When you think of classic footballing rivalries one thinks of clashes between Manchester City and Manchester United, Boca Juniors and River Plate, Celtic and Rangers Real Madrid and Barcelona. Not so much Crystal Palace versus Brighton.
When Premier League rivals clash it is generally milked to within an inch of its life (remember ‘Red Monday’ from last season’s first Liverpool-United clash).
However, unbeknownst to many, two top flight rivals with a bitter past clashed on Tuesday night, and the meaning of the occasion seemed to go right over the head of some, with even a few of the participants unaware of its existence.
This unlikely rivalry can be traced back to 1976 when Palace and Brighton played each other five times in quick succession. The Eagles were managed at the time by Terry Venables while the Seagulls were led by Alan Mullery. The pair had been teammates at Tottenham, but it was a never an amicable relationship.
They were drawn to play each other in the first round of the FA Cup and the game went to two replays before Crystal Palace finally won 1-0 in the third game. Afterwards, Mullery says he had a pot of boiling hot coffee poured on him by Palace fans. His reaction – throwing coins at the Palace fans – has now gone down in folklore and is seen as a defining moment in sparking this less than ordinary rivalry.
Speaking to The Guardian, Mullery explained the reasoning behind his behaviour.
“So I pulled a handful of change out of my pocket, threw it on the floor and shouted, ‘That’s all you’re worth, Crystal Palace!'”
There is such animosity towards Palace at Brighton that they apparently changed their nickname from the Dolphins to the Seagulls so they could drown out Palace fans chanting their team’s nickname, the Eagles, at matches.
The rivalry was further ignited after their 2013 clash in the Championship play-off semi-final second leg clash. Tensions, which were already running high after a highly strung 0-0 first leg draw, were driven into overdrive when faeces were found on the floor of the away team dressing room before the second leg, a game which must have inspired a reaction from Palace as they won 2-0.
Although it would appear to be a valid rivalry, quite bizarrely many of the participants in Tuesday night’s game did not appear to be aware of its existence until recently, with boyhood Eagles fan Roy Hodgson even not knowing about it.
Speaking at his pre-match press conference (via the Croydon Advertiser), the former England boss and current Crystal Palace manager said:
“I don’t have an understanding of it, I’ve been given the history. I accept the official version that’s out there, and I know the rivalry is very strong, dates back a long time.”
Another Palace man who was unaware of the acrimony between the sides was Ruben Loftus-Cheek.
Speaking before the match, he said (via The Mirror):
“A few of the players have been educating me on the rivalry between Brighton and Palace, so it is a massive game.
“We were at a signing the other day and Wilf [Zaha] was getting interviewed, and the guy said ‘how much do you hate Brighton on a scale of one to ten,’ and Wilf goes ’11!’ so that tells me everything.
“I didn’t even know so when Wilf said that I was like ‘ok, they don’t like each other then’ so I am looking forward to playing in it.”
More information on the rivalry can be found in the video below.