Brighton & Hove Albion v Crystal Palace - The thoughts of Kevin Day....
Brighton entertain their fiercest rivals Crystal Palace tomorrow for the first time in six years. European Football Weekends has one foot in the Brighton camp. On the other side of the fence is Match of the Day 2 regular, Kevin Day....
I just want to get this over with now. I've been as nervous as Ryan Giggs in a newsagent for the past six weeks and I never get nervous because I'm old enough to believe that football is just a game. But this one is so not just a game. So I just want to take the inevitable stuffing, turn the phone off and hide under the duvet until the seaweed fans switch their gloating searchlights elsewhere - and if you think the eye of Sauron is an unforgiving and exhausting gaze, it's nothing to what Palace fans have been subjected to from the smugness of Sussex recently.
And if that strikes you as a tone of weary resignation then congratulations, you've caught the mood of Palace fans. Our away form is dismal: the defeat at Doncaster being the latest proof that Palace could make a fortune by hiring themselves out to shit teams desperate for a win. And although our financial fortunes have improved, the seaweed are officially on a roll. They've got a brand new environmentally friendly stadium powered solely by self-righteousness (I'm not saying it's middle class but I believe Sandi Toksvig is the pitch announcer). They've got money to burn and a team playing free flowing attractive football. Not only that, but they seem to be in the wank bank of every journalist and pundit south of the river - I have been told off many times for shouting "get a room" at Steve Claridge as he bats his eyelashes and tells us how brilliant and gorgeous Brighton are.
"But Kevin” I hear you say (and I really do hear you, the voices in my head won't go away until this is over), "Why such bitterness about a team that play fifty miles away from you?" It is odd that they are our bitterest rivals. Millwall and Charlton carry on their scrap dealing ways unhindered by our contempt, they don't even register. It's all reserved for Brighton. And the odd thing is, it's all so new. It's only since an FA Cup game that went to a third replay at Stamford Bridge in 1975, that this passion has been unleashed. I was there, it was one of my first 'away' matches a kid and I still remember Alan Mullery's face contorted with rage, attempting to confront Palace fans, which being Alan Mullery he obviously failed to do (if I was the Navy Seal that found Bin Laden and Mullery was next to him, I would have been in a real pickle).
Both teams were in the old Third Division then and got promoted and relegated together in several seasons to come. Within five seasons it became a lifelong enmity and some of the pre and post match fighting was horrendous (and let's face it, out of character, neither team had any sort of reputation for trouble).
I'm also aware that dispassionately, the Brighton story is a good one. A team saved from oblivion, travelling from ground to ground, being refused permission to come home then returning triumphant to their own
patch. A romantic football lover like me should be all over that. But I can't be dispassionate about them. Especially not when people I never knew were Brighton fans have crawled out of the woodwork to tweet and
text me about how good they are. My God, I wish I had gloated when they were two divisions below us and really shit, but I didn't because Palace fans are too nice. And now it's too late. We're going to lose
and they are going to gloat.
Like this? You might like the EFW interview with Kevin Day