In the modern money driven era, true club legends are rare.

Now, before I go any further, let me just pre-warn you that this will be the second time I mix football with Ice Hockey! So, as I was saying, true club legends are rare. Most clubs have had them over the years, some more than others. Man Utd probably have a whole list, Chelsea had John Terry and Frank Lampard, Arsenal had the likes of Henry, Bergkamp, Seaman, while for Liverpool it would be players such as Steven Gerrard, Robbie Fowler to name but a few. I have merely scratched the surface of it, as immediately Alan Shearer for Newcastle pops out at me. The shame of it is, as we move forward, how many more will we get to enjoy? There will be players who are well thought of, players who are loved, but that doesn't necessarily make them true club legends. I am talking about those players who dedicate their lives, their careers, to pretty much one club. They are there for the ups and the downs, they stay because they care, they give it everything because they care. These types of players are few and far between. Just look at West Ham, who have a player like Mark Noble on the books who is like part of the furniture, gives everything for the club and I would be amazed to see him leave. Meanwhile, you also have Marko Arnautovic, who runs round doing the hammers sign with his arms, but has just basically forced a pay rise by pretending to want to move to China. The game is changing, and so are those who play it.

Why am I saying this? Well, the last couple of weeks have got me thinking. I always have a favourite player at the team, that one who I connect with from the stands, who I love to watch more than any other. Through the years the likes of Gareth Southgate, Fan Zhiyi, Tony Popovic, Neil Shipperley, Shaun Derry and Mile Jedinak(I may have mentioned this before) have been some those of those to carry the tag of my 'favourite'. In the current playing side, that torch has passed to Luka Milivojevic. However, there is one man who did hold the role of 'favourite', but has progressed to my 'all time favourite'. That man, is true club legend, Julian Speroni.

In recent years, I have had to come to terms with the fact that I just don't get to see Jules play anymore, and instead, just have to be satisfied with knowing he is still here. To be honest, I don't think I could handle seeing him play for anyone else. In typical Palace fashion however, that has changed slightly in the last two weeks. Two keeper injuries in one game have meant that Jules has had to dust off the gloves and get back between the sticks. I was thrilled to be at Anfield to see his return live, it made the whole trip worthwhile. What angered me though, was some of the social media response after the game. People were actively targeting Jules, slating him for the third goal, saying he needs to retire, washed up, not good enough and so on. Yes, he made a mistake for the third goal, he will be the first to hold his hands up. People forget though, that at 39 years of age, he hadn't played a competitive game since December 2017. He doesn't play for the U23s, he doesn't even take part in the warm up on match days anymore(last season all three keepers would do this). All of a sudden, he was thrust into action, against the league leaders who boast one of the best attacks in the world currently. The first half, he didn't put a foot wrong. Second half, yes there was that error, but Liverpool scored three other goals as well, some from defensive errors, yet Jules took the criticism. How anyone could even bring themselves to type one word of criticism against Jules, the man who has given everything to our beloved club and cares so deeply about it, is just beyond me. Jules did not deserve that, and it hurt to see the criticism from the media as well. Thankfully, that was not to be how his playing days with us ended.

So while the last week or so have got me thinking, the events of this weekend are what have kicked me into gear to write this article. Here is where I swing into Ice Hockey for a little bit. As I have mentioned before, I am a New York Rangers fan. My favourite player for the Rangers is goaltender Henrik Lundqvist. When I was at the Garden last year, he didn't actually play, but from reading his bio alone in the programme, I was drawn to him like a moth to a flame. Henrik, like our Jules, is a true team legend. The Rangers are the only NHL franchise he has ever played for, having been there for 13 years. He took his spot as top keeper when he first walked in, and no one has been able to take it from him since. He has always been reliable, that extra bit of quality when it is truly needed. Even this season, as the Rangers are in the middle of a rebuild and so their results are erratic, Henrik has been a star. So many top saves have been the difference between Rangers having a small Play-Off hope, and being completely adrift. He holds so many records, and two weeks ago he moved into sixth spot for all time wins for goaltenders, with 446 career wins for the Rangers.

This weekend, normal NHL season action was on hold, as hockey went to San Jose for the All Star Weekend. The best players from the divisions were picked to compete in individual competition on one day, and then the All Star games on the next day. Henrik was the only Ranger picked to attend, for what was his fifth All Star series. On the first day, the goalies competed in the Save Streak competition, where they tried to make as many one on one saves in a row as possible. Henrik went last, with the target of 8 to beat. Not only did he beat it to win the competition, but he set a record of 12 consecutive saves!! The next day, he competed for Metropolitan Division in the All Star games. In each game, the goalies would play one period each. Henrik was solid in his period, as Metropolitan beat Atlantic 5-4 to reach the final. In the final, Henrik played the first period, keeping a shutout, as Metropolitan stormed into the lead, and eventually won 10-5 to win the All Star Series. Henrik was not only a winner, but he was the only goalie to keep a shutout in any of the three games. At 36, Henrik was still winning and breaking records, while proudly wearing the Rangers badge as he did so. Afterwards, he spoke so kindly of all the other players who had been involved, and stated he couldn't wait to get back to the Garden and play for Rangers again. The man, just like Jules, loves his team. When you watch his interviews, you can clearly see how much it means to him. He wears every loss like a scar, and carries such pride for every win earned. He wants to be the best he can be for Rangers, he wants nothing more than Rangers success. Sounds familiar doesn't it? Jules is exactly the same. This isn't just a club to him, as in his own words, it's family.

So what is my point? Well, my point is the Speroni's and the Lundqvist's of this world should be cherished, because the day will come when we don't have them anymore. Why moan about a man who has stepped up to the plate when all other options are gone, and still gave it everything despite the fact everyone thought his playing days were done? We seem to spend most of our days moaning about something or other, but legends such as these, they do not deserve to be on the end of it. Enjoy the fact that we still have them. Make the most of the fact that we can still see Jules come onto the pitch wearing the number jersey. It means everything to him when he does, and those of us who truly care, it means everything to us too. There are times when you just need to say, sod what the world thinks, I love this guy and that is all that matters. At Anfield, not one person criticised Jules. At the end of the game, he came down the other end of the pitch to applaud us, and he was given the love and respect that he deserves. THAT is how it should be, just as it was yesterday. Don't moan, instead sing his name with pride. Very soon it will be too late, and you will be left with nothing but regret. Oh, and contrary to what I have seen some Palace fan groups say, getting a name printed on a shirt is not just for kids, it is not embarrassing if adults do it. The day after Anfield, I purposely wore my red keepers shirt with Speroni on the back, because I didn't care what the world was saying about him, I am just proud and honoured to have had him in my life as a fan.

Thankfully, Anfield was not how his playing career ends. Yesterday he picked up a clean sheet, making some great saves in the process, especially a double save from an unmarked Nkoudou. If that was to be his last ever game, then it was the perfect end. Two years ago, when it looked like Jules would be stuck in the 390s for appearances, fate stepped and he got his starting place back, enabling him to reach 400(so glad to say I was there). Now, it has happened again, and having been tied with Nigel Martyn on 111 for the all time clean sheet record, fate got him back between the sticks and yesterday he surpassed it to stand alone on 112! Jules has earned it, of that there is no doubt. So please, in future, remember that while these days things cost so much, players like Henrik Lundqvist, like Julian Speroni, they are truly priceless.

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