Talking Sport: Brighton and Palace - the football rivalry that even Sky Sports don’t get

Gus Poyet hopes to lead Brighton to a famous victory over Palace on Sunday

Gus Poyet hopes to lead Brighton to a famous victory over Palace on Sunday

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A game of high intensity and importance will take place at the Amex this Sunday.

The stakes have possibly never been higher – with bragging rights aside, two clubs go into this ‘derby’ with realistic shouts of securing promotion to the Premier League. That’s right; it’s the ‘derby’ the rest of the footballing world will be putting their Sunday roasts on hold for - Brighton & Hove Albion versus, erm, Crystal Palace.

While many football derby matches have been meshed together by geography or years of competing in high-drama and intense competitions - note Liverpool/Man Utd & Barcelona/Real Madrid - the rivalry between Brighton and Palace falls into neither of those categories.

While I perhaps exaggerate a smidge by suggesting the rest of the football world will be tuning in, I confess that it’s the first fixture that both sets of fans will look out for when they are announced.

Forget Pompey or Crawley, this is our ‘derby’. And I’m confident that most Palace fans anticipate this fixture ahead of the likes of Charlton and Millwall, who can all be found on each other’s doorsteps.

So hos did the rivalry come about?

In June 1976 Palace appointed Terry Venables as manager. The following month Albion named Alan Mullery as their new boss. The pair disliked each other from their Spurs playing days and both clubs were vying for promotion that season.

Smoke bombs were thrown on to the pitch by the home crowd during their league meeting at Brighton’s Goldstone Ground, which finished 1-1.

They were drawn together in the FA Cup first round and drew 2-2, forcing a replay at Chelsea’s Stamford Bridge after numerous attempts to play at Palace’s Selhurst Park were postponed in bad weather.

With Palace leading the replay 1-0, Brighton had a goal wrongly disallowed for handball – a goal which should’ve stood according to even Palace’s own Jim Gannon.

Brighton were then awarded a penalty which was scored by Brian Horton. However, the ref made him retake the kick because of player encroachment; even though all parties agreed the encroaching had been by Palace players. He missed the second penalty and Palace won 1-0.

It all kicked off at the final whistle; Mullery had a cup of tea thrown over him by a Palace fan; he retaliated, various hand signals were made - the rivalry was born.

Any committed fan of football will tell you that their appetites are whetted at the prospect of any impending derby. However, with Brighton and Croydon some 45 miles apart, not many neutrals across the UK will understand why, or perhaps even notice, that this fixture has been moved to a Sunday midday kick-off for a reason. Even Sky Sports have opted to televise the more ‘traditional’ local game at the same time between Burnley and Blackburn.

A trick has been missed – a charged-up crowd of 28,000 are expected at the Amex for this one with about 2,500 making the trip down from south-east London. More than just bragging rights hinge on this game.

Social media and the internet have intensified the rivalry somewhat. Long gone are the days of simply playing your derby match and going home with the three points or a desire to drink yourself to oblivion.

These days we are exposed to it all on a daily basis. Brighton and Palace fans have been building up to this game on Twitter and club forums for ages. Banter between supporters can often get understandably heated. But it’s a rivalry which is now verbally played the season over nonetheless. There is simply no escape from one another. I should know – my best mate is a Palace fan.

So bring on Palace. I loathe their football club just as much their fans loathe ours. But a world with this fixture in it is a much better place. It’s just a shame no-one else will notice it.

What do you think? Email sport@chiobserver.co.uk or tweet Craig at @OspreyPR