Brighton and Hove Albion and Crystal Palace: a rivalry so strange and obscure that nobody outside the two clubs truly understands its origins and its sheer significance to both sets of fans.
Most football rivalries are pieced together for geographical reasons or by a decades-long battle for major silverware. So the tension between Brighton and Palace often causes confusion, and sometimes slightly misguided opinion that it ceases to be a ‘proper’ rivalry.
But it is. Ignited by a long-standing rivalry between Terry Venables and Alan Mullery, given oxygen to by Ron Challis, nickname changes, an Andrew Johnson hat-trick and Wilfried Zaha. Despite the almost 46 miles between the Amex Stadium and Selhurst Park, the two clubs despise each other.
Venables, Mullery, Challis, retaken penalties, boiling coffee, V-signs, nickname changes & Wilfried Zaha: how an unlikely rivalry brewed
Venables and Mullery were appointed managers of Palace and Brighton respectively in mid-1976. They had previous history from their time together playing for Tottenham Hotspur when manager Bill Nicholson opted to award the club captaincy to Mullery, a fans favourite, rather than Venables.
Although it took a year for the bitter tension between the pair, and the two clubs, to properly manifest. 6 December 1977; a second FA Cup first round replay at Stamford Bridge. Mullery had complained about Palace’s defensive performance in the original tie, claiming they played for the 2-2 draw. He dared them to do the same at Selhurst Park, and they did – drawing once more.
A true rivalry was born at Stamford Bridge. Palace led through Paul Holder before referee Challis disallowed a Brighton goal for a handball by Peter Ward – although Eagles captain Jim Cannon later admitted the striker had only handled the ball because he had barged him in the back. Brighton were then awarded a penalty which they scored, only for Challis to demand a retake due to encroachment. The only problem being that it was in fact Palace players who encroached. Brian Horton missed the resulting penalty and Brighton fans coined Challis’ nickname, ‘Challis of the Palace’.
Post-match, Mullery was taunted by Palace fans, allegedly even having boiling coffee poured in his general direction, and responded by pulling loose change from his pocket and yelling “that’s all you’re worth, Crystal Palace!” while flicking a V-sign in their direction - a now infamous picture.
That was only the start. Brighton changed their nickname from the Dolphins to the Seagulls just a year later in response to Palace re-branding themselves as the Eagles from the Glaziers. The sides met regularly through the 80s but clashed just once between 1989 to 2002 – a 2-0 Palace victory en route to their Zenith Data Systems Cup success in 1991.
The game in October 2002 was significant – the Eagles won 5-0. Palace forward Johnson had been inconsistent since his move from Birmingham City but scored a hat-trick in the mauling of the Seagulls, writing his name into Palace folklore in the process.
They met just three more times in the next eight years – a win for each side and a draw. But then the latest and most significant period of the rivalry occurred. Brighton, promoted to the Championship in May 2011, moved into their new stadium, the Amex, and Palace became the first away team to win a competitive fixture there the following September. In May 2013, Zaha’s brace against the Seagulls sent Palace to the Championship Play-off Final, which they won and were subsequently promoted.
Brighton promoted, first Premier League meeting
The Eagles have remained in the Premier League ever since while Brighton have often come close but regularly failed at the final hurdle – cue mass taunting from south London. Although that changed in May. Brighton are now a top-flight club, incidentally currently above Palace in the table, and they meet for the first-ever time in the Premier League era tomorrow (Tuesday).
Palace, bottom of the table and without an away point or even a goal all season, travel to the Amex for the first time since Zaha single-handedly fired them to Wembley, and broke the hearts of Brighton fans in the process.
Brighton are ninth and were unbeaten in five league games before their unfortunate defeat at Manchester United on Saturday.
The Eagles have improved under new boss Roy Hodgson, who replaced Frank de Boer in September following a woeful start to the season. The south Londoners beat Stoke City at the weekend thanks to Mamadou Sakho’s winner in added-time and they will take the momentum into Tuesday’s game.
Neither manager has any fresh injury concerns ahead of the so-called M23 derby. Brighton boss Chris Hughton said midfielder Steve Sidwell is still sidelined by a back problem, but Beram Kayal is fit following his leg break in pre-season and was an unused substitute at Old Trafford.
Palace were concerned about the fitness of Yohan Cabaye, who appeared to be injured in the build-up to Sakho’s goal on Saturday, but Hodgson confirms he has a fully fit squad, barring long-term absentees Chung-yong Lee and Connor Wickham.