I met Steve Kember (JRGS
1959-63) at the Crystal Palace Player of the Year Dinner
last Saturday, as pictured
left. Click in the thumbnail to view a larger version.
The Crystal Palace Football Club Player of the Year Dinner
featured a Special Achievement Award for the 1978/79 squad who
won the old Second Division (now the Championship) clinching the
title in front of over 51,000 spectators, the largest ever crowd
at Selhurst Park. Amongst that squad was Steve Kember, who had
returned to the club he had supported as a boy after spells at
top-flight clubs Chelsea and Leicester. Later he would go on to
manage Palace on three separate occasions.
In all he appeared 291 times for Palace, scoring 38 goals, including the
winning goal that took Palace to the (old) First Division in
1969; add the 247 appearances and 19 goals for Chelsea and
Leicester and that's a career total of over 530 appearances. He
also won several caps for the England Under-23 team.
We caught up with a few reminiscences of John Ruskin GS, including
a word or two about Mr. Smith's longevity. Often to be
seen at Selhurst Park watching Palace home matches as Palace
remains his club. Steve is currently scouting for Premier League
side Fulham, managed by Roy Hodgson (JRGS 1958-65),
another Ruskin old boy, and working part time for Whitgift
John Byford, Camberwell, London,
May 2009 Email
Peter J. B. Wilson
(1956-63) adds: Steve
Kember was an excellent chess-player in the first form at John Ruskin
GS; I remember him playing at the lunch-time chess-club meetings. He
dropped out of that - I remember him telling me that he didn't have time
for both football and chess. There were tales of him being told (by
teachers) that he would never make a living from football. I recall him
saying that if he worked very hard at football he reckoned he could make
it as a professional footballer. How right he was! I know he used to
play for school teams and for other local Croydon sides, all while he was
I didn't move to Croydon until I was 12. I remember years and years
of standing on the terraces at Selhurst Park watching Palace, initially
by the half-way line where the Arthur Waite Stand is now, and later in
the sheltered terrace area in front of the Old Stand. The first match I
saw had Johnny McNichol as Captain, wearing either the number 4 or
number 2 shirt. Alf Noakes was at left back and Johnny Byrne wore the
number 9 shirt. I remember Byrne going to South Africa after playing for
West Ham; maybe he is still there?
What happened to other Ruskin footballers? I recall Dave (?)
Fentiman playing in goal for Croydon, Surrey and London Boys' sides
and Mick (?) Noakes scoring bucketfuls of goals for the school.
Also Peter Lyle playing in goal for the school, or at least for
Beta House. Didn't he join the RAF as a fighter pilot? Peter was also a
top-class high jumper. Then there was Robin Clarke who, at that
time, was the youngest ever full Football Referee - I think he got that
at 13. Memories, memories!
John Byford replies:
Johnny Byrne died October 1999 in South Africa, only 60 years old.
(1963-65) adds: I met
Steve Kember at the Streatham Cricket Club 150th Anniversary meal
a couple of years ago, and he confirmed then he no longer played
football but was still active at the Old Mid Whitgiftians cricket club.
I knew his brothers and sister well as they all played for Croydon
Korfball club that was based in the recent past at Lloyd Park. I played
Korfball on and off for 39 years! Some other former JRGS pupils played
korfball including Ray Harper. A very attractive former JR girl
also played - it's a mixed game!
As John Byford recalls, Johnny Byrne died at the age of 60 in South
Africa - he was a member of Streatham Cricket Club in the past.
And I assume it was Graham Fentiman who played in goal for
(1951-56) adds: The
"Palace" story reminded me of the time I saw Crystal Palace play Real
Madrid, complete with the Hungarians Puskas and Hiderguti, the Argentine
di Stefano and del Sol who, I think, was Spanish but I'm not sure. It
cost 10 shillings to get in in - i.e. about two weeks earnings on the
Palace scored first - or perhaps were allowed to score first? -
before Real Madrid pulled out all the stops. The result was a
4-something win for Madrid.
John Byford clarifies:
The match occurred on April 18th, 1962; Palace lost 3-4.
Ian Davies (1958-65) adds:
Mention of Steve Kember brought back memories of a brief
encounter in Shanghai, six or seven years ago.
I used to be managing director of an American company, with Asia
Pacific headquarters in Shanghai, where regional sales conferences were
often held. After a day of intensive sales training, we went out
partying on the town, and finished up at a fashionable disco that was
packed tight with sweaty bodies moving to the house music, with the
crowd of young Chinese and westerners being very drunk. I followed my
sales team into the fray, when suddenly there was an altercation across
the dance floor.
One of my sales girls was Indian, very attractive and very well
endowed. She had been surrounded by a group of Brits who were worst for
wear, and not behaving like "gentlemen." I took on the role of the
father figure/protector, and pushed my way through the crowd to the
troublemakers. I then found, to my amazement, that the boys causing the
disturbance were the Crystal Palace football team, on tour in China. (At
the time they had two Chinese players in their side.)
Within seconds, the situation changed from harassment, to
handshakes and smiles, as I was re-united with the team from my
schooldays, so far from home. The players then said: "Would you like to
meet our manager, Steve Kember?" He appeared and seemed totally
non-plussed and lost for words when we met, as I tried to talk about our
schooldays and JRGS. To be fair, it was very noisy and impossible to
hear one another. We then briefly spoke again at the airport the
following day when we all happened to be departing at the same time,
with Steve and I exchanging pleasantries at the check-in counter.
To this day, I have no idea if Steve remembered me, or had any idea
who I was! I think he was a little non-plussed meeting someone from his
schooldays, without warning, on the other side of the world.
Maybe we can secure school memories from Roy Hodgson? As I
recall, he used to go to dances at the Purley Orchid, dressed in his
father's clothes, looking very stylish, and making a real fashion
My sister, Karen lived in Malmo, Sweden, after graduation, and I
visited her regularly. Roy Hodgson and Bob Houghton (also
ex-JRGS) were national heroes. Roy took Malmo to two Swedish cups and
two championships - a corner of the new stadium is known as "Roys Homa"
- Roy's Corner. Ray took Malmo to the final of the European Cup, losing
to Nottingham Forest 1-0 in 1979. They are jointly credited with
modernizing football in Sweden.
I also run a company in Bangalore, India, and see Bob Houghton's
name in the newspaper from time to time, where he is coach to the Indian
national team. However, as India is totally cricket crazy, local soccer
gets few column inches.
(JRGS 1963-67) adds:
There I was flicking open the emails in my home office while watching
Sky Sports round up of the last day of the season, and at same time
reading the item from John Byford of Stevie Kember and of Roy Hodgson.
Then ... "Pop" there Roy is on TV! Banging on about the footie. Mind you,
he does talk a great deal of sense. Alan Curbishley [former Charlton
Athletic and West Ham manager] was on the sofa with
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