Six Reasons Palace Fans Should Relish Brighton In The Premier League
Remember the date, and remember where you were, because it’s finally happened.
Four years we’ve waited, and four years it’s taken for Brighton to recover from the psychological blow delivered by Wilfried Zaha on a glorious Monday night in 2013.
Since then, fans on the South Coast have been left wondering what might have been, looking on enviously as Crystal Palace beat the likes of Chelsea and Liverpool, achieved their best ever Premier League finish, and reached an FA Cup final all while the Seagulls continued to fester in the Championship.
Not only that, but Brighton fans have been forced to watch the bottle of their team repeatedly smash, as defeat to the Eagles has been followed by play off semi final heartbreak at the hands of Derby County and Sheffield Wednesday.
It was somewhat fitting that Brighton secured their promotion on Easter Monday, marking the rise of a club that has, to be fair, climbed from the very depths of the Football League to compete among its elite.
With niceties put to one side, Albion’s promotion more importantly marks the resurrection of one of the youngest rivalries in the Football League which, all being well for Palace, will be played in the Premier League for the first time next season.
“Crystal Palace, we’re coming for you” has echoed around the Amex in recent weeks, almost as if Brighton fans have been oblivious to the fact that we’ve been ready and waiting this whole time.
It is a rivalry that few understand beyond the realm of supporters of the respective clubs who seem to be born with an innate hatred for one another.
Indeed, it would be wrong to liken the Seagulls to Palace’s bitter brother given the geographical distance between the two, which fans of other clubs are keen to point out doesn’t render the ‘M23 Derby’ a local rivalry.
Instead, Brighton are more like that distant cousin you send all your hand-me-down clothes to, forever living in your shadow and spending half the time trying to be more like you.
Not only did Albion change their nickname to mimic the Eagles in an attempt to intensify the rivalry, but they tend to do everything a few years after Palace have already done it.
While many Palace fans would prefer their not-so-noisy not-so neighbours to remain in the league below at the expense of potentially suffering a derby defeat, it’s worth remembering that Brighton have only beaten their South London counterparts twice in the last twenty-eight years.
With that in mind, I’ve trawled through the thin record books of the forty-year-old rivalry to find six of the best Palace wins over their coastal foes, which should have Eagles supporters relishing rather than loathing Brighton’s promotion to the top flight.
Crystal Palace 3-1 Brighton – Saturday 12th March 1977 – Division Three
The year it all began.
This was the fifth and final time the two sides would play each other during the 1976/77 season, and the rivalry had been bubbling away throughout the campaign. With both clubs vying for promotion, Terry Venables and Alan Mullery were pitted against each other as managers, already possessing a deep-rooted disdain for one another from their time as Tottenham Hotspur teammates.
Before this fixture was even played, the teams had been involved in a three game long FA Cup tie, during which Mullery threw a handful of coins on the floor and famously shouted – “That’s all you’re worth, Crystal Palace!”.
The Eagles went on to win that tie in controversial fashion, when referee Ron Challis disallowed a Brighton penalty despite Palace players encroaching, only for the retake to be saved by Paul Hammond, and the Eagles went on to win the second replay 1-0.
It was Palace who would have the last laugh in 1977. Venables oversaw a tactical masterclass as Rachid Harkouk scored two and set up another in a 3-1 triumph at Selhurst Park.
Both sides would achieve their goal of promotion that season, but this was just the beginning, and an unlikely rivarly was born.
Crystal Palace 3-1 Brighton – Saturday 7th October 1978 – Division Two
Alan Mullery would manage Brighton in ten games against Palace before finally recording a win over their bitter rivals, and this was the eighth game in that barren run.
After a goalless first half, Vince Hilaire drove the ball home from the edge of the box to give Palace the lead, before Dave Swindlehurst doubled the home side’s advantage with a cool finish after shaking off the attention of two defenders.
Palace, donning a glorious white sashed kit, weren’t finished there and Hilaire grabbed his second of the game when he pounced on a rebound after Mike Elwiss had his shot saved. Brian Horton pulled one back for the Seagulls almost immediately after, but with only a few minutes left it was scant consolation for the visitors.
Although this win came only nine games into the season, it would prove to be pivotal in the title race, as the Eagles went on to pip their rivals to top spot by a single point with a final day victory over Burnley in front of a record 51,801 at Selhurst Park.
Crystal Palace 2-1 Brighton – Monday 27th March 1989 – Division Two
Most fans will remember this game for the five penalties awarded by referee Kelvin Morton, only two of which were converted.
Managed by Steve Coppell, Palace took the lead through Ian Wright’s stunning left foot volley from the corner of the box that arrowed over the goalkeeper. Having won the return fixture earlier in the season 3-1, Brighton were then reduced to ten men when Mike Trusson saw red for a high challenge on Eddie McGoldrick.
Palace then doubled their lead, as Mark Bright fired home from the spot for the second time in successive home games after he was fouled by Larry May.
What followed was truly bizarre. First, Bright saw his second penalty of the afternoon saved by John Keeley, before Morton awarded a third spot kick, which Wright fired against the post.
The second half continued in the same vein, as Alan Curbishley duly converted Brighton’s first penalty to get the Seagulls back in the game. The home side then had a chance to put the derby beyond all reasonable doubt, but John Pemberton, the fourth penalty taker of day, blasted over from twelve yards.
Palace held out to win what would be the last meeting between the sides for over a decade, as the Eagles won promotion and embarked on a golden era in their history, while Brighton begun a slide down the Football League.
Crystal Palace 5-0 Brighton – Saturday 26th October 2002 – Division One
Oh Andy Johnson’s magic, he wears a magic hat…
Steve Coppell returned to Selhurst Park as manager of Brighton, but a warm reception from the home faithful was as good as it got as his new side were trounced on a sunny afternoon at Selhurst.
Having waited 13 years to reignite the rivalry, 4,500 travelling Albion fans looked on as AJ made himself a cult hero, poking home his first of seven goals in a week after just four minutes, before going on to complete his first hat-trick for the Eagles following a summer move from Birmingham.
Alex Kolinko was a mere spectator in the Palace goal as Dougie Freedman and Julian Gray also netted to consign the struggling Seagulls to their twelfth consecutive league defeat.
This season would once again see the two clubs travel in opposite directions, as Brighton were sent packing back to Division 2, while one year later Palace secured an unlikely promotion back to the Premier League.
And when he’s playing Brighton…
Brighton 1-3 Crystal Palace – Tuesday 27th September 2011 – Championship
Brighton returned to the Championship after a five year absence with a shiny new stadium that looked nearly as plastic as their fans.
The Seagulls started the 2011/12 season unbeaten at their new home and only needing a win to return to the top of the table against a Palace side that had lost their last three in the league, including defeat at bottom side Doncaster Rovers last time out.
Needless to say, Brighton fans expected this to be a procession of Palace heads on figurative pitchforks, and the moment when the Seagulls finally stamped some superiority over their South London rivals.
And for the first seventy minutes the game went according to script, as Craig Mackail-Smith poked home from close range inside the first ten minutes.
Having squandered numerous chances Palace fans would have been forgiven for thinking it wasn’t their day, but what followed was one of the greatest turnarounds in the club’s recent history.
With ten minutes to go, a fresh faced Wilfried Zaha danced his way past a number of challenges, leaving defenders in his wake before firing low into the bottom corner.
Then, with just three minutes left, substitute Darren Ambrose bundled home from Jonathan Parr’s cross, famously cupping his ears to the home fans and sending the opposite end of the stadium into a frenzy.
And if the home fans hadn’t suffered enough, Palace’s summer acquisition from Brighton decided to ice the Eagles cake, as Glenn Murray curled home from outside the box in a clip that was famously captured on video from the home end.
Palace fans delighted, Brighton fans dejected, the Eagles left the south coast having ensured that they would forever be the first side to inflict a league defeat on the Seagulls at the Amex.
Brighton 0-2 Palace – Monday 13th May 2013 – Playoff Semi-Final Second Leg
This game still does the rounds on Palace Twitter feeds on a weekly basis, and for good reason.
With a place in the play off final at stake, it was arguably the biggest ever chapter of the ‘M23 Derby’, and Brighton once again went into the game as firm favourites having come away from Selhurst Park with a goalless draw in the first leg.
Throw an injured Glenn Murray into the mix and Brighton supporters already seemed to be planning their trips to Wembley.
After a tense first half, the home side twice went close through Ashley Barnes, but his first effort was superbly tipped onto the bar by Julian Speroni, before his header from the resulting corner was cleared off the line by Dean Moxey.
The deadlock was finally broken in the 69th minute. Yannick Bolasie turned Inigo Calderon inside out before bending in a pinpoint cross which Wilfried Zaha stooped to head home at the back post, sending the fans behind the goal into delirium in the process.
With a summer move to Manchester United in the offing, Zaha finalised the first instalment of his parting gift with just three minutes to go. The winger received the ball from Kagisho Dikgacoi with his back to goal, before brilliantly turning Gordon Greer and firing Palace to Wembley via the underside of the crossbar.
Palace had once again demonstrated that when it comes to the big occasion, the Eagles are the teachers, and the Seagulls are their pupils.
The game remains the last time the two sides played each other, as Palace went on to beat Watford to promotion in the play off final, and have been waiting for their rivals to follow suit ever since.