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Julian Speroni - Humble, kind, loyal, role model, a Crystal Palace legend

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Online columnist for the Advertiser and Palace fan Dan Gibbs reflects on a fantastic Question and Answer evening in Croydon with Eagles goalkeeper Julian Speroni to kick off his testimonial year…

NIGHTS like last night at the Fairfield Halls, Croydon, make me realise how proud I am to be a part of such an amazing club.

Passionate, caring, family-orientated, humorous, adoring, fanatical, optimistic, dedicated, obsessive; words that could be used to describe the Palace faithful.

Words that also wouldn't be out of place when describing the man of the moment at last night's event.

Julian Speroni is celebrating ten years at the club this year and it's incredibly rare in today's game to have a player become a loyal servant to one club.

We all know what Jules is about on the football pitch. He's not the loudest, or the most commanding goalkeeper I've seen in my honest opinion, but he is an incredible shot stopper and all round keeper who has saved us too many times to recall.

Last night, Palace fans got to see the Jules off the pitch. Many have said "Julian is the nicest guy in football," and to be honest you can't disagree with that.

Even when Eagles midfielder and Wales international Jonny Williams (who paid for his own ticket and attended the event as a fan) stood up and asked Julian, "How much do you love me out of ten?" Jules was the first to reply with "Ten! He is the nicest guy in football."

That was a common trait of Julian's throughout the night. While the majority of football players are media-trained robots who offer no personality in front of a TV camera, Julian is different. Shy, with a sense of humour that people can warm too.

And even if he is quick to shy away from his own achievements and instead praise his team, it's not the usual bulls**t that comes out from the PR-trained drones; it's from his heart.

Even when talking about his record four Player of the Year Awards he has won, a humorous story about coming home to find his wife using one as a door stop; the Speroni credits his defence with the award too, consistently saying "we" won this.

A footballer so modest, yet so professional, is quite a humbling experience to observe and take in.

Julian also showed his sense of humour throughout the evening, having the fans laughing throughout the night – and that was before Paddy McCarthy's story on 'poogate'!

When asked about his son becoming a footballer he responded with: "If my son wants to play football, he can't play for anyone other than Palace."

Another great answer when asked about the best piece of advice he's ever received, he said that Iain Dowie gave him the best advice - 'Don't you ever try and take on a player again!," referring of course to that Everton mistake.

Towards the end of the evening, when co-chairman Steve Browett stood up to thank Jules for his services to the club and clearly stated he believes he's the best goalkeeper the club has ever had, Julian's eyes began to tear up. I don't think he realises the impact he's had on our football club.

Julian has had more ups and downs with Palace than most players have in their entire careers. From surviving relegation on the final day, to play-off triumphs to going into training one day knowing it could be your last in times of administration.

He jokes that he could have gone elsewhere, the truth is he so easily could have turned his back on Palace after three years on the bench and gone on to achieve, perhaps, even bigger things than he has done now. Yet he chose to stay because of his love for the club.

The 35-year-old is the ultimate role model to any footballer who wants to do the footballing career properly. He trained hard, was patient for his opportunity, and when it came along he took it; and now he reaps the benefits of his loyalty at Palace.

In the final quarter of the evening, the team for Jules' testimonial was announced. As a white shirt with bits of black was pulled from a hat, a fan behind me speculated Juventus, others thought it was going to be an Argentine XI. But of course, it was Dundee, the club that gave Julian his chance over in the United Kingdom, and knowing Julian's humbleness it should have been a fairly obvious choice.

While it's not the glamour tie some Palace fans were hoping for, it means a lot to Julian – who spoke very fondly of his time there – and that's enough for us.

It could have been a local school team for all we care, the Palace supporters will still be there to support their hero.

If I had a choice between Manuel Neuer, David de Gea, Thibaut Courtois, you name them; or Julian Speroni, I wouldn't have to think twice about who I'd have between the sticks.

Some may laugh their heads off with that statement but Jules is Palace through and through and for me, that's enough.

Thank you for your services to our football club, Julian. Hopefully this isn't your last season.

But whatever happens, you'll always have a place in our hearts here at Palace.

Follow Dan on Twitter @gibbsyy

Julian Speroni - Humble, kind, loyal, role model, a Crystal Palace legend


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