An intelligent, highly dedicated and tough tackling defender, Jim Cannon was the ultimate one club player, rightly earning a place amongst the all time greats at Crystal Palace having played for The Eagles an incredible 663 times in 16 seasons at Selhurst Park.
(Jim Cannon is pictured above, managing the Crystal Palace Home team at the Football Aid 2009 match)
Born in Glasgow in 1953 Cannon was spotted by a Palace scout in the late ‘60s and signed for the club at the age of 17 in February 1970. Cannon quickly become an important member of the club’s youth team and was rewarded with a pro contract in May 1971. And Cannon couldn’t have picked a bigger game to make his League debut in, with the newly promoted First Division club in relegation trouble and facing their London rivals Chelsea, newly installed boss Malcolm Allison shocked the club’s fans by naming the 20 year old in the centre of his defence on Sat 31st March 1973. It was to be a dream debut for Cannon, he not only helped to nullify the attacking threat of Bill Garner and Peter Osgood, but he also headed the 2nd goal in a much needed 2-0 victory. However the recovery wasn't to last and the club were relegated soon after and despite being much fancied the following season they found themselves in the Third Division in 1974 after a 2nd consecutive relegation.
The young Cannon had only made 21 appearances in the previous 2 years; however the 1974-75 season was to be the start of an incredible run in the 1st team that lasted for 14 seasons. The young Left Back was an important part of the hugely successful FA Cup run in 1976, with Malcolm Allison’s Palace despatching the much fancied Leeds United, Chelsea and Sunderland on the way to the semi finals. With Terry Venables now Manager and Cannon installed in the centre of defence, Palace went on to secure promotion to the Second Divison the following year and in 1978-79 he was the rock at the heart of a defence that only conceded 24 goals in 42 league games, enabling Venables’ side to win promotion to the First Division in May 1979, with a record 51,801 supporters there to watch them clinch promotion against Burnley!
The first season in the top flight went well for both Palace and Cannon, with the self styled “Team of the Eighties” briefly topping the table before finishing an impressive 13th place. However it wasn’t to last long and in season 1980-81, with Venables gone and the club in financial difficulties, the Eagles were relegated to the Second Division, where they were to remain for the rest of Cannon’s career at the club. With Cannon still resolute in defence, and new Manager Steve Coppell showing huge promise, the team did manage to finish 5th in 1985-86 and 6th in both 1986-87 and 1987-88 however with Cannon approaching 35 his time at the club was at an end and after a very short spell with Bristol Rovers he retired from the game.
In all Cannon was Captain of the Eagles for 10 seasons, won Player of the Year three times (1978, 1985 and 1987), received the honour of being voted into Palace’s “Centenary XI” team in 2005 and was one of the nominees for the club's Player of the Century, won by Ian Wright in 2006. Despite being called into the Scotland squad for the match against Belgium in 1979, Cannon was never capped at International level, however competition for places at the time was fierce with the likes of Alan Hansen, Kenny Burns, Gordon McQueen and Willie Miller all around at the same time as Cannon.
Since his retirement Cannon has been heavily involved in the building trade and in more recent years he has been back at the club, being employed by the hospitality department at Selhurst Park on matchdays.
We were honoured to hear that Jim had accepted our invitation to become a Club Ambassador for Crystal Palace in October 2010. He has managed teams in our 2006, 2007 and 2009 games and his approachable manner, extensive knowledge of the game and obvious enthusiasm for the club was apparent to all and was greatly appreciated by our players, with his forceful half-time team talks quickly gaining legendary status!