Thursday, 29 April 2010

Brighton v Crystal Palace Rivalry - Part 2

Wash your mouth out son

by Ian Clark

As my good friend Larry pointed out in Part 1 those of us fortunate enough to have been born in Sussex during the Albion's halcyon days grew up to hate our neighbours from Surrey (they're not a proper London club , the Nigels , are they?) with a passion. A writer from the London Evening Standard once memorably opined something to the effect that "Brighton and Crystal Palace fans despise each other with a passion rarely seen outside of the Balkans to the bemusement of the rest of the football world". The way fans of both clubs have come together to address the misfortunes to have befallen both clubs in recent years might challenge that but more of that later.

My earliest trips to the Goldstone in the spring of 1979 saw huge crowds , an ultimately successful promotion push and almost non-stop songs about Palace and their fans that quickly cemented in the mind of an impressionable 10 year old that they were the enemy. Some things you just don't question! Favourites , and I'm sure Palace have the same with the names of the two teams reversed , include a little ditty about the joy of wandering the cliffs of Dover only to happen upon a hapless Eagles fan and push him off the edge and another about how when an "itty little boy" my granddad bought me a nice new toy. Two little Palace fans hanging from a string. He taught me to kick their can work probably figure out the rest!

In an attempt to strike a balanced view (not easy given how much I hate them. I mean really hate them!) I'm going to recount three games Brighton v Palace games that live in the memory. One win , one draw , one defeat - now you can't say fairer than that! And no Palace fans the defeat isn't the unspeakably horrible 5-0 one but you couldn't really expect it to be if you're honest could you?

First up was my first taste of the rivalry back in April 1984 when as a member of the Junior Seagulls (as in the junior branch of the Supporters Club as opposed to any fledgling "firm") I stood in the South East corner at the Goldstone enraptured as goals from Terry Connor , Alan Young and , if memory serves correctly , Eric Young gave Albion a 3-1 win in the sunshine. Not sure who scored their consolation but who cares really eh? Slough's favourite son would later go on to sell his soul and serve Palace with distinction but I'm sure apart from that he's a decent bloke. Don't remember too many other details from that one but there's number one in the books!

Click to enlarge any image

Around a year later on a Tuesday night it was all aboard the Seagull Special and off to the mean streets of Norwood for my first ever visit to Selhurst Park. A 1-1 draw was chiefly memorable for a shocking assault on Albion stalwart Gerry Ryan by one Henry Hughton that cut short a wonderful playing career. If memory serves correctly both Danny Wilson and Frank Worthington reacted to the tackle by punching the Palace full-back and both went without so much as a yellow card.

My final trawl through the memory banks takes us to Easter 1989 when Kelvin "Madder than Mad Jack McMad" Morton took charge and awarded a then (not sure if it still is) record five penalties in the same game. Amusingly a Palace team featuring Wright and Bright missed three of their four (yes 4 - we only got the one) on the way to a jammy 2-1 win which was only preserved due to an acrobatic late save by Perry Suckling which denied the Albion the draw which was the least they deserved. Albion's Alan Curbishley gave an exhibition on how to take the perfect penalty to his hapless Palace counterparts. What sticks in the memory the most I think is the fact that Morton awarded them 2 pens in the space of about 3 seconds. Having missed the first , awarded for the little known offence of sneezing too audibly in the area , the ball was cleared and promptly returned into the box only for Kelvin to agree to a cheeky request from Wrighty of "can we have another go please ref". It was a display of blatantly biased refereeing which has only been topped by the ref in Escape to Victory where a team of Allied heroes (the Albion let's say) featuring John Wark , Mike Summerbee , Pele and Michael Caine fought bravely against the forces of evil (Palace).

Penalty ref! A bird's-eye view (well almost) of the game in which Kelvin Morton may of had a hand in a Palace victory.

One final related anecdote from the perfect Tuesday night in Wolverhampton where the Albion put on a display worthy of the Brazil 1970 World Cup team to hammer Wolves 4-2 including a goal from Robert Codner that in an eerie twist I described in perfect detail to Mr Last several hours before kick off. As we waited on the South Bank at Molineux for the home fans to disperse news came through from Anfield of a 9 (nine) nil win for Liverpool against Palace. The memory of grown men dancing with tears of happiness in their eyes has never left me.
As well as Eric the Ninja another man to have served both clubs is Steve Coppell. It says a lot about the man that he is revered by both sets of fans. Despite having been manager of Palace no less than 207 times and being derided in songs throughout that time by Albion fans about his lack of a birth certificate ("he's a Palace bastard") and his regular trips to the STD clinic - these are tribal football songs and no-one is seriously alleging either is actually true in case any libel lawyer is planning a raid on Danny's bank account I should make clear at this point - the Albion fans instantly took him to their hearts during his all too brief spell managing our club. It's also true that upon Russell Slade's departure earlier this season Coppell was the overwhelming choice of the fans to return. This of course was pre Gus so we'll never know how that would have worked out but by all accounts Coppell conducted himself honourably throughout the time he was courted - if indeed he was.

This coming Friday Palace fans will once again make a trip to Sussex to take part in an annual kick around with their Brighton counterparts to raise money for the Robert Eaton Memorial Fund. Anyone wanting to know more about this laudable cause can read up on it at REMF Homepage. Suffice it to say that everyone involved in the venture is an absolutely corking chap and the media would do well to devote to it a 10th of the time they take to talk up every scuffle anywhere near a football stadium as evidence that everything from hanging , the birch , National Service and the Watney Cup should be brought back immediately to avoid the country descending into anarchy.

The game comes less than 48 hours before Palace's own date with destiny in the shape of a relegation decider with Sheffield Wednesday at Hillsborough. Only a home win will save the Owls while a draw will keep Palace up - almost like their very own Hereford 1997. Do I want Palace to go down? Probably. Is the 10 point deduction seemingly forced upon them by an impatient Hedge Fund fair? Probably not. One thing however is beyond dispute. No real fan on either side would wish extinction on the other team due to a debt a fraction of that which it's apparently ok for Man United to carry.

In order for the next generation to enjoy their own derby moments to come Palace have to overcome their current difficulties. If that only comes after a good few seasons struggling at the arse end of League Two while the Albion prosper in their new gleaming state of the art stadium so be it. Hey I'm a proud son of West Sussex so it's upto Crispin or Nigel somewhere in Tattenham Corner to get in touch with Dan for the right of reply!

The game that started it all off? See comments section below for details and please feel free to comment yourself.

Brighton v Palace Rivarly PART 1

1 comment:

Danny Last said...

This has just been faxed into EFW HQ from a Palace fan:

My dad used to take me to watch Palace from the age of 3 so my early years of going to Palace were filled with 3rd Division derby games against Millwall and Brighton, the latter being the games that really stick out in the memory. El Tel and Alan Mullery had both played together for Spurs and England and had then gone into management at the same time with Palace and Brighton. I believe it was their two personalities that really created a football rivalry that was never there before.

After an FA Cup reply at (neutral) Stamford Bridge, Mullery made some derogatory remarks about Palace fans, and so the rivalry of the Eagles and Seagulls was born (to me anyway)
May 1979 saw both clubs promoted to the 1st Division, with Palace piping Brighton to the Championship after beating Burnley in front of a record crowd of over 51000. Derby matches always were 30000+ affairs back then as both clubs regularly filled Selhurst and the Goldstone out.

The local paper The Croydon Advertiser even did a piece on Alan Mullery breaking the news mid flight over the Atlantic to the Brighton team that Palace were champions as Brighton embarked on an end of season tour (very fashionable back then) of the USA.

Both teams have enjoyed relatively little success since those heady days of 1979 although both teams reached FA cup finals, both losing replays to Man Utd. I took great pleasure of reminding Gordon Smith of the famous commentary "Smith must score" he then asked if by any chance I was a Palace fan, how did he guess?

Brighton away when I was a teenager seemed like the biggest derby in the world never mind that both clubs were now flirting with relegation to the 3rd Division or mid table mediocrity. If they were lucky crowds of 10-12000 were the norm in the mid 80s, but to both sets of fans the rivalry was as intense as ever.

I won’t go in to detail as police investigations might still be open on some of the incidents but both sets of fans claimed victories over the years with the usual incidents at pubs, parks, piers, clubshops, railway stations etc. In fact my first brush with the law was getting arrested at the Goldstone ground. Palace were losing 3-0 and this 15 year old lost the plot, and then spent the rest of Easter Sat in Hove nick waiting for my angry mum to bail me out, worst was to come as I was then grounded for the Charlton game on the Bank Holiday Monday, and unbeknown to me two prefects from school witnessed the incident and couldn’t wait to tell my headmaster when we returned after the holidays.

During the 90s Palace found themselves yo-yoing from the Premier league to Division 1 whilst Brighton fought for their very survival. Unfortunately both clubs have been mismanaged over the years with Brighton having lost the Goldstone, before being forced to travel to Gillingham, then having to endure years of the Withdean Athletics Stadium, although for the Seagulls things are looking much rosier with the Falmer stadium nearing completion. For Palace though there is administration, possible relegation and even groundsharing on the horizon.

There are so many parallels between both clubs it is quite spooky, that’s why I rate Palace v Brighton as a real football derby. Although I hope the rivalry isn’t resumed until the season after next, at Falmer with Brighton gaining promotion to the Championship. Optimistically, Palace can gain some stability with new owners hopefully owning Selhurst Park, so at least a point on Sunday for the Palace!

Writing this I have tried to be as neutral as possible!