How Crystal Palace became England’s go to club, explained by chairman Steve Parish (2024)

The club who have provided the most players for the England Euro 2024 squad are not Manchester City, Chelsea or the great staple of previous generations, Manchester United. Instead it is Crystal Palace who have supplied four of Gareth Southgate’s 26-man squad – Marc Guehi, Adam Wharton, Eberechi Eze and goalkeeper Dean Henderson. Unlike the England manager himself, a Palace youth team graduate, none of the four were homegrown.

Yet Palace have proved that an academy of prodigious talent, and a recruitment model that does not try to compete with wealthier clubs can be honed to a fine point. The club have learned from their missteps over a club-record 11 years and counting in the top-flight. Chairman Steve Parish alongside director of football, Dougie Freedman, have come up with a plan that works.

Trading in a different market

On an annual turnover of £160 million, Palace are not at the table for the biggest names in the game, or even the tiers below that. Eze and Wharton came from the Championship – also the source of arguably the club’s best player, Michael Olise. Henderson and Guehi were academy graduates of the top six clubs and surplus to requirements. “It’s an advantage sometimes not having as much money, and less expectation of instant success,” Parish tells Telegraph Sport. “It means we have to go looking in all sorts of different places. There’s less temptation to say, ‘Let’s spend £50 million and take the short cut.’”

Wharton’s deal was worth a total of £18 million. Dougie Freedman and the scouting department watched the player live. The club compiled videos of clips and whole games for Parish to watch. They were surprised there was not more competition although the word in the market was that Bayern Munich were prepared to do the deal that summer. “Sometimes it’s just timing,” Parish says. “That January was a quiet window.”

After a defeat earlier in the season, Parish had joined his inner circle and lamented the absence of a passing midfielder similar to those of the past like Yohan Cabaye or Luka Milivojevic. “Dougie and his team were unanimous, ‘Steve, sign Adam Wharton’,” Parish recalls. “We are very lucky to have a hard-working scouting team. They stand by their decisions.”

Doing the deals

The preliminary work on deals is done by Iain Moody, an experienced multilingual transfer negotiator. Ordinarily Parish will deal directly with the selling club to finalise the terms. The Eze deal was finalised in August 2020 by Parish from the beach in the south of France. The £17 million Palace paid for the silky attacker barely merits a mention now. The club always believed they were signing one of the best young talents around.

Even through his long injury absence at the start of the 2021-2022 season, that never faltered. Eze worked to get back from his Achilles rupture and now Palace have a player who could play in any Premier League side. There is another obvious sell to players joining Palace. “We don’t have the biggest squad,” Parish says, “so it’s not like you’ll be waiting months for your chance.”

A manager on board

“Oliver [Glasner] has to get a lot of credit,” Parish says. “You don’t get picked for England if you’re not in a winning team.” Under the Austrian, a run of 19 points from their last seven Premier League games took Palace to a club record 10th place, as one of the form teams of the season’s end. “Roy [Hodgson] had that same attitude,” Parish says. “The pressure would be on with results and we would be discussing this and that and then he would say to me of a young lad, ‘He’s going to be some footballer.’”

Parish learned from one of his predecessors as Palace chairman, Ron Noades, an important lesson: Freedman and Parish insist that the manager looks at every academy graduate option before the club commits to a signing in that position. Palace have produced many that way. Wilfried Zaha, Jonny Williams, Aaron Wan-Bissaka and Tyrick Mitchell – who was capped by Southgate two years ago – all got their chance. Wan-Bissaka only joined his first senior training session because they were short of a right-back on that day. He ended up earning the club £55 million in a transfer fee that went a long way to settling their profitability and sustainability compliance.

A club that knows what it takes

“Our fans are so encouraging of young players,” Parish says. “They love watching good football and they love watching good young players.” It helps that historically Palace have launched careers as big as those figurative giants of the English game, Ian Wright and Kenny Sansom. Guehi, a South London boy who had spent his developmental years at Chelsea, and cost around £20 million, was an instant hit.

Henderson, whose £15 million price was a lot for Palace to spend on a goalkeeper, replaced a favourite in Sam Johnstone. At the time the fans wanted a new right-back but Parish and Freedman stuck to their guns.

The big picture

In the professional history of Palace, one of the oldest clubs in English football, only 20 of its players have been capped while representing the team that plays at Selhurst Park – going back to Horace Colclough who played left-back against Wales in 1914. There were four Palace players in the squad for Graham Taylor’s Australia and New Zealand tour in 1991 but that was a trip that many established England internationals of the era sought to avoid.

Olise and Jean-Philippe Mateta are both likely to play for France in the Olympics. Jefferson Lerma and Daniel Munoz are representing Colombia at the Copa America with Chris Richards plays for the US at the same tournament. Joachim Andersen will face England for Denmark in Frankfurt this month. As Parish points out, for Euro 2024’s Group C, Palace have supplied 4.8 per cent of all players.

The future

“We are not trying to post-rationalise it to make ourselves look like geniuses,” Parish says. “We get some wrong as well. You can never think you’ve cracked it, or that you have a formula. That’s when you come unstuck.”

From the academy, rebuilt and expanded in the biggest investment the club have made in years Jesse Derry, son of former player and coach Shaun, is one of a number of promising players. Jesurun Rak-Sakyi, 21, should play more for the first team next season. Academy wingers David Obou and Asher Agbinone, both 18; striker Zach Marsh, also 18; and centre-back Mofe Jemide, 17, are all players with potential.

The challenge will be hanging on to the likes of Olise and Eze, especially if they make great strides again for their national teams this summer. Others will surely take an interest in Palace targets. In the end it is about the players, Parish says. “Most credit has to go to them,” he says. “They have the talent. They live their life the right way. They work hard to recover from injury. They make all the sacrifices. What we have to do is show them the club is progressing.”

How Crystal Palace became England’s go to club, explained by chairman Steve Parish (2024)


How did Steve Parish buy Crystal Palace? ›

In June 2010, Parish led a consortium called 'CPFC 2010' to acquire Crystal Palace and save the club from a second spell in administration and imminent liquidation after negotiating a £3.5m deal to buy Selhurst Park from Lloyds Bank.

How did Crystal Palace Football Club get its name? ›

The annual fixture stoked up plenty of local demand for football, and so a professional Crystal Palace club side was formed in 1905. The team and park are, of course, named after the great glass structure that housed the 1851 Great Exhibition in Hyde Park, which later moved to the slopes of Sydenham.

Why did Crystal Palace go into administration? ›

Palace then went into administration in 1999, when owner Mark Goldberg was unable to sustain his financial backing of the club.

Who owns Crystal Palace club? ›

John Textor owns Crystal Palace with business partners David Blitzer and Josh Harris, English businessman Steve Parish and the investor Robert Franco. The ownership has a general partnership structure.

What became of the Crystal Palace? ›

During WW1 the Crystal Palace and grounds were taken over by the Admiralty and became HMS Victory VI for the duration. In November 1936 the Crystal Palace was tragically destroyed in a spectacular fire.

Why did they move the Crystal Palace? ›

In 1852, after the Great Exhibition ended, Paxton arranged to have the Crystal Palace moved to South London. Sydenham was then a rural area with bountiful green space. Not only was the Palace dismantled and transported there, it was expanded to become the largest building in the world and taller than Nelson's Column.

Why did they knock down Crystal Palace? ›

When fire struck the Crystal Palace on 30 November 1936, years of wear and tear, and lack of finance to repair it, had left it in poor condition. The cause of the fire is still unknown and there was never an official inquiry. There were rumours of arson at the time, but this appears unlikely.

Who owns Crystal Palace percentage? ›

Crystal Palace co-owner John Textor is the club's biggest shareholder and his Eagle Football Holdings has about a 45% stake in the Premier League outfit. His company also has majority stakes in French giants Lyon, Brazil's Botafogo, Belgian top-flight club RWD Molenbeek and US academy side FC Florida.

Why was the Crystal Palace destroyed? ›

The cause was never truly established and stories of arson abounded but because of the size of the building and the huge amounts of flammable material it contained, the cause was probably just a terrible accident.

How long did Simon Jordan own Crystal Palace? ›

Simon Jordan (born 24 September 1967) is an English businessman and media personality. He made his fortune in the mobile phone industry. In 2000, he purchased Crystal Palace Football Club and remained chairman of the club until administration in early 2010.

Are Crystal Palace the oldest club in the world? ›

Crystal Palace can draw an established link back to the Crystal Palace football team established in 1861, which played its first match in March 1862. The connection makes Palace the oldest league club in existence still playing professional football, and founder members of both the Football Association and FA Cup.

How much is Crystal Palace owner worth? ›

Premier League
ClubOwner(s)Estimated combined net worth
Crystal PalaceSteve Parish (10.74%) Josh Harris (18%) David Blitzer (18%) John Textor (40%)$5.5B
Everton (more information)Farhad Moshiri (94%)$2.9B
Fulham (more information)Shahid Khan$7.9B
Ipswich TownGamechanger 20 Ltd.
16 more rows

Who is the majority shareholder of Crystal Palace? ›

May 24 (Reuters) - Crystal Palace co-owner John Textor said on Friday he is trying to sell his majority stake in the club, which he owns 45% of through his company Eagle Football Holdings, and has appointed the Raine Group to find a buyer.

What happened to the first Crystal Palace? ›

After the exhibition, the Palace was relocated to an open area of South London known as Penge Place which had been excised from Penge Common. It was rebuilt at the top of Penge Peak next to Sydenham Hill, an affluent suburb of large villas. It stood there from June 1854 until its destruction by fire in November 1936.

How much is the Crystal Palace owner worth? ›

Premier League
ClubOwner(s)Estimated combined net worth
Crystal PalaceSteve Parish (10.74%) Josh Harris (18%) David Blitzer (18%) John Textor (40%)$5.5B
Everton (more information)Farhad Moshiri (94%)$2.9B
Fulham (more information)Shahid Khan$7.9B
Ipswich TownGamechanger 20 Ltd.
16 more rows

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