Tuesday 25 November 2014 | 00:09

because of boxing day


This special feature charts the games and the rivalry between Palace & Brighton. Along the way, it discusses why the 'Seaweed' are, and probably always will be, Palace's only true rivals.

Written by Neil Witherow, with thanks to Simon Pardoe for the opposing perspective!

the famous alan mullery (1974 to 1987)


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 relegation.

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 following season.

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!

Mullery blows his stack!

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 trouble.

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 Manager.

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



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