Throughout my career in the media I have worked for, and alongside, Crystal Palace Football Club numerous times and written pieces and worked with the NFL UK too.
So it was only natural one day that my work with the two would cross at some point.
Since the NFL made a long-term commitment to the UK back in 2007, I have been involved with various pieces of work involving Palace and American Football which has included visits of various cheerleaders, interviewing the Chief Executive about his past as London Monarch, Super Bowl announcer Alan Roach visiting the pubs of Norwood and a match at Selhurst, and linking up some bits and pieces along the way, like this piece with the players for Super Bowl 50 and the discovery of New York Jet, Trevor Reilly, as an Eagles fan.
I have also had an interview about the NFL with Crystal Palace manager Alan Pardew pencilled in for a while after I first noticed some Vince Lombardi motivational quotes added to the walls of the Palace training ground in Beckenham.
I have to admit that, initially, I dismissed these as ‘rent-a-quotes’ – the all-too-familiar generic motivational quotes you see around a variety of sporting institutions in this job -think Muhammad Ali, Michael Jordan, Winston Churchill, the film ‘300‘ or ‘Gladiator‘ – you get the picture. Anything that can inspire the team or individual.
On a side note, it was former Crystal Palace Chairman Simon Jordan who was a big fan of quotes like this, having numerous phrases plastered all over the boardroom at Palace’s football stadium, Selhurst Park, when the team got promoted to the Premier League in May 2004.
However, after seeing Pardew wearing a Carolina Panthers beanie hat back in December 2015, I approached him after a press conference and asked him about the link. I was happy to hear that he was a big fan of the NFL, but he made sure to clarify that he was a Green Bay Packers fan and that the Panthers hat was just because someone lent it to him because it was cold.
Another brief chat followed where he explained his admiration for Lombardi – one of the figurehead leaders that Pardew takes inspiration from – and following another press conference I gave him some of my books on the coach who had the Super Bowl trophy named after him with the caveat that I would question him on his interest in the NFL one day in the future for an interview, which he readily agreed to.
Unfortunately, Palace then swiftly embarked on one of their worst-ever league runs in the top division in their 112-year history, including their worst-ever run of consecutive home defeats, meaning the time was never right for this in-depth interview.
Then, they had a run to the FA Cup Final for only the second time in that long history, and I worked for the club during this busy period. Media interest from around the world meant, again, the time was not right for the interview and it was parked.
What did happen though was the guys from the NFL UK were very happy to find out that Alan was an NFL fan – I suggested they get him down to one of the International Series games in London and they offered an open invitation to him for any of their games.
After a bit of organisation Alan is set to attend a future NFL match in the UK – continuing the tradition of Premier League managers attending the International Series games – so the plan is to speak to him after one of them and you will see the results on NFLUK.com.
Passing on those snippets on ‘Pards’ to the NFL UK over the past few months has also led to a few small things including questions in Alan Pardew’s weekly press briefing ahead of Super Bowl 50 and a small piece with Palace TV about his interest in the NFL.
Some Palace fans have questioned the sincerity of the NFL/Alan Pardew/Crystal Palace pieces that have appeared, but it is clear that Pardew, like most modern managers, will draw on any sport, or indeed anything if it helps improve his team. This interest in American sport is not due to any ‘agenda’ from the clubs’ new American part-owners either. It is a long history of involvement, and longer still with their CEO having played such an integral part in NFL Europe.
After Palace’s FA Cup Final loss in May 2016, the players and management took June off before travelling to the USA for a pre-season tour in July.
Whilst in the city, Pardew took the entire Palace squad to the Bengal’s training facility as they prepared to face FC Cincinnati and met with Head Coach Marvin Lewis. This is one of the points I hope to discuss with Pardew in the interview.
The biggest thing to date which this NFL/Palace link has led to is this five-minute piece with the Palace ‘gaffer’ last week for the BBC NFL Show which went out on BBC One, last Friday night/early Saturday morning.
From what I understand, Jason Bell, the former Super Bowl winning New York Giant who conducted the interview at Palace’s training ground, spoke with Pardew for about 40 minutes and, hopefully, I will be able to get the full unedited version and write about it on here in the future, but in the meantime, go to this page for the transcript.