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Unlikely Rivals

Usually your team’s rivals are based fairly near to where your team is located. Tottenham and Arsenal, Southampton and Portsmouth, Everton and Liverpool etc.

So although there is no obvious geographical connection between Crystal Palace and Brighton the two teams sets of fans absolutely hate each other.

It all dates back to the 1976/77 season when Terry Venables and Alan Mullery were the respective managers and the two teams were battling to get out of the old Third Division. The two teams would meet five times that season and thanks to a number of crowd incidents, questionable refereeing decisions and particularly aggressive matches a rivalry was born.

The highlight (for want of a better word) was a Crystal Palace fan allegedly throwing a cup of boiling coffee over Mullery only for the Brighton manager to throw a handful of change on the floor and exclaim “That’s all your worth Crystal Palace!” Mullery would of course go on to manage Palace for two seasons under chairman Ron Noades. I’m sure the when news of the appointment broke it would have made Rafa Benitez look popular!

Ask any Palace fan and despite Millwall and Charlton also featuring on their list of rivals it is Brighton who they despise the most. The rivalry only intensified last season as the South London club convinced Brighton’s top scorer Glenn Murray to join on a free transfer.

Murray would go on to score in a 3-1 win over the Seagulls. A result which meant Crystal Palace became the first team to beat Brighton in a competitive fixture at their new AMEX Stadium.

So with the team’s best of friends it was sure to be a tame affair when they met at Selhurst Park for the first time this season wasn’t it? Well as it turns out, no. It ended 3-0 in Palace’s favour with a certain ex-Brighton favourite scoring a brace.

In a predictably spicy affair Brighton were reduced to 10 men after only 7 minutes when winger Yannick Bolasie was brought down clumsily by defender Lewis Dunk. The dismissal was followed later by two penalties which undoubtedly left Brighton fans wondering what they had done to annoy referee Mick Russel.

The victory sees the Eagles reclaim their spot at the top of the table as the South London club look to ensure their promotion the Premier League for the first time since they were relegated in 2005.

Bizarre or not the rivalry shows no signs of abating, particularly if the fireworks continue to fly on the pitch. Incidents like the one on Saturday help to bring the rivalry up to date for many fans who are simply too young to know why they should hate another club which is almost 50 miles away.

The Eagles v. The Seagulls, it’s almost like something out of the NFL.

Robert Lock