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Story behind Brighton-Crystal Palace rivalry

The sides meet in the FA Cup third round on Monday night.

Story behind Brighton-Crystal Palace rivalry

The rivalry between Brighton and Crystal Palace has been thrust into the spotlight since the Seagulls were promoted to the top flight.

The hostility has also left many fans baffled as to why two clubs some 50 miles apart, and who until recent years rarely even crossed paths, dislike each other so much.

Here, ahead of their meeting in the FA Cup third round and for the benefit of those outside East Sussex and Croydon, Press Association Sport explains English football’s oddest derby.

Feuding managers

The Palace job was Terry Venables' first in football management The Palace job was Terry Venables' first in football management
The Palace job was Terry Venables’ first in football management
The Palace job was Terry Venables’ first in football management (Peter Robinson/Empics)

Alan Mullery and Terry Venables were team-mates, but not exactly friends, at Tottenham. The story goes that Venables was unhappy when Mullery was handed the captaincy instead of him. It was the start of a fascinating feud which continued south of London. In June 1976 Palace appointed Venables as manager. The following month Albion named Mullery as their new boss.

Familiarity breeds contempt

The Goldstone Ground was Brighton's home until 1997
The Goldstone Ground was Brighton’s home until 1997 (Peter Robinson/Empics)

With both sides looking for promotion from the old Third Division, they played each other an amazing five times in that first season. A 1-1 league draw at the Goldstone Ground was marred by smoke bombs and fighting in the terraces and on the streets of Brighton. Then came two FA Cup clashes, both drawn, leading to a second replay at a neutral ground.

Battle of the Bridge

Stamford Bridge played host to a memorable cup clash between the rivals
Stamford Bridge played host to a memorable cup clash between the rivals (Peter Robinson/Empics)

Stamford Bridge was chosen as the venue and, after a couple of postponements due to poor weather, the hype had reached fever pitch. With Palace leading 1-0 Brighton had a goal disallowed, and then Brian Horton equalised from the penalty spot only for referee Ron Challis – since dubbed ‘Challis of the Palace’ by Brighton fans – to order a retake. Horton missed. As Mullery stormed down the tunnel he was drenched in hot coffee chucked from the Palace end. Furious, he pulled a handful of coins from his pocket, threw them on the ground and shouted: “That’s all you’re worth, Crystal Palace.”

The fuse was lit…

Brighton changed their nickname to rival Palace
Brighton changed their nickname to rival Palace (Clive Gee/Empics)

Thus began a simmering rivalry which endures to this day. Brighton, originally nicknamed the Dolphins, changed it to ‘Seagulls’ in response to Palace’s ‘Eagles’. Mullery stoked things further when he took over at Palace for two years, annoying both sets of fans. One match between the pair saw five penalties awarded – four for Palace – which the Eagles won 2-1.

…and still burns

Brighton fans still sing about Boxing Day 1988, a 3-1 victory. Andy Johnson’s hat-trick in a 5-0 win in 2002 – their first meeting in 13 years – remains a particular highlight for the south Londoners despite a backdrop of more fighting outside Selhurst Park. And things took an even more sinister turn five years ago when they met in the Championship play-offs and Palace were greeted with human faeces in the away dressing room. Dubbed ‘poo-gate’, no one has ever owned up to being responsible. The latest chapter of this simmering rivalry comes tonight in the FA Cup third round. At least there won’t be a second replay.

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