How does having local players/ manager affect the fan base? What does palace do for the community?

Selhurst Park has been the home of Crystal Palace football club since 1924, based in South Norwood, Croydon. SE25 is a place our fans consider as their ‘home’ or their ‘church’. These keywords play a powerful part in how the fans view our football club and our area as a whole. Using the word ‘home’ indicates that fans feel welcome, home is somewhere where you make memories and have a deep attachment too. From growing up in the area whether you are watching palace at home or go to every game it becomes routine and part of your life. Some of the best memories of my childhood have been spent at Selhurst Park.

Describing CPFC as a ‘church’ means that fans worship the club, coming together as a group of people to support our local team.

Selhurst Park has always been somewhere where I have felt included and have been a part of something even from a young age I have always felt like palace is part of my identity.

Seeing as the local area is so important to our fans, having a manager and players that share that part of culture instils an instant bond between them and the fans which makes the relationship a little bit more special.

Born in Croydon in 1947, Roy Hodgson has returned to manage the club he played for as a youth. He attended John Ruskin Grammar School where he played on the school football team, then at 16 years old he joined the palace youth team spending two years there before advancing to the main squad in 1965. He then spent nearly 10 years playing non-league football then went on to pursue a managerial career in 1976.

A successful and intelligent man born and bred in South London, Hodgson has been a very reputable manager having had career spells at, Inter Milan, West Brom, Fulham and of course England.

Now 71, he becomes the oldest man to manage a team in the Premier League and because of this he will always be a respected man in the football industry.

At just 21 years old, Aaron Wan-Bissaka is already becoming a star in the making. Growing up in the New Addington area, where a lot of our fan base reside from. He attended Good Shepherd Primary school.

A rising star with a promising future, he is what our fans would refer to as ‘one of our own’,which could mean that we can relate to him being from the same area giving us both a sense of belonging.

Becoming a member of Crystal Palace at the age of 11, where he worked and trained tirelessly, when he turned 19 he started his senior career with us, which is still ongoing. As well as his success with Palace, Bissaka has represented his country by making into the Under 20’s and Under 21’s which is a remarkable achievement, and I’m sure we will see much more from this promising young footballer- not just at Palace, but in the England squad too.

Despite now being able to indulge in the fancy Premier League lifestyle, he is still very down to earth and always remembers the humble beginnings he came from, which he proves by doing a lot of work in the community, by himself and with the Palace For Life Foundation.

He recently made a visit back to his old primary school, Good Shepherd, and surprised students by taking part in an assembly where he gave a speech to students encouraging them with positive messages and reminding them its possible to achieve anything.

He also made an appearance at Gloves not Gunz boxing group, a boxing group based in South London that encourages people that are at risk of gang activity to take part in something positive and fight back against crime.

Wilfried Zaha is another local palace legend, moving to Thornton Heath from the Ivory Coast at aged 4 and he attended both Whitehorse Manor Junior School and Selsdon High School. As well as being part of the Crystal Palace Academy, Zaha also attended Premier League kicks which is an organisation set up back in 2006 with the intention of using football to help young people from troubled, hard-to-reach areas.

Playing the position as a forward, Zaha’s fast-paced and unpredictable style of football not only makes him a club hero but is so inspiring for any young footballer.

Much like AWB, Zaha has also done a lot of charity and community work.

Back in 2015 he announced that he would be donating 10% of his salary to help charities based in the UK and the Ivory Coast, also in 2018 he made a ‘substantial financial contribution’ to the development of the Crystal Palace Ladies team.

In recent months he paid a surprise visit to Whitehorse Manor, his former primary school, with the palace for life foundation. He gave a speech to the pupils to not only inspire them but also to remind them that despite the status you get as a Premier League footballer he is still a normal person who attended the same school as them.

Our fans and our local community mean a lot to CPFC, hence why the Palace For Life Foundation was set up. For over 25 years they have been helping and supporting people within the community, helping on average 13,000 a year and in the entire 25 years they have been running they have helped and supported over 325,000 people which is truly amazing. They focus on changing the lives of young people and families living in areas of deprivation and high crime rates, offering a variety of programmes to suit their needs.

Equal opportunities is something the PFLF believes in and likes to implement themselves, which is why we offer many programmes aimed at disabled people where they are encouraged to take part, learn new skills and discover their potential, working alongside well trained and friendly staff.

Here are just some of the programmes the PLFL have on offer for the community:

They offer a safe environment for young people and families with activities run by Palace For Life coaches.

· Premier League Kicks- A programme set up to motivate and install positive behaviour in young people through sport reaching areas of deprivation, attended by Wilfried Zaha

· Cheerleading- Classes avalible for both boys and girls of all abilities

· Snap Back- Working with young offenders and people from challenging backgrounds for 6 weeks to help them get back on track and improve their mental health and current situation.

· Learn it Live it- This programme allows young people and their families to gain access to free sports and educational services, it is supported by the Premier League Footballers Association. Activities include, football, cooking and boxing and also girls only activities.

· Parent Power- A support network for parents to learn more about the topics and issues that their young people might currently be facing.

The fact we have these people at our club local to the area and all the work that the PLFL do in the community is a clear indication of how important our local area is to us all. Even though gaining Premier League status, the majority of our fan base are fairly grounded and (as a club and individually based) we have been lucky enough not to attract a lot of ‘plastic’ fans who only support the club because of the status we have now. Instead our fans are extremely loyal not only to our club, but the area we know and love so well and the fact we are able to share that experience with our manager and some of our players makes the connection between us extremely strong.

I am proud to be part of this red and blue family.

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