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 fu....you 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!
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
Brighton v Palace Rivarly PART 1