Why one man - joiner Sam Underwood - does a 450-mile round trip to support Crystal Palace

From Hull City to Sheffield Wednesday, Leeds United to Doncaster Rovers, Yorkshire-born Sam Underwood had lots of local football teams he could have supported.

Bempton man Sam Underwood supports Crystal Palace
Bempton man Sam Underwood supports Crystal Palace

From Burton Fleming in East Yorkshire, where Sam was brought up, home of Leeds United Elland Road is 67 miles away while Hull City ground, now MKM Stadium, is closer at only 37 miles afar.

Aged eight, Sam chose to support … Selhurst Park-based Crystal Palace, which is more than 200 miles from the village!

"I liked the kit,” said Sam, who now lives with his partner Karen in Bempton, near Bridlington.

Sam Underwood does a 450-mile trip from Bempton to Selhurst Park to watch Crystal Palace

“My dad was watching football on the telly. I went upstairs to look at my Panini sticker book to pick a team to support.

"I chose Crystal Palace because of the colours of their strip.

"By the time I got downstairs to tell my dad which team I supported, I had forgotten. I went back upstairs and flicked through the album again and I remember not liking the strip as much the second time.

"Whether I picked Crystal Palace the first time or not, I don’t know!”

His dad Pete, a Leeds supporter, could not put off his son, even pointing out London is a long way away!

He was taken to football matches, including Hull, when he was a young boy.

He was aged 11 when his dad took him to his first Palace game, against another London club, Wimbledon.

"They have been my team,” he confirmed.

Sam aims to attend at least half the 38 games of the Premiership season, including mid-week games.

This involves a 450-mile round trip from Bempton to the Croydon ground and home again – and a cost of more than £200 a game, including pre-match beer or two!

The journey includes a 90-minute car ride to York station, followed by trains, including the underground.

Karen, who can take or leave the beautiful game, takes him to the station and picks him back up, sometimes after midnight.

When at Selhurst Park, wearing his club shirt and armed with his scarf, he heads for Holmesdale Stand behind the goal, with the other Fanatics, singing Glad All Over when Palace score a goal and other chants including We Are Palace and Father to Son.

When he first started going to matches, Sam went on his own. Then, eight years ago, he met other Palace supporters on a train to a Sunderland game. Now he meets up with them every match.

"Crystal Palace are a real community team. I love it,” said Sam.

He starts each season with the highest of hopes that his team stay in the Premiership. He even hopes for more, including a cup win. He also longs for a run in Europe.

Sam’s son Ben is a Liverpool supporter.

"It is all different for him. His ambitions at the start of the season are always completely different to mine!”

Sam, a self-employed joiner working in Scarborough and Bridlington, attended Wold Newton Primary and Bridlington School.

He played football as a kid for Burton Fleming and Wold Newton.

"The games were on a Saturday and I could not commit to them. I would rather watch Palace than play.”

His passion for Palace is unbreakable, his knowledge of the red and blue army encyclopedic.

He can pinpoint the day, time, ground and result of almost any game – especially key moments in Palace’s playing history – including losing an FA Cup final to Manchester United 1-0 in a replay.

He was so upset his mum Gill gave him the next day off school!

The Eagles man has stayed with his team through thick and thin – including championship football – with trips to Peterborough, Scunthorpe, Oxford and Cambridge – as well as two periods of administration.

He was at Wembley when Palace lifted Zenith Data Systems Cup on April 7 1991, beating Everton 4–1 after extra time.

And he returned when they lost in the 2016 FA Cup final against Manchester United 2-1 after extra time.

Sam also roared his side to promotion to the Premiership in May 2013 after they beat Watford 1-0 in extra time to win Championship play-off final.

His club are currently enjoying their longest spell there.

Palace has a rich history with big names – "Big Mal" Malcolm Allison, Terry Venables, Trevor Francis, Ian Wright, Neil Warnock, Gareth Southgate, Roy Hodgson and Steve Cotterill.

Sam's current hero is midfielder Wilfried Zaha, from the Ivory Coast, who has so far made more than 430 appearances and scored 87 goals.

"When he retires, I would put up a statue to him. He has been so important to our success," added Sam.