables in that joke of a Mark Goldberg era, decided to force him out and his talents were used elsewhere. It has been hard to replace him long term, and some decent players have tried, with Danny Butterfield the most successful. AWB though, if he stays, will be the ultimate replacement.

CENTRE BACK - Craig Moore

What a player Craig Moore was. We have been quite lucky with the Aussie contingent who have pulled on the red and blue. Most have been hard working, talented players who gave it everything. Craig Moore was certainly one of those, and in his brief spell after signing from Rangers, his quality was clear for all to see. Sadly, we would soon be forced to look back in fond memory, and wonder what might have been. Financial errors meant we could not afford to finish the payments, and so he transferred back to Rangers. Solid as a rock, the guy could have been a legendary Palace Captain, but we never got to experience it, and like with Matt Clarke, that just guts me.

CENTRE BACK - Hermann Hreidarsson

Now, Hermann is the player that you could say is an odd one out in this team. We have had far better defenders before him, and since him. However, the season he signed, while we were a real mess in the Premier League, he stood out as one of the few shining lights. He was versatile, hungry, passionate and gave it everything. He could have been a player that would have served us incredibly well for years. Instead, he was shown the door under Venables and chose to drop down two leagues to follow Ron Noades to Brentford. A season later, while we failed to return to the Premier League, he actually made it courtesy of a transfer. He spent 15 years in this country and was always a solid, reliable player who also liked a goal or two. Many of those years should have been spent with us, but we missed out.

LEFT BACK - Ashley Cole

This spot nearly went to Dean Gordon, who proved irreplaceable for many, many years. However, we got plenty of game time from Deano, so he misses out. Ashley Cole was one of the players we tried to replace Deano with. There was a pattern though at left back for a long time. Anyone signed permanently seemed to be poor, and players we signed on loan, were quality. Ashley was one of those players, who came in for a brief loan stint and simply shone. He was so good, we were all desperate to keep him. He wasn't alone in this area though, as Terry Phelan, Kenny Brown and Steve Staunton all did the same. They came in on loan, made us a better team, and then when they left, we just weren't the same. Ashley though, was different because he was the one starting his career. I don't care what anyone says, we made Ashley Cole. He was never going to get into the Arsenal team, but his performances for us made Wenger go with him the following season, and we all know the rest. He ended up one of the best English left backs we have seen, and us Palace fans were left to dream about what could have been, had we made him permanent. Just like with Phelan, Staunton and Brown though, we were never able to.

CENTRAL MIDFIELD - Aki Riihilahti

Aki was a player it was impossible not to love. He loved a sliding tackle, had a great shot on him, gave everything for the cause and was just such a charismatic personality. He was a joy to have at the club, a breath of fresh air who did everything he could for us. He is one of those who still holds the club fondly in his heart, even now. After his departure we missed both his on the pitch presence, and his personality off of it. I never wanted him to leave, and I always wish he would come back in some capacity. Hell, I would be glad to just have the Aki half time entertainment show! Reading his media articles were always very entertaining, and so I imagine he could be just the same at half time! Best Finland player to ever grace our colours.

CENTRAL MIDFELD - Mile Jedinak(C)

He simply had to be in this team, given he inspired it. What a man, what a player, what a captain. Wore his heart on his sleeve. He gave us everything and more, he would never die. Led us perfectly, be it verbally, with a crunching tackle or a much needed goal. He was a warrior, and he always fought for us. One of my best mates and I still joke to this day, that we imagined when new signings arrived at the club, they would be sent into a room with Jedi and Damo, so the law could be laid down to them! He is not just in this team, he captains it. That is a huge honour, given that the next guy stakes a claim for the armband also. There are moments throughout my life regarding Palace that will always stay with me due to the emotion of them, and Jedinak owns two of them. The first, was on November 23rd 2014. Palace beat Liverpool at home 3-1, and I missed it because I was at the hospital with my wife who had gone into labour. Don't get me wrong, I'm not bothered about missing the game, the birth of my daughter comes first every time. It is the way he celebrated his absolute belter of a free kick(as seen in the picture below) that stands out, because it epitomised the sheer joy and emotion that my daughter Hermione being born meant to me. The fact that it came from one of my favourite players on that very day, it will stay with me forever. Every time I see that goal, see his celebration, I think of Hermione and something like that is precious. The other moment, was in May 2016 at the end of the FA Cup Final. A final we deserved, both as players and fans, yet suffered heartbreak in. I will always remember Mile coming over to us at the end of the game to applaud us. The emotion was clear on his face, but he was holding it together. That is until Keith Millen came over to embrace him, and right in front of us I watched as our beast broke down on Millen's shoulder. I shed a tear myself, no lie. It was so powerful, and showed how we all felt the same in that very moment. So yes, I have a man crush on Mile, and no, I will not apologise for it. Pardew forced him out, and it took Big Sam to eventually replace him with Luka.

CENTRAL MIDFIELD - Shaun Derry(VC)

Another absolute fighter. I'm talking more the second stint Derry. First time round he wasn't bad, but when Neil Warnock brought him back, he was immense. Warnock inherited a team that had talent, but absolutely no fight and so was dying in the relegation zone. Warnock realised this, and brought in Clint Hill and Shaun Derry. Derry was only on loan, but immediately we took an upturn as much needed bite and ferocity were added to the team. We both gave each other something, Derry the much needed game time, and us the battling heart in the middle of the pitch. Thankfully, this was one loan we did make permanent and he continued to be a rock for us in the centre. He never shied away, never gave up, and very much deserved to wear the captain's armband. In his final season, the one with the Sheffield Wednesday finale in which relegation would have meant extinction, Shaun Derry epitomised the passion and desire that remained within the club. He helped galvanise what we had left, and carried us through. I don't blame him for leaving, he deserved to have some certainty in his final years, and by god did we miss him when he was gone. Palace have always needed a badass defensive midfielder in the team, and he was certainly one of them. He even gave the motivational speech during the Palace vs Brighton fans charity game, one in which he made the cameras be turned off for. I have since been told what was said by someone who was there, and it only made my heart grow fonder for this true Palace hero. He gets to be Vice Captain, and damn it, I would give him an armband to wear as well, because he earned it.

RIGHT WING - Attilio Lombardo

Here is where I am about to cause a little controversy. Most fans say that Wilfred Zaha is the best player this club has ever had, and in most ways, I don't argue with that at all. However, I say that Lombardo is the greatest player I have seen in a Palace shirt. Confused? Probably, but it is my opinion. Lombardo was just a sheer footballing genius who had been a star in Serie A. I still remember when I first read in the papers that we wanted him. It was a tiny little few line article and I simply laughed. We had just been promoted back up to the Premier League, courtesy of that David Hopkin curler, and yet had then lost our main player in Hopkin, to Leeds. No way was a world class international like Lombardo going to leave Sampdoria to join us. Yet he did, and he even scored on his debut, just to help make it real. He had more talent and natural ability than the rest of the squad put together and was the biggest ever name signing I had seen Palace make up until that point of my life. Sadly, injuries hampered him and left us wondering what could have been, had he stayed fit all season, along with other key players. He left during the following season and I always felt that because of injuries, we never got the pleasure to see him enough. What a delight it was though, to watch that man when he was on the pitch. We did not see quality like that at Selhurst Park for a long time after his departure.

STRIKER - Glenn Murray

Glenn owns this spot, hands down, because he qualifies for this team twice. When we signed him on a free from Brighton, we all rejoiced at the fact we had gazumped our bitter rivals, by signing their top scorer for nothing. His first season however, was a bit of a stinker. His second season though, was a glorious goal bonanza that helped see us back to the promised land, in which we have since remained unto this day. In the play off though, in the first leg at home to Brighton, Murray picked up the knee ligaments injury that would rule him out of almost our entire first season back up, and this is the first time he qualifies for this team. Imagine what that first season would have been like, had Murray been in the team? The struggle would have not been so bad, that is for sure. I mean, Cameron Jerome worked hard up front, but two goals all season was a shocking return. We saw a glimpse in the Liverpool game, just how magical a partnership with Gayle could have been, but it was taken away from us courtesy of the injury. Then, we loaned him out at the start of the next season, and were having to watch him score goals elsewhere, while we struggled. It was no surprise to any of us, when we brought him back, that his goals, and hold up play, helped secure a second survival. Unfortunately, the ego that is Alan Pardew didn't want to keep him, and so he was sold to Bournemouth. For a while, you could argue that it seemed like good business. We made £4million on an ageing player we had signed for free, and he was then loaned out by Bournemouth back to Brighton in the championship. However, he then fired the goals to help Brighton to get promoted, and was then top scorer for them last season in the Premier League. In fact, I believe he may well be again currently. What makes it worse, is that during that time, we have been desperate for a striker. What makes it even worse, is that he now scores goals for a set of fans who genuinely celebrated his career threatening injury at Selhurst Park on that Play Off night. Just think how things could be different, if we still had Glenn. One decent Benteke season aside, we have not replaced Murray.

LEFT WING - Victor Moses

Finally, we have Victor. He was Wilf before Wilf, as it were. We got to watch him break into the first team at an early age, and very quickly make it hard for the manager to drop him. Not only that, but he became a darling of the fans. We love home grown talent, and there is nothing better than seeing products from our academy grow and thrive in our first team. Victor was certainly starting to do that. In fact, during a time when there was little to get excited about at our games, Victor was the one bright spark that could light up a game. He, like Wilf, moved on at a younger age. However, Wilf had achieved more with and for us than Victor had. Plus Wilf moved because it was impossible for us to turn away Man Utd at that time, while Victor was sold as we were broke and desperately had to balance the books. For Wilf, as we know, it did not work out at United, and he was back within a year. Victor has never come back. He did well at Wigan, to earn a Chelsea move. He then seemed to struggle, both at Chelsea and in a loan spell at Liverpool, before Antonio Conte came along and gave him a key role in winning the Premier League. We never got to see enough of Victor, we never got to enjoy the fruits of our Academy labour, and I always wonder what might have been, had he stayed. I just live in the faint hope that we bring him home this month, but sadly, I feel I will be disappointed.

So there you have it, my Absent Eagles XI. Not a world beating team, but that front line could do some magic, and our midfield three would certainly take no prisoners! I hope you have enjoyed the read, and a possible trip down memory lane!

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