Stoke City: Kemp recalls glamour days at the Palace with Big Mal
DAVE Kemp says Crystal Palace are not the gangsters they once were.
Ian Holloway's men will no doubt be able to look after themselves in tonight's third-round replay at the Britannia Stadium.
But they won't be resorting to the Al Capone look which characterised a Palace cup run back in the 1970s.
That was when Stoke assistant boss Kemp, then fresh out of non-league football, was plying his trade as a diminutive striker for Crystal Palace under their flamboyant manager Malcolm Allison.
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Palace went all the way to the semi-finals that season of 1975/76 before losing to eventual winners Southampton at Stamford Bridge.
And along the way, in typical Allison style, the manager and his players posed for a photo that looked right out of 1920s Chicago.
"When we were at Palace for the first game last week," Kemp recalled, "a friend met me down there and pulled out this old newspaper cutting.
"It was a big spread from the Daily Mirror taken during that cup run in the 1970s. We were all dressed in the gangster gear, looking like Al Capone, and that was typical of Malcolm Allison.
"That was my first season and they were great days for me. I'd ended up in non-league because I wasn't considered big enough at 16, but then everyone wanted me once I started scoring a few goals.
"Palace were high-profile in those days because there was Malcolm Allison as manager and Terry Venables was doing a lot of the coaching. Not a bad start for a young lad like me.
"I scored a few goals in that cup run, but unfortunately I was injured for the semi-final.
"But it had been a great first year for me and you obviously have a soft spot for a club when you've made your league debut there and scored your first goal there."
Kemp wasn't finished with semi-finals and Crystal Palace, however, returning in the mid 1990s as number two to Alan Smith and reaching the last four in both the League Cup and FA Cup during his second spell with the club.
"We played the first leg of the League Cup semi at Liverpool and only got beat 1-0 by a Robbie Fowler goal deep into stoppage time.
"Liverpool were going to leave a lot of top players out for the second leg and we really fancied our chances, but then it rained, the game was called off and all their big players came back when the game was eventually played. In the FA Cup semi-final we had to play Manchester United, so not much luck with the draw there, but we were twice ahead before drawing 2-2 and then going on to lose the replay 2-0."
Losing semi-finals is said to be one of the very worst feelings in football, but Kemp admits to mixed emotions.
"In 1976 I was still young and stupid in as much as I thought this kind of thing happened almost every year, but of course it doesn't.
"When I was a coach and we lost to Liverpool and United, at least I'd already won the FA Cup with Wimbledon, so that helped soften the blow somewhat."
The last four is still a long way off for both clubs this evening, but the whiff of Wembley will be an added incentive when the going gets tough.
And Kemp, pictured left, insists a home win is anything but clear cut against a Palace outfit challenging for promotion.
"Promotion would be huge for Palace because they are a big London club in a big football area," he says.
"Not big in Tottenham or Arsenal terms maybe, but they are the biggest thing in South London.
"They played well against us in the first game and I maintain it was a good result to bring them back here.
"But the job is far from over. They've got nothing to lose, they've got talented players and they will play on the fact we got beat 4-0 at home at the weekend."
Not that he believes Stoke should be dragging their chins on the floor after that wretched scoreline against Chelsea.
"The two own goals knocked the stuffing out of us, and then the game ran quickly away from us," he acknowledged
"But no-one should forget how well we played for a good hour, so we will take it on the chin and I'm sure the players will be fine."
That includes Jon Walters, he says, after the shock of two own goals and a penalty miss on a day for the crowd favourite to forget.
"To be honest, we haven't mentioned it," he revealed.
"When you're prepared to put your head above the parapet, like Jon has done, then this sort of thing can happen in football.
"Fair play to him for taking responsibility for the penalty in the first place.
"And I expect to see the same old Jon out there putting himself on the line for the team if he plays tonight."