Crystal Palace have seen a long list of legends turn out at Selhurst Park throughout the Eagles’ storied history. The highs and lows to occur in south London have produced some of their most fabled icons.
Highs and lows litter Crystal Palace’s history as a club having endured regular ups and downs over the years. Their brighter years and darker days have also created some of their greats, like the Eagles’ record appearance maker, Jim Cannon. Crystal Palace’s academy created another in Wilfried Zaha.
Zaha burst out of the youth ranks in south London to establish himself as a star at Selhurst Park. The Eagles also produced Cannon, who registered 660 appearances across a fabled 16-season spell in the heart of the defence. So, We are Palace has looked at the top 10 Crystal Palace legends of all time…
|Managers:||Paul Hart (2010), George Burley (2010-11), Dougie Freedman (2011-12), Ian Holloway (2012-13), Neil Warnock (2014), Alan Pardew (2015-16), Sam Allardyce (2016-17), Frank de Boer (2017), Roy Hodgson (2017-21), Patrick Vieira (2021-23), Roy Hodgson (2023)|
|Years at Crystal Palace:||2010-2013, 2014-2023|
Paul Hurst made a slice of Crystal Palace history with 10 minutes remaining of a 2-1 defeat at home to Cardiff City on March 27, 2010. With the Eagles fighting for their survival after the club entered into administration, the coach turned to a 17-year-old Wilfried Zaha and awarded him his senior debut.
Few may have expected much from Zaha having struggled to hold down his place in Crystal Palace’s Under-18s that season. Yet the winger would go on to become one of, if not the, biggest legends to grace Selhurst Park. All from a career in junior football that began with the Eagles whilst aged eight.
A scout spotted Zaha playing Sunday League football for Whitehorse Wanderers. Crystal Palace then forged the initial making of a club legend who could send Selhurst Park into silence in anticipation of something special. The winger would delight the crowds with his dynamic and purposeful presence.
Wilfried Zaha cemented his legend after returning to Crystal Palace
Yet his icon in south London may not have reached its peak after joining Manchester United in 2013 for £10m, rising to £15m. Zaha, though, would return to Selhurst Park for £3m plus add-ons in 2014 after an initial loan and furthered his legend. He eventually left in 2023 to join Galatasaray as a free agent.
Zaha produced one of his finest moments in a Crystal Palace jersey before heading to Old Trafford in May 2013. His individual brilliance was too much for Brighton & Hove Albion to handle in the second leg of their Championship play-off semi-final. His brace sealed a date with Watford that Palace won.
Brighton were among Zaha’s favourite foes with Crystal Palace having scored eight times against the Seagulls from 15 meetings. He only scored against Leicester City as often but from 22 fixtures. Zaha also played each minute of the Eagles’ run to their first FA Cup final in 26 years in the 2015/16 term.
|Managers:||Iain Dowie (2004-06), Peter Taylor (2006-07), Neil Warnock (2007-10), Paul Hart (2010), George Burley (2010-11), Dougie Freedman (2011-12), Ian Holloway (2012-13), Tony Pulis (2013-14), Neil Warnock (2014), Alan Pardew (2015-16), Sam Allardyce (2016-17), Frank de Boer (2017), Roy Hodgson (2017-19)|
|Years at Crystal Palace:||2004-2019|
Crystal Palace took full advantage of cash-strapped Dundee FC’s financial plight to get Julian Speroni in July 2004. Ian Dowie paid the Scottish side £750k to secure the 25-year-old’s signature after weeks of negotiations. Little may Dowie have known that the transfer would deliver a Crystal Palace legend.
Speroni went on to remain at Selhurst Park for 15 years and make 405 appearances. He also stayed in south London following the Eagles’ relegation in 2005, helped to secure their promotion in 2013 and then cement a seat at the Premier League table. He was their first-choice in goal from 2007 to 2015.
Eight seasons as the number one between their sticks further yielded a club-record four Player of the Year awards. Speroni also set a record for the number of consecutive awards at three from 2007 until 2010. Wilfried Zaha matched the shot-stopper’s achievement with three in a row from 2015 to 2018.
Crystal Palace fans adored what Speroni gave having broken records throughout his time at Selhurst Park. The goalkeeper set an Eagles record with 112 clean sheets and made more appearances for the club than any other shot-stopper. But he was also a model professional and an ultra-committed icon.
|Managers:||Dougie Freedman (2011–12), Ian Holloway (2012-13), Tony Pulis (2013-14), Neil Warnock (2014), Alan Pardew (2015-16)|
|Years at Crystal Palace:||2011-2016|
Dougie Freedman persuaded Mile Jedinak to join Crystal Palace as a free agent in 2011 following his release by Turkish club, Genclerbirligi. The Australia hero would go on to become an icon at Selhurst Park before moving to Aston Villa in 2016. Roberto di Matteo paid the Eagles £4m for the midfielder.
It only took Jedinak one term in south London to work his way into the hearts of the Eagles’ fanbase. His inspirational presence also convinced Freedman and then Ian Holloway to give him the captaincy in 2012/13. Jedinak would even keep Crystal Palace’s captaincy until Alan Pardew sold him to the Villans.
Jedinak was an inspiring force in south London for much of his Eagles career and led Crystal Palace to promotion in 2013. He also became just the fifth Australian to play in the FA Cup final and the first as a captain in 2016. While Jedinak even had the honour of lifting their Championship play-off trophy, too.
It was only fitting that Jedinak lifted the play-off trophy having secured Crystal Palace’s place in the post-season. His 89th-minute goal sealed a 3-2 win over Peterborough United on the final day of the season at Selhurst Park. Crystal Palace also named him as their Player of the Year for the 2012/13 term.
|Managers:||Bert Head (1973), Malcolm Allison (1973-75), Terry Venables (1976-80), Malcolm Allison (1980-81), Dario Gradi (1981), Steve Kember (1981-82), Alan Mullery (1982-84), Steve Coppell (1984-88)|
|Years at Crystal Palace:||1973-1988|
Bert Heard enjoyed a fabled tenure as the manager of Crystal Palace and handed the Eagles a parting gift with Jim Cannon in 1970. He identified the defender’s potential whilst on trial with the Eagles and handed him an apprenticeship. The Scot would later make a goalscoring senior debut in March 1973.
Goals were never the bread and butter of Cannon’s career. But the centre-half burst out of the gates with a goal against Chelsea. He would go on to net 36 times through a club-record 660 appearances, eclipsing Terry Long’s tally of 480 during the 1984/85 season and remaining active for another three.
Cannon dazzled the Selhurst Park fanbase throughout his career. He also won Crystal Palace’s Player of the Year Award in 1978, 1985 and 1987, having stayed through the club’s fall to the third tier and their return to the top-flight. While Cannon even served as their captain for 10 seasons from 1978.
Managers respected the grit and determination that Cannon presented on the pitch. He remained a mainstay of the backline at Selhurst Park from the 1974/75 season through to his departure in 1988. The Glasgow-born enforcer perennially overlooked by Scotland made his mark once he made the XI.
|Managers:||Neil Warnock (2009-10), Paul Hart (2010), George Burley (2010-11), Dougie Freedman (2011-12)|
|Years at Crystal Palace:||2009-2012|
Darren Ambrose agreed to join Crystal Palace in June 2009 before his contract at Charlton Athletic expired that month. His departure from the Valley helped the Addicks battle their financial issues at the time. Yet just seven months later, the Football League announced the Eagles were in administration.
The Football League’s 10-point deduction plunged Palace into survival mode as they fought for their future in the Championship. Were it not for Ambrose and his goals, the Eagles would have fallen into the third tier, too. The Selhurst Park side avoided the drop by just two points to Sheffield Wednesday.
West Bromwich Albion forced Crystal Palace to visit Sheffield Wednesday on the final day of the term for a survival showdown. The Eagles could have avoided the drama but saw Ambrose’s effort cleared off the line. Yet he assisted Alan Lee and scored in a 2-2 draw at Hillsborough to send the Owls down.
Ambrose ended his maiden season in south London with 20 goals, including 15 in the Championship. Both tallies put him atop the scoring charts at Selhurst Park and marked the start of Ambrose’s story as a Crystal Palace legend. One he would develop before joining Birmingham City for £250k in 2012.
|Managers:||Steve Coppell (1995-96), Dave Bassett (1996-97), Steve Coppell (1997), Alan Smith (2000-01), Steve Bruce (2001), Trevor Francis (2001-03), Steve Kember (2003), Iain Dowie (2003-06), Peter Taylor (2006-07), Neil Warnock (2007-08)|
|Years at Crystal Palace:||1995-1997, 2000-2008|
Queens Park Rangers came to regret their decision to let Dougie Freedman join Barnet in 1994. The forward failed to make a single appearance for QPR after joining as an apprentice. Yet Crystal Palace would pay Barnet £800k to sign the striker in 1995 and he would score 20 goals in his debut season.
Freedman also achieved an astonishing feat by scoring an 11-minute hat-trick against Grimsby Town. While his goals helped the Eagles secure their return to the Premier League in 1996/97 via the play-offs. Yet a lack of top-flight minutes saw Crystal Palace recoup their investment when sold to Wolves.
But Molineux was not to be his forever home as Freedman joined Nottingham Forest in 1998. Yet the year 2000 saw Freedman return to Crystal Palace for £600k and his legend would start to take shape. He scored against Stockport County on the last day of the term to keep Palace in the second division.
Dougie Freedman returned to Selhurst Park once he hung up his boots
A first Scotland call-up followed in 2001, as well, before Freedman’s penalty sent Crystal Palace into the play-offs in 2004. And while the Eagles returned to the second tier in 2005, Freedman remained there and he notched his 100th goal for the club that November. He would stay at Palace until 2008.
Injuries ultimately curtailed his career after moving to Southend United in 2008 following a loan deal with Leeds United. Yet the end of his playing days took Freedman back to Selhurst Park as he became George Burley’s assistant. He then became the head coach in January 2011 and led them to survival.
Crystal Palace gave Freedman the reigns following Paul Hart’s brief tenure in south London. He would go on to oversee 90 fixtures in charge before making the rash decision to take over Bolton Wanderers in October 2012. But he returned to Selhurst Park again in August 2017 to be their sporting director.
|Managers:||Ian Holloway (2013), Tony Pulis (2013-14), Neil Warnock (2014), Alan Pardew (2015-16), Sam Allardyce (2016-17), Frank de Boer (2017), Roy Hodgson (2017-19)|
|Years at Crystal Palace:||2013-2019|
Jason Puncheon, the Croydon native who would captain his boyhood club and also become a Crystal Palace legend. Yet the midfielder’s career started at Wimbledon before they became MK Dons. While the hometown hero enjoyed spells with Barnet, Plymouth Argyle and Southampton before the Eagles.
Ian Holloway first united the Crystal Palace fan and the team when he hired Puncheon on loan from Southampton for the 2013/14 season. The pair had worked together at Blackpool and Holloway felt Puncheon could fill the void Wilfried Zaha left by joining Manchester United after sealing promotion.
Puncheon would secure his permanent transfer to Crystal Palace midway through his temporary stay with a £1.75m move. While Holloway vacated the helm in south London in October 2013, Puncheon was already establishing his reputation as a combative midfielder embarking on a remarkable career.
While his record would only feature 16 goals when Puncheon left Selhurst Park in 2019, he boasted a real habit of scoring crucial goals for Crystal Palace. He even scored the opening goal in the 2016 FA Cup final. But Juan Mata’s equaliser forced extra time and Jesse Lingard scored in the 110th minute.
|Managers:||Dougie Freedman (2012), Ian Holloway (2012-13), Tony Pulis (2013-14), Neil Warnock (2014), Alan Pardew (2015-16)|
|Years at Crystal Palace:||2012-2016|
A 4-1 defeat at Bristol City helped Crystal Palace land the signing of Yannick Bolasie in 2012. Dougie Freedman held a meeting with the Robins’ then-manager, Derek McInnes, after the game and began thrashing out a £500k transfer. He faced immense pressure having also lost 3-2 at home to Watford.
Bolasie would suffer a defeat at Middlesbrough on his Eagles debut but soon got amongst the goals. The winger laid on an assist on his Selhurst Park debut to help beat Sheffield Wednesday. He would create a total of 30 goals and score 13 times across his 144 appearances in red-and-blue up to 2016.
Everton eventually lured Bolasie away from Crystal Palace after agreeing to pay £25m. But the move would not pan out as either intended after he ruptured his anterior cruciate ligament just four months after going to Merseyside. It sidelined him for a year but the DR Congo dynamo was never the same.
Crystal Palace firmly saw the best of Bolasie as he established himself as a legend in south London. He fitted like a glove at Selhurst Park and transformed the Eagles into a promotion-contending team in his debut season. It never mattered who he played against, Bolasie’s direct approach could create havoc.
|Appearances:||More than 333|
|Goals:||More than 5|
|Managers:||Dougie Freedman (2012), Ian Holloway (2012-13), Tony Pulis (2013-14), Neil Warnock (2014), Alan Pardew (2015-16), Sam Allardyce (2016-17), Frank de Boer (2017), Roy Hodgson (2017-21), Patrick Vieira (2021-23), Roy Hodgson (2023-present)|
|Years at Crystal Palace:||2012-present|
Crystal Palace finally cemented their long-term interest in Joel Ward in May 2012. Dougie Freedman struck a £400k deal with Portsmouth for the then-22-year-old right-back with the Eagles confident in his potential to become a Premier League player. He had only ever played three games in the top tier.
Yet not only would Ward prove himself as a Premier League player in just his second season at Crystal Palace after helping them gain promotion, he would also go on to prove himself as a club legend. The Eagles’ swoop secured the signature of a versatile defender who proved essential for several seasons.
Ward’s presence at right-back, and sporadically at left-back, helped Crystal Palace cement their place in the Premier League. The Eagles would forge their longest spell in the top-flight with the defender’s support, too. While Ward became Crystal Palace’s record Premier League appearance maker in 2017.
Despite the managerial merry-go-round at Selhurst Park, Ward remained a mainstay of their backline for much of his Eagles career. He also regained an essential presence in south London after falling out of favour for the first time in 2018. Roy Hodgson ultimately re-established his belief in Ward in 2019.
|Managers:||Dougie Freedman (2012), Ian Holloway (2012-13), Tony Pulis (2013-14), Neil Warnock (2014), Alan Pardew (2015-16), Sam Allardyce (2016-17), Frank de Boer (2017), Roy Hodgson (2017-18)|
|Years at Crystal Palace:||2012-2018|
Crystal Palace initially only gave a 31-year-old Damien Delaney a short-term contract in August 2012 to seal his arrival. The Republic of Ireland defender had become a free agent as the summer sales got set to shut after leaving Ipswich Town by mutual consent. Yet he stayed at Selhurst Park to June 2018.
Delaney had enjoyed more than 100 appearances for the Tractor Boys over three seasons at Portman Road. But his best days were still to come as the centre-half amassed his single-club high while plying his trade in south London. The Cork native played 193 times at the Eagles and stood in as the captain.
Retirement ultimately beckoned for Delaney in 2019 after returning home for another spell with Cork City before joining Waterford FC. The curtain fell on the career of a Crystal Palace legend who had an instant impact at Selhurst Park. He slotted straight in to form a formidable unit beside Peter Ramage.
A desperate Dougie Freedman established the foundations that Ian Holloway would use to seal their promotion with his deal for Delaney. The defender thrown straight in at the deep end was integral to their play-off success and cementing their top-flight presence. Yet he was never one for the limelight.