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Geoff Thomas: Europa spot would allow Palace to sign different level of player

Published 20/05/2016

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Crystal Palace will be able to attract a different calibre of player if they can win the FA Cup and qualify for the Europa League, says former captain Geoff Thomas.

Palace take on Manchester United at Wembley on Saturday in a re-run of the 1990 final when Thomas was captain and his side lost a dramatic replay 1-0.

Eagles manager Alan Pardew was also playing that day and will be hoping to exact revenge this weekend, with not only a major trophy at stake but also European football next season.

United have already secured a place in the Europa League by finishing fifth, but Palace must still win the FA Cup to qualify themselves.

Thomas, who played at Selhurst Park between 1987 and 1993, believes European status would help Pardew take Palace to a new level next term.

"It would give Palace European football and that will give Alan Pardew scope to get a different kind of player," Thomas said.

"Leicester have proved it's not all about names. It's about a squad of players wiling to work hard together but European football definitely allows him to go into a different pool of players.

"We've seen in the past sides have got into Europe and struggled because of the extra games but with the money now squads can be big enough that clubs should be able to cope. I think Palace would embrace the experience."

Reaching the final has not come easy for Pardew's side, who have had to beat four top-flight teams - Southampton, Stoke, Tottenham and Watford - en route to Wembley.

It was a similar story 16 years ago, when Palace scraped through a semi-final against favourites Liverpool 4-3 after extra time and Pardew scored the winner.

They then twice led United in the final but were held to a pulsating 3-3 draw, before losing out in the replay to Lee Martin's second-half strike.

"It was such a fantastic experience, I remember it like it was yesterday, standing next to Bryan Robson and Sir Alex Ferguson, and with Steve Coppell leading the side out," Thomas said.

"It was a seminal moment for United. Success always helps. Even for Crystal Palace it felt like a success, particularly after the 3-3 draw.

"We went on to finish third in the league the year after. We weren't far off emulating what Leicester have done. We were a really good side.

"It was an exciting period and the game was a springboard for us, just as it was for United."

:: Thomas is cycling from London to Paris to raise money for Cure Leukaemia. He went into remission from Leukaemia in 2005. To donate visit www.justgiving.com/fundraising/Geoff-Thomas-2015.

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