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A23 derby: Why do Crystal Palace and Brighton hate each-other?


In recent years, a great aspect of the Premier League has been lost; fierce rivalries not involving heavyweights.

There’s no more Southampton vs Portsmouth, Newcastle vs Sunderland, Birmingham vs Aston Villa, Burnley vs Blackburn/Bolton, Norwich vs Ipswich, West Brom vs Wolves or Sheffield United vs Sheffield Wednesday, due to the fact that one, or in some incidences both, of the clubs involved are no longer in the top-flight.

Yes we do have West London derbies, Brentford vs Fulham does meet the criteria set out above, but come on guys, this clash just does not scratch the relevant hatred itch.

So, the closest the Premier League currently bestows up us is Crystal Palace vs Brighton, with the pair set to go head-to-head at Selhurst Park on Thursday night.

For those less familiar with English geography, Crystal Palace is in South London, while Brighton is on the South Coast, meaning that Selhurst and the Amex are located 41.7 miles apart.

For context, a mere four miles separate Arsenal and Tottenham’s home stadiums, while Anfield and Goodison are 0.8 miles apart, with only Stanley Park in-between.

So, why is Crystal Palace vs Brighton & Hove Albion such a fierce fixtures?

As mentioned, derbies are usually based on geographical proximity, while inter-city rivalries tend to be a result of differing political ideologies (Real Madrid vs Barcelona), religion (Celtic vs Rangers) or social class (Juventus vs Napoli).

The history behind the Eagles against the Seagulls is slightly more complex.

Rule number one, don’t call this fixture the A23 derby, something we’ve already failed to do in the headline!

History behind Crystal Palace & Brighton’s rivalry

These two clubs met for the very first time on Christmas Day 1920, a 2-0 away win for Palace in case you were wondering, facing one-another a further 56 times before things started to escalate in the mid-1970s.

After not encountering each-other for 11 seasons, this barren period came to an end on the opening day of the 1974 season, following Palace’s relegation to the third-tier.

Two years later, still stuck in the third division, Palace appointed Terry Venables as manager, while his former Tottenham and England teammate Alan Mullery took over at Brighton a matter of days after that.

Led by these two rookie coaches, both of whom were in their early 30s, the pair were both promoted at the first attempt in 1977, finishing just below third-tier champions Mansfield Town.

By 1978/79, the duo were promoted together again, this time both going up into the top-flight of English football, with Palace claiming the second division title, pipping both Brighton and Stoke by a solitary point.

In total, between August ‘74 and December ‘80, these two teams clash 16 times, with both clubs often enjoying their highest attendance of the season at these fixtures, and it was during this period that a rivalry was formed.

At that aforementioned opening day fixture in ‘74, extra police were deployed to control the huge 26,000 crowd at the Goldstone Ground, with the extremely hot weather blamed for the ‘excessive drinking’.

Did you know: prior to 1974, Brighton’s nickname had been the the dolphins, due to the fact Brighton Aquarium was the only place in the UK that housed dolphins at the time.

During a clash with Crystal Palace in February ‘74, the traveling fans were chanting ‘EAGLES’, before the Brighton supporters responded with ‘SEAGULLS’ in taunt, but this has stuck ever since.

This particular fixture was almost abandoned by referee Ron Challis, after smoke bombs were thrown onto the pitch.

The most famous incident during this period happened after the full time whistle of an FA Cup first round second replay, held at Stamford Bridge after two draws at their respective home stadiums.

Defeated manager Mullery tried to approach the referee, to discuss certain controversial decisions, but was escorted away by police, whilst angrily flicking ‘v-signs’ and swearing at the Palace supporters.

He then stormed into the Palace dressing room, threw a £5 note onto the floor and shouted “your team’s not worth that” to Venables; he was fined £100, on top of losing a fiver, by the FA for ‘bringing the game into disrepute’.

A rivalry was born, and we essentially have former teammates Terry Venables and Alan Mullery who, safe to say, did not get along, to thank.

Crystal Palace vs Brighton in modern times

Now established as a fully fledged grudge match, these two have served up a few classic in modern times.

The most important, and best if you’re of a Palace persuasion, came in May 2013, with the Eagles winning 2-0 in the Championship play-off semi-finals, Wilfried Zaha bagging a brace in the second leg in Sussex, as they gained promotion.

Subsequently, Brighton have joined them in the top-flight, meaning they’ve met 13 times, serving up plenty of great goals, unforgettable moments and drama.

In January 2018, their FA Cup clash was the first match in England to use VAR, an implementation that has gone absolutely perfectly and with no controversy or hiccups at all.

On the pitch, from a Brighton perspective, they’ve enjoyed Leon Balogun scoring mere seconds after being introduced as a substitute, Anthony Knockaert’s screamer and last minute equalisers from both Alexis Mac Allister and Neal Maupay, all of which will live long in the memory.

On the Palace side, Jordan Ayew’s goal, completing the ultimate smash-and-grab, and Christian Benteke’s last-gasp volley against the run of play will never be forgotten.

Has this history lesson whetted the appetite?

Well perfect, because the pair lock horns again in a Thursday night extravaganza.

Ben Gray

Ben Gray

Arsenal fan – follow them over land and sea (and Leicester); sofa Celtic supporter; a bit of a football '"encyclopedia".