In truth, the rivalry really only got going between Palace and Brighton in
the seventies: the upsurge in football hooliganism, two managers who hated each
other's guts and new club images to boot. It was August 1974 that the teams met
again in full competition, once more both in Division Three with new nicknames
to boot. "The Dolphins" versus "The Eagles" was the first
game of that season and Palace suffered a 1-0 reverse in front of the largest
crowd to watch Palace home or away that season. The following March, 3-0
revenge was metered out. The win did little to aid Palace's limp promotion
effort, but it almost spelt disaster for Brighton, who narrowly missed
The following season Palace shot off the starting grid undefeated in seven
games and top of the division. And then came the visit of Brighton and the
attendant 1-0 defeat. It hardly mattered as we were seven pounds clear by Xmas.
By the time the away fixture came around, Palace were in the midst of the great
Cup run of 1976, league form however had deserted us and we went down 2-0.
Brighton finished fourth a place above us on goal average alone and having
completed a double over us. Its a little known fact, that our coach at the time
(and soon to be Manager) Terry Venables actually turned out for Albion against
Spurs in Joe Kinnear's Testimonial on 23 March 1976.
At the end of that season, Brighton's manager Peter Taylor rejoined his old
mate Cloughie, up at Forest and Brighton turned to Alan Mullery. The reason he
got the job was even due to a punch-up! Back in Jan 1973, Brighton played
Fulham and upon conceding a goal, Mullery physically lashed out at fellow
Fulham player, Jimmy Dunne! This event actually impressed upon Brighton's
Chairman, Mike Bamber who saw a real desire to win within Mullery - in fact, it
was more a sign of Mullery's petualant streak which would surface early in the
In the 1976-77 season the sides were to meet five times: twice in the league
and three times to decide an First Round F.A Cup tie. To say neither Manager
had much time for the other would be understating the case. Palace remainded
undefeated over the season notching three draws and two victories. It was the
FA Cup Second Replay at neutral Stamford Bridge that finally ignited the
already smouldering Blue touch paper. Mullery got out of his pram about a
number of dodgy decisions from referee Ron Challis, including a converted
Brighton penalty that had to be retaken and a disallowed goal! The retake was
saved by Paul Hammond. That referee is still known as "Challis of the
Palace" down in Brighton! It culminating in him blowing his top in front
of the Palace fans giving him stick for his outraged protests. He flung down
about a fiver's worth of notes change into a puddle and screamed "You're
not worth that, Palace" whilst flicking the viccy's - in the end, the
police had to lead him away!
Alan Mullery's outspoken-ness continued to fan the flames of a rivalry that
often violently spilled over into the alleyways, railway stations and parks of
Brighton and Hove and, on more than one occasion, the side-streets and shops of
Croydon. It was rumoured that he was motivated by jealousy having wanted the
Palace managerial job himself. He decided to change the Club nick-name once
again, this time to "the Seagulls". This came about because the
Brighton fans often sang "Seagulls" in response to our
"Eagles" chants. According to local legend, Brighton fan Lee Philips
started the chant in a West Street pub one Christmas Eve, as a direct response
to our cry of "Eagles". Thus, Palace are directly responsible for
Brighton's current nickname just as much as we are the alternative, and far
more fitting, "Seaweeds"!
Both sides were promoted with Brighton again finishing one place above us in
second. In truth, Palace were lucky to get there relying on a freak combination
of fixtures and results to beat Wrexham to the third promotion place. Palace
had the better of the next four encounters on the pitch and, although three
were draws, Palace and Vince Hilaire stole the show on televised 3-1 victory in
1978 - a performance captured twice on the two Classic matches videos produced.
In the 1977/78 season Brighton failed to win promotion on goal average from
Spurs, although they again finished higher than our ninth place they twice
dropped points against us. The following season saw Palace, Brighton, Stoke and
Sunderland all slog out a nail-biting promotion race.
On the last Saturday of the season, the three other Clubs finished the
season, Brighton ended up top on Goal difference, Stoke and Sunderland
provisionally claimed second and third, but we still had a game in hand: win it
and we were Champions, displacing Brighton; lose and we would miss out on
promotion by Goal difference. The opposition was Burnley, the score 2-0 and
51,801 people (or 51,482 depending on what book you read -I was there and the
former was the figure John Henty read out during the game) saw us snatch the
Second Division Championship away from Brighton at the last. There will never
be a better way to win a Championship.
The news was broken to the Brighton players at 30,000 feet whilst on route
to play in a tournament in the US. That wasn't the only bad news they were
receive that day, when they landed they found the tournament had been scrapped,
due to a fuel crisis!
The next season saw both clubs in the First Division, Brighton for the first
time in their history. To cope with the larger crowds that top-flight football
brings, Brighton erected the naffest temporary grandstand of all time on one
side. Even their own fans nicknamed it 'The "Lego" stand'. Palace
fans quickly coined the phrase and the Goldstone became known as
"Legoland" - a nickname which lasted for a good many more years than
the stand itself. Later that season, fire swept through the South Stand,
gutting the seats and wodden structure. An act which many local fans pointing
the finger at Palace fans, who lived in the area!
By the end of October Palace were riding high in third, Brighton were
bottom, but fate meant that the Clubs did not meet during at this time. The
Boxing day fixture raised its head again but their was no Christmas cheer for
Palace, we suffered a 0-3 defeat away. Whilst we were on the slide down the
table and Brighton were still skulking around the relegation zone. An Easter
home draw did little to restore Palace pride, eventually Palace finished
thirteenth, three places above Brighton, who had spent heavily to get out of
Finishing thirteenth was ominously prophetic for Palace, but in truth they
just continued the fall from grace that started around the previous Christmas.
It was also the beginning of our worst sequence of results against the Seaweed.
A year to the Boxing Day later and Palace were on their third manager of the
season-Malcolm Allison and adrift at the bottom. Palace lost 2-3 in
controversial circumstances. By the time Easter came around, we were already
relegated, but Brighton too, were in trouble, needing a win desperately. Palace
did not seem to want to take their rivals down with them and completely let
them off the hook by gifting them a 3-0 scoreline. Brighton went on escaping
relegation for another two seasons, but managed a Cup Final appearance in their
last season there.
In November 1981 Palace played a friendly against Brighton and came away
witha credible 1-1 draw adminst another management upheaval at the club as
Dario Gradi made way for Steve Kember. Then in a enormously unpopular move, Ron
Noades appointed Alan Mullery. Palace fans couldn't not swallow this and
deserted the Club in large numbers, many ended up at Stamford Brigde ne'er to
return, whilst some drifted back slowly over the years - plenty never came back
at all. One of Mullery's first games in charge was a home friendly against
Brighton which Palace managed to win by a single goal.
We renewed acquaintance with Brighton again in the 1983/4 season, the second
year of Mullery's two years. The now traditional Christmas and Easter games saw
Mullery stick the dagger even further into mortally wounded Palace hearts, yes,
he let them get away with all six points again. This were the nadir of recent
Palace history and the serious violence that followed the April trip to the
Goldstone, served only to counterpoint the frustrations.
Mullery slipped away quietly to Q.P.R. after two relegation struggles,
giving way to managerial new boy Steve Coppell. His first season saw an early
South Coast encounter end in 1-0 defeat, but the home game saw a Trevor Aylott
goal ensure a deserved draw. The game was surrounded by controversy, Palace's
Henry Hughton was sent off for a late tackle on Gerry Ryan, who sustained a
broken leg. The Brighton Manager Chris Cattlin claimed in the press it was the
worst tackle he'd ever seen, but Ryan himself refused to condemn Hughton. Once
again Brighton finished above us.
As the song goes "the fun didn't last" as just a couple of months
later, we suffered a 1-3 defeat at Selhurst in the new Full Members Cup,
conceding a goal with only 50 seconds on the clock. A week on from Boxing Day,
we met in the League proper losing 2-0 away. A game remembered by Palace fans
mainly for a scandalous dive by Terry Connor which earned Brighton a penalty.
Late in March, Palace managed to chalk up a League victory against our rivals.
The score again was 1-0, courtesy of a Paul Brush free-kick. A year before the
Play-Offs came into being, this result contributed to our position as promotion
outsiders. We eventually finished fifth, well ahead of mid-table Brighton, who
had recently re-appointed the Prince of Darkness A.Mullery OBE as their
When the fixture computer popped out a Boxing Day home fixture against the
Seaweed, the following season, Palace fans saw this as their chance for revenge
on Mullery. Palace for once got their lines right, dealing a 2-0 defeat on the
relegation strugglers on an unseasonally warm day. By Easter Monday, Barry
Lloyd was in charge of a side that had not won a League game for three months,
enter Palace chasing one of those new-fangled Play-off places; with typical
perversity, Palace contrived to lose 2-0 and ultimately it was this result that
destroy our play-off hopes.
The mood of the Palace fans was not pleasant, angry at the scoreline and fed
up at being so tightly packed onto a tiny corner terrace, when the Brighton
fans had the run of the open East terrace. With ten minutes left, a sizeable
number stormed out of the terrace, to confront Brighton fans in their own end.
The ensuing violence spilled out of the ground into Phoenix Park which played
host to several running battles form the best part of half-an-hour. The Sussex
Constabulary looked more like the Keystone Kops belatedly chasing the action
around the fields.
There was some consolation for Palace that the result did nothing to assist
Brighton's survival. They ended up getting relegated, thanks in the main to the
ministrations of their one-time idol.
Onto Part 3