I desperately wanted to hate Selhurst Park. Every football fan I’ve ever known has hated visiting it, Sunderland were relegated there in 1997, and we were cheated out of a play off final at the hands of Palace a few years after that.
But looking at it as a neutral, Selhurst Park borders magnificent. And I hate myself for saying it. Half the ground is a bloody Sainsbury’s supermarket, one stand is entirely hidden by some houses and a nightclub, there’s not an inch or real estate that Palace haven’t pimped out. In fact, Selhurst Park must be the only ground in Britain where there’s a turnstile next door to a minicab office. Hell, let’s change that to world football.
Yes this is a ground absolutely wedged into the heart of its fanbase. It’s bang in the middle of housing, old pubs and the very community it’s there to serve. It’s clad in nice new shiny signs, but not in an overly commercial way, just in a “let’s make sure this is tidy” sort of way.
There are the odd quirks – the main one being half of the ticket office devoted to purely selling programmes. That’s the sort of weird thing that floats my boat. And a ticket office with some of the smallest windows I’ve ever seen in my life. I’ve no doubt that some of the sight lines are awful, and there’s no doubt it’s an absolute bastard of a ground to travel to, but that shouldn’t lose it points.
It also has the holy grail for ground-hopping stadium tourists like me – the ability to peak inside. Don’t get me wrong – there’s not a lot to see, but ten yards of the pitch and a stand will do for me – we all know stadiums differ hugely on the inside and out.
There’s also a wonderful old-school grandstand that actually sits behind one of the goals, a hotchpotch of old stands around that and enough spunk about it for me to have enjoyed a wander around there.