Harty on the Albion’s match at Palace and Ricky Hatton

“It’s a marathon, not a sprint” Aesop’s fable of the Tortoise and the Hare. Dress it up whichever way you like, after 19 games the Albion find themselves one place outside the play-offs and, frankly, I’m more than happy to be there at this stage of the season.

Just on the shoulder of the leading pack, a classic sporting position and, while every league game carries the same three points up for grabs, the next few weeks are key to the whole season for a multitude of reasons, starting with “the game” at Selhurst Park on Saturday.

About 10 years ago, my son, then aged seven, asked me why Brighton hate Palace?

Hate is a very strong word and we all hate people for various reasons but is the hatred borne out of football rivalry really that?

Is it more a healthy sporting hatred in the same way Big Daddy “hated” Giant Haystacks?

I know many Palace fans, some of them I’d even talk to on my doorstep. One of them is even my skipper at Worthing under-18’s, but I don’t hate any of them, it’s just the passion of football.

There’s no doubt that the atmosphere at Selhurst Park will be electric on Saturday, as it has been for generations of supporters on both sides, and despite Palace’s impressive form (gritted teeth typing, I’m predicting that Albion will come away from Croydon on Saturday evening with at least a point, hopefully all three. But I’m also hoping that, while it remains a passionate occasion for both sets of fans, the headlines we read on Sunday and Monday will be about the game, rather than events off the field.

Sadly, all my fears about Ricky Hatton were realised on Saturday evening.

I don’t think any of us can really comprehend what it must be like for someone who was at the top of his field, only to return after more than three years and realise fairly early on that he just didn’t have it any more.

Bizarre as it may sound, I’m glad the knockout blow was a body shot rather than a potentially more damaging punch to the head. He leaves boxing as a rich man, still respected by his legion of fans, with a loving family and a great future as a trainer and a promoter.

In time, that will mean far, far more than any titles or belts.