The FYP Interview - Neil Morrissey

Written by Jim Daly

This interview appeared in FYP issue 28 - December 2011



We all had dreams involving Palace when we were kids; most involved playing for South London’s finest, or maybe owning and running the club, but Neil Morrissey just wanted to make beer for his beloved club.

And now, thanks to an agreement between the star of Men Behaving Badly and plenty of other shows to have graced our TV?screens over the last two decades, and the new Palace owners CPFC 2010, Morrissey’s Blond Palace Ale is on sale at Selhurst, and going down well.

FYP somehow manages to get a free pint in the Selhurst boardroom, and sits down with the actor to discuss all things Palace.

FYP:?Here we are, Neil, in the boardroom of the club we both love, with a pint of your very own beer. Doesn’t get much better than that does it?

NM: I get a bit of movement in the downstairs trouser area every time I walk into this boardroom and the added buzz now is that apart from the fact that any man's dream is to make his own ale, I make my own ale and it’s at my club.

We get the trouser thing too - but mainly for the Crystals. How did the beer thing come about?

I had a word with Phil [Alexander, Palace chief executive] last season and said “why don't we talk about this” and here it is.

The man is a legend. You must love coming here on match days then.

Exactly. You’re lucky I don't walk around the board room with a permanent stiffy. Seriously. It doesn't get more exciting than this. Well, unless they went “here’s a shirt Neil, you’re on for the second half”.

Can’t be any worse than David Wright. So, how did you become an Eagle?

I was in my first year of drama school, 18-years-old and I was missing watching football and my best mate Richard said “why don't you come and watch some football with me, to Crystal Palace”. So I just came down and after about three or four games you just get hooked and when you think of the Team Of The 80's as it was at the time under Terry Venables, it was a good time with things going on, great players down here. We've always had a history of great goalies and, up until a little while a go, great strikers also. So there was always something exciting going on down here and that's what happened.

Well there always is, isn’t there??Whether it’s for good reasons or bad.

You've got to take the rough and the smooth. You and I both know that there will be Man United fans who calls themselves United supporters but have never been to a United game ever in their lives. They’re not even watching it on pay-per-view, so in other words they’re not paying anything at all for the upkeep of their club. The only reason Palace survive as a team is because we keep coming and we keep buying the products.

We always have a good time. There hasn't been a single part of the ground that I haven't stood in. I've got to 49 now and I've been on telly, now I get to hang around in the boardroom and get a bit closer to what's going on.

A world away from the previous regime, eh?

The club has completely changed its attitude towards the fans. I don't want to say too much about Jordan but he wasn't exactly a fan man. He was a fan himself but he seemed to have neglected that area of fandom (sic) and what people actually felt; in particular their thoughts because this a great broad spectrum of people with a lot of different attitudes to a lot of aspects at the club. Today you look around the board room and there is a group of little kids hanging around and out there today there are families. You see them walking towards and walking away from the ground with their dads.

You've got to get those young lads in, they’re the future. That is what this is; this is a family club. You never hear about Crystal Palace fans going on the rampage.

Except to the pub maybe. But we do love watching the Palace more than say, going for a fight. I think we’re all just too weary from years of disappointment.

I think with any club on this level, it's about pledging yourself. We bring it upon ourselves. We are part of the existence of this club and the reason why it’s here, so we take the responsibility upon ourselves. I can't see why anyone else goes to see another football club so it's difficult to have a succinct, gorgeous sentence to describe why I keep coming to Palace. It's a heart string thing. It's like being the red headed step child, you know you’re going to get beaten occasionally and sometimes you’re going to have to sleep under the stairs but you go regardless. There’s something wonderful about supporting Palace but I’m not quite sure what it is, If it was a question posed to Aristotle he would probably have difficulty answering it too. It’s something about the pain & pleasure sado masochistic side of us all; you don’t want to give up.

FYP does actually have a ginger in the ranks but thanks to advancements in Just For Men you’ll never know which. Ok, it’s Street. Anyway are you pleased with the pragmetic approach the new owners are taking.

Yeah! I've never understood the momentum of the 90s when the big Americans and the big Thailand companies were coming in buying Premier League clubs. Surely, the wisest thing to do would to be invest in a smaller club and bring it up as opposed to going and showing off with all your cash? Look at Stoke for example. They invested and are now in competitions where there is money, it’s the smart way of doing things.

I'm surprised more people haven't come in to try and buy Palace but I'm really, really glad we’re in the hands of the guys we’ve got; they're very smart businessmen and I feel very safe. I talk to them all every week although I do notice is a lack of Steve Parish here today but I expect now with all this new technology they've got in the bars and boardoom he's having the game streamed into his helicopter.

They’ll need to build a helipad at the new stadium for that. Speaking of which, are you keen on the potential move?

Oh god yes.  I mean I love Selhurst, but you've got to look at the value of the land here and what we can do with the new stadium in the Park which will be a multi-usage arena. It's one of the biggest venues for athletics and gymnastics in the world and also then we will have one of the best football clubs in the world there.

The very first thing they did was consolidate the ground, the club and the training ground and that in itself was a huge thing to do for securing the financial future of the club. If the plans do go forward I would love to see the ground again in Crystal Palace Park.

And the way CPFC2010 are going about things, going on the message boards, radio shows and talking to esteemed publications like Five Year Plan, you’re a fan of all this too?

Very much. They've got transparency. It doesn't feel like some seceret story going on backstage. It feels like they've got nothing to hide, they're willing to give and they're all fans and now they're making the club in their own vision. Why was this room so horribly neglected under Jordan? Because he didn’t give a shit! It was like he was going out buying fish and chips. He didn't care about the cleanliness, the looks and bringing directors and more managers into this room. He didn't seem to care. It's amazing what these guys have done in one year.

It aint half bad. How do you see the team this season??(and don’t say ‘with my eyes’)

We’ve had a great run, we’ll still be up there. Brighton are doing really well, they are the team to look out for. They have spent a lot of money.

I love the Doog - the quality of the players he has got, I think it’s fantastic. He’s a decision maker, he makes things happen. He’s a Palace legend, but he actually knows what he’s doing. We love him.

What's your favourite moment as a Palace fan?

Probably the FA Cup semi-final. I was also at the  Zenith Data Systems Trophy at Wembely, 4-1 against Everton that was a pretty good day.

What about players??Any faves from over the years?

My favourite ever is Ian Wright. But I also loved The Ninja, Eric Young. I also loved the partnerships, like Wright and Bright. How fantastic. Mark Bright has become a personal freind and I never really knew him in his playing days but since then I’ve got to know him. So it’s these kind of fringe benefits which to me are like amazing, like gold. It’s just fantastic.

*Wipes tear away*?Have we mentioned how much we love Palace? Seems like lots of players do too. Shaun?Derry still tweets us private messages asking to come back (that might be a lie).

I think it's one of the footballing ideals. Yes you get the kids coming and all they want is £150,000-a-week so they can carry on whatever the hell is their lifestyle. But there's a lot more footballers out there who aren't on that kind of dough and they want to play football. We should be one of the clubs to look up to becuase we've survived - we nearly didn't, we’ve had two lifelines - but we survived and thank god we've got that basis now.

Seven lives to go.

We've had our highs and our lows but the Football Leagues wouldn’t be the same without Crystal Palace.