Want the classic English redbrick stadium setting but with all the atmosphere of the Bundesliga? Head to Selhurst Park in South London…
Something’s stirring in the southern reaches of London’s terraced suburbia. Fed up with the stale atmosphere that has blighted the all-seater era of English football, in 2005 a group of Crystal Palace fans formed the European Ultra-like ‘Holmesdale Fanatics’. And it’s done wonders for the atmosphere.
I was in the Holmesdale Stand for a memorable Premier League match against Tottenham Hotspur recently – my first visit to Selhurst Park since 2010 – and it was great to hear the songs, see the flags flying and the fans jumping up and down. When done safely it’s what football’s meant to be – a good day out.
While fans instigated the Holmesdale Fanatics movement, the club itself has made an effort of pre-match entertainment with its famous ‘Crystals’ cheerleader group and on-pitch falconry, which seems to be the staple of any team that’s nicknamed ‘The Eagles’; you can also see pre-match eagle displays at Benfica and OGC Nice.
The Holmesdale Fanatics were only silenced once – by a Gascoigne-esque, Le Tissier-like goal-of-the-season contender from Spurs’ Dele Alli, which put the visitors ahead late on. They were soon vocal again as Palace pushed for a leveller that was denied twice by the bar.
I certainly hope the tourists behind me with their memento half-scarves enjoyed their first match in English football. They could not have picked a better venue or match.
Cracking match aside, it’s the most I’ve enjoyed a football match in England for a long time. If the every club had a Holmesdale Fanatics movement it would be a lot more fun.
How to get to Crystal Palace FC
Despite taking its name from the wonderful Crystal Palace that once stood atop Sydenham Hill before it burnt down in 1936, the club is actually nestled in the endless terrace housing of Selhurst, although you can see the TV mast that stands on the old Palace’s ruined foundations from the ground.
To get to Selhurst Park take the train to Selhurst station and follow the crowds.
Tickets for Category A games cost £35-45 for adults. For more ticketing information visit the Crystal Palace website.