When Brighton and Hove Albion secured promotion to the Premier League following a 2-1 victory against Wigan Athletic, chants of “Crystal Palace, we’re coming for you” were bellowed out by the home fans. Finally, they had put their 2013 play-offs heartbreak to their arch rivals behind them and kept their composure to finish the job.
On Tuesday the 28th November, for the first time ever in the Premier League, the M23 derby will take place as Crystal Palace and Brighton lock horns. This rivalry, however, may seem confusing to those who don’t understand just how this became a derby. The two stadiums are separated by an hour’s drive and despite being handily linked by public transport, it is important to understand the origins of the rivalry.
Having consistently played each other in Southern League matches since 1906, the rivalry between the two clubs sparked in the 1976/1977 season. It all started with a feud between the two managers. Having fought each other for the Tottenham Hotspur captaincy back in their playing days, Terry Venables, in charge of Palace and Alan Mullery, in charge of Brighton, came face-to-face in a season which would set the basis for the rivalry.
After a 1-1 draw earlier in the season, the two clubs met in the FA Cup and following another draw, the game went to a replay where things really started to kick off. Benefiting from some rather suspect decisions from the referee, Palace and Venables ran out 1-0 winners, much to the anger of Mullery. After the game, the manager stormed onto the pitch to confront the referee over his decisions and as he passed the Palace fans he pulled out a handful of change, waving it at them yelling “That’s all you’re worth, Crystal Palace”.
The Hostility then extended to the streets as the two sets of supporters clashed, and it was from this moment that the rivalry truly begun. A year later, Brighton changed their nickname from ‘the Dolphins’ to ‘the Seagulls’ to rival ‘the Eagles’ and wherever the two clubs met, hostility was certain.
Key meetings between the sides
Due to numerous off-field problems for the Seagulls, fixtures between the two clubs was rare between 1990 and 2011. Most notable in the memories of the Palace fans was the 2002 home game where the Eagles ran out 5-0 winners thanks to Andy Johnson’s emphatic hat-trick ensuring a long way back for the 4,500 travelling away fans.
The two sides met just three more times between 2002 and 2011 before Palace travelled to the newly-built AMEX stadium to face a Brighton side yet to suffer defeat at their new home. Having taken an early lead through talisman Craig Mackail-Smith, the Eagles left it late to stun the Seagulls and thanks to goals from Zaha, Ambrose and, most notably, former Albion star Glenn Murray, Palace completed a fantastic comeback to inflict defeat on the south coast. The two sides went on to play out a 1-1 draw later on in the year and remain in the division for another year.
During the 2012-2013 Championship season, the two clubs found themselves battling it out at the top end of the division with both teams qualifying for the play-offs at the end of the year. Palace came into the game severe underdogs. having suffered a serious dip in form which saw them only just make sixth place on the last day, whilst the Seagulls had been consistently in and around third place.
With a tremendous police presence both inside and outside of the ground, the first leg was a 0-0 stalemate in a tense encounter. Palace striker Glenn Murray suffered a serious injury which would keep him out for well over a year, much to the delight of the travelling fans to see their former man on the floor with chants of “Judas” ringing out.
The odds were stacked firmly against the Eagles in the return fixture at the AMEX in what was a carnival atmosphere inside. Palace kept a clean sheet, due in no small part to a superb reaction save by club legend Julian Speroni to deny Ashley Barnes.
Late on, they struck through the Manchester United-bound Wilfried Zaha, beating his man to the ball to glide his header past Tomasz Kuszczak in front of the away fans. With the home fans stunned, the Seagulls failed to pull back and Palace stuck again through Zaha, firing the ball past the keeper to ensure entry to the final and a huge win over their arch rivals.
Palace went on to earn promotion to the Premier League that year, following a 1-0 win over Watford in the final. They have stayed in the top flight since. Brighton, on the other hand, struggled to recover from the loss to their rivals, suffering consecutive play-off heartbreaks before being automatically promoted as runners-up last season.
The two teams will finally meet again, but the difference this time is that Palace will no longer be the underdogs. As a solid Premier League side, they will relish the chance to play newbies Brighton in November in what is sure to be one cracking game of football.