Julian Speroni isn't just a legendary player. He is a legendary person says Rob.
The word legend is so frequently used that it carries less gravitas than it used to.
A legend isn’t just a player who featured for a season or two. Or a player who scored a few goals. A legend is someone who created a legacy. The kind of player that, when pictured, people identify with the club he played for. Or a moment in time that he created. Someone you can identify with. Someone who is era-spanning, history-defining.
Julian Speroni is all those things. But in his case, the word really doesn’t do his contribution justice. He didn’t just touch upon the playing field but touched the lives of those around him. He wasn’t just a hero to the fans, he was a friend. He wasn’t just a teammate, he was a leader. He wasn’t just a player, he was a saviour. Not just of shots, but of the club he played for.
There have been a few excellent goalkeepers at Crystal Palace. There’s typically a list of three that come to mind. John Jackson. Nigel Martyn. Julian Speroni.
Fans of other clubs might never really understand the fuss about our Argentinian legend. And that’s okay. But they don’t know what we know.
READ MORE: Julian Speroni - The Rise of a Palace Legend
They don’t know that he stuck around despite being maligned by a succession of not-very-good managers. They don’t know that he took on the challenge of having to impress new managers each time one walked through the front door (17, if you include caretaker managers). They don’t know that, at a time where the club was on its hands and knees, he refused moves. They don’t know about the many saves we’ve witnessed.
They don’t know that he’s been through everything we have been through over the last 15 years; wins, losses, promotions, relegations, administrations. And that’s okay. He’s ours, not theirs. These are our memories to cherish.
There are so many things that speak truth to the character of Speroni. Whether you ask those who help with the Crystal Palace Supporters Children’s Charity, where each Christmas he would dedicate extra time to spend with the kids in attendance. Or with the Palace For Life Foundation, where his Testimonial Fund helped to pay for the purchase of powerchairs so kids could play powerchair football.
Or with the many kids and adults that ask for his autograph or photo inside and outside the stadium. Or with the Holmesdale Fanatics, with whom he built a special bond during his testimonial year. Or even with us at FYP, where he spent hours talking about his love for the club on numerous occasions.
This is a man who goes out of his way every time to help people. To be present. In a world where the closest you’ll get to a footballer is from behind a security cordon or on social media, Speroni was the most human, most accessible player you could meet.
Times haven’t always been easy for Julian. His career started on the wrong foot, and it took him years to finally convince the people that mattered that he was the goalkeeper that Iain Dowie had seen so much in when he first signed from Dundee. Even in recent years where contracts haven’t always been as forthcoming as in previous years, Julian has stuck around, proved his worth and when needed, has stepped in to the fold and done his best.
Some will say that age has caught up with him, but Julian will tell you that age is just a number, and that his physical fitness and sharpness are still there. That he is leaving the club to seek first team football is testament to that drive and desire he still carries.
We will all be sad to see him making his last appearance at Selhurst Park on Sunday. Whether he plays or not, it’s imperative that those who can, stick around to show appreciation to one of the truest of Palace legends there is.
There will always be a place at this club for Speroni. There should be a statue in his honour.
Thank you Julian Speroni. See you soon, we hope.