It’s early morning on match day, and Im anxiously pacing around.
Already, I am holding up a white shirt convinced that it’s not ironed correctly, despite the fact it’s been ironed twice already. Luckily, I’ve been looking at it for so long there is no time to even attempt to iron it again. I haven’t all of a sudden decided I needed to wear shirts on a match day. Over the summer I was lucky enough to be offered a job stewarding at Selhurst Park and there is a very strict uniform policy in place and for someone like me that suffers anxiety and OCD, it can be somewhat of a nightmare. With my ironed shirt, trousers, tie and polished black shoes I make the 15-minute walk to Selhurst.
I make the journey to work filled with some excitement but mostly anxiety (if anyone ever sees me that’s why I have a towel in hand cause of excess sweating) The second I see Selhurst though the anxiety lifts and I always start smiling as I sometimes can't believe my luck that I get paid to be at the place that I love.
Most stewarding shifts take place a good few hours before kickoff, so that briefings can take place, and everyone knows where they should be. I steward in the Whitehorse Lane stand, which is a nice stand to work in, like all the stands it has its challenges, mostly being that it's so close to the away fans! As the same stewards work in each stand every week, we are a bit like a little family. We always do our score predictions before the shift starts and cover each other's positions when someone needs a quick bathroom break. It amazes me how such a diverse group of people are put together and work so well as one. Age ranges are from school leavers right up to pensioners. As a club that is so supportive of equal opportunities, we have a lot of staff with disabilities, which is always a great thing to see from a club.
The thing that I have found from talking to my fellow colleagues, is that for a large majority of people they are working match days as they may be full time students (like myself) and need to earn extra income, or have retired and are still wanting to work but on much less hours or the most striking ones I find is those that are working full time in other jobs but have to use this as an extra job to boost their income, as a lot of people will know living in London can be a very expensive place to live. I read some social media comments not that long ago where someone described the Palace staff as ‘lazy and incompetent’. When I see colleagues that are working their 8th day in a row, or are even booked elsewhere for a night shift, those are difficult comments to hear. I can't speak for everybody, but we care deeply about the club and we want us to be regarded as the best club in the league. We came in second of visit football to Liverpool last season, we are all working extremely hard to make sure this season we come in first!
Working as a steward can be a lot of fun, it can be quite tedious at times especially if you're in one position and are put there, long before the gates are even open and there’s no one even in stadium! Most of the time it is a lot of fun. I had the opportunity of working one of the main security gates and whilst going through lists of names, there was someone next to me waiting to get through the gate and without looking I up I asked them to have their ID’s out, when I did look up it was the one and only Max Meyer, who was looking very confused. Luckily he saw the funny side, and yes there was the occasion where I was trying to wave the Everton team bus down the road rather than wave them in the actual entrance (they did arrive the same time as the supporters so an easy mistake to make) and I have had a teddy thrown at me by one of Scott Dann’s children (the teddy did get returned). I’ve had some of the best times being pitch side, I love having a joke with the kids and then seemed to find it very funny as Kayla was flapping her wings at me and I started screaming and then pointed to a seagull and told her to go and deal with it cause ‘eagles eat seagulls’. As I can't turn round to see the game, I always seem to be being given a running commentary as to what's going on from who is ever is in front of me, which is great and I will always go along the row and high five everyone when we score. In those terms it's one of the best jobs in the world!
However, whilst there may be some highs with stewarding there are, on rare occasions, the not so great moments. Our EFL game against Colchester over the summer, it was a tough game not only because of being in the blazing heat for so many hours, there was points in the game when I was actually vomiting due to the extreme heat but had to see the shift through. After the game tempers were flaring a bit due to that missed penalty and there was a moment when someone tried to storm one of the gates and I was certain they were going to hit me but luckily calmed down and left. That brings me on nicely to the incredible ugly scenes that took place at the end of the game against Aston Villa. I don’t think anyone really expected that to happen and it was some of the worst scenes of violence since the 80’s. I had bottles and coins hit me, abuse was being thrown at me. I was watching as stewards were being punched and dragged into the crowd, shirts were being ripped. I don’t think there was a moment when I was scared because we have fantastic security, but I was worried about the fact there was a lot of kids around and I wanted to get them out of the stadium as quickly as possible. Even this week I had to ask a supporter to not do something that was against health and safety. While they initially refused, but did eventually do it, that didn’t stop them spending a good while mouthing abuse to me. I don’t set what the rules are, they come from the powers that be but I do have to enforce them because if I don’t, someone else will spot it and it’s my job on the line so please don’t give me abuse for it.
Whatever happens, me and my fellow colleagues will be there for every match, doing our best to make sure you have the best match day experience that you can have. We will give you a 100% because we truly are the best club in the world! UP THE PALACE!