Pardew looks back on his Palace days with pride

The Northern Echo: HAPPY DAYS: Alan Pardew is proud of his achievements as a player with Crystal Palace. Newcastle take on the Eagles at Selhurst Park later today HAPPY DAYS: Alan Pardew is proud of his achievements as a player with Crystal Palace. Newcastle take on the Eagles at Selhurst Park later today

ALAN PARDEW returns to Crystal Palace for the first time as a Premier League manager this afternoon, and regards his Selhurst Park playing days as a golden period for the south London club that is unlikely to be repeated.

Pardew spent four years with Palace after signing his first professional forms in 1987, and helped the Eagles win promotion to the First Division after a play-off win over Blackburn two years later.

The following season, he scored the winning goal as Palace beat Liverpool 4-3 in an FA Cup semi-final, and was part of the side that lost to Manchester United in the final after a replay.

He also helped the Eagles to a third-placed finish in the top-flight before moving on to join Charlton, and while he is delighted to see his old club back in the Premier League following last season's promotion from the Championship, he admits it is hard to see them hitting similar heights to the ones they scaled in the late 1980s and early 1990s.

“It's difficult for a team like Palace to repeat what they did, coming up and doing so well,” said Pardew. “I think that's fair to say. The gap between between a club like Manchester United and Palace back then was so much smaller. I'm not saying that we could compete with them on an even footing back then, but the teams were certainly much closer than they are now.

“These top clubs have such a depth of squad now, and with the finance they have available, it's a little bit of a worry that the fantasy can't come true any more. We even finished third one year, and that was a hell of an achievement for what you might consider a yo-yo team.”

Palace plucked Pardew from the non-league scene, with the former midfielder having played for the likes of Epsom & Ewell, Corinthian Casuals, Dulwich Hamlet and Yeovil Town before turning professional, and the Newcastle boss will always have a soft spot for the Eagles.

“It's just a love for me,” he said. “I love going there, and there are still people there that I remember, even if they're getting a little bit older than I would like. I like what they're doing. They've got good directors, and it looks like they've got a good plan.”

They also have one of Pardew's closest footballing friends, Tony Pulis, as manager, and with the former Stoke boss having inspired his new side to three wins in their last five matches, the Magpies manager is expecting a tough test.

“I'm pleased they took Tony, and it looks like it's been a really good move for them,” he said. “Tony plays a brand of football that's tough to play against. It's physically demanding, and at times direct.

“To play against it, you need to be able to stand up and be counted. All his teams have tested better teams than us in that way, and won. But it's about how we are playing. We're playing well, and we need to take that to Selhurst Park.”

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