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Rooney on his love for Crystal Palace and hopes for Andrea Pirlo

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GREAT Britain athlete Martyn Rooney says his beloved Crystal Palace finishing mid-table in the Premier League last season was like winning it. The Croydon man, who became a five-time UK champion over the 400m after victory at the UK Championships at the start of July, has kept a close eye on the Eagles in his spare time. And Rooney has revealed how he got one of training partners to support Palace after they witnessed just how good the club's fans were at the Arsenal game in February. "It's amazing, we are an established Premier League club now!," he told the Advertiser. "We're not even relegation battlers, we finished in mid-table and I don't think anyone expected that. "I am just really happy with Palace. It was like winning the league for me last season. "I remember the Darren Bent thing, when he said he didn't want to be involved in a relegation battle and then he did so with Fulham – I loved all that. "I went to a couple of games last season. I got to the Emirates for the Arsenal game, and my sponsors Nike sorted me out for that. "I was in London anyway after getting back from a trip so it was nice to make that, apart from the score in the end. "I brought one of my training partners with me, who was American, and he didn't have a team to support. "He was choosing between Arsenal and Palace, and because our fans were cheering as we were losing, he became a Palace fan! "The fans did a great job that day, and all of last season." Rooney, who tries to get back to Croydon when he can to see friends and family, trains up in Loughborough. And with Leicester City achieving promotion to the Premier League, you'd think he'd be making the short trip down the A6 to the King Power Stadium to cheer on the Eagles on Saturday, February 7 next year. "I stay away from away games which are near to me, because every time I used to go, we would lose!," said Rooney. "Every time I would go to Leicester City or Nottingham Forest against Palace, we always lost so now I stay away. "I didn't go to the last one at Leicester and we won 2-1 (in October 2012). It was just getting to be a bit of worrying stat for me." To finish above 11th position in the top flight will be difficult to beat next season for Palace, and Rooney says he'd be happy with another stable ending. The Croydon Harrier has also backed Tony Pulis to continue his certain style of football, pointing to its effectiveness. "If he can carry on the ethos of doing your job properly and playing a solid game, I know some people it was a bit boring at Stoke, but at the end of the day they built a successful club," said Rooney. "They built the club up and that's what Palace need to do, we need a situation where we can be in the Premier League for three or four years and build from there onwards. "With Pulis coming in, we started playing solid football and we're did the simple things properly, and as we saw last season it all came together. "Mid-table again next year would be amazing. I loved it, so if we can do something similar this year, we'll be all right." Meanwhile, with the World Cup set to finish this Sunday, Rooney has taken a keen eye on the global tournament and is holding out for Palace to sign an Italian legend – for one year. "After the last World Cup in South Africa, it's nice to see an entertaining one this time," he said. "There have been more than 140 goals too, that's not bad, is it? I would love to see someone like Andrea Pirlo come to Palace and have one season in England before he retires. "It would be nice of course to see him stroll around the middle of the park – maybe he could finish his career in south London."

Rooney on his love for Crystal Palace and hopes for Andrea Pirlo


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