Brighton and Crystal Palace; the rivalry that miffs the rest of the footballing world. Growing up as a kid at The Goldstone through the late 80’s and early 90’s it was obvious to me that Palace were our rivals.
I didn’t know why? I just heard the chants, learned the words and “hated” Crystal Palace just like everyone who surrounded me. For me the problem was that I never saw us play them. I would ask friends and read articles, but never got a definitive answer. However, both sets of fans bought into it and the rivalry is there.
Fast forward to 26th October 2002, my first ever derby day match. I have never seen anything like it. Real angry men, shouting, chanting, luzzing any random objects at each other and of course a police presence like no other.
I guess 13 years since the last game must have brewed an awful lot of tension, but still I didn’t really understand it. A humiliating 5-0 defeat made me realise how much I hated like Palace. It was the worst experience at any football match I had been too.
In 2004, I played my way into The Robert Eaton Memorial Fund team, making a cameo appearance and scoring with my first touch on debut. Since then, I have played in nine REMF games, managing the team twice. In that time, the REMF matches have seen similar squads play each other throughout the years, so friendships started to build between the two sets of teams.
Having started my REMF career, as a favour for a friend, with the bonus of getting the chance to play on the hallowed turf of Withdean Stadium, I became so involved that it became a huge part of my life. (That's me up there celebrating last year's victory at Lewes FC)
I started fundraising as well as playing. Part of the fund raising efforts meant building up connections with the Palace end of things, and as a result, some great friendships were created.
It made me realise, that after all I was taught in my formative years as a Brighton fan, that the fact was I don’t really hate Palace. I openly say it on the social media network, which leads to some stick, and some people even questioning whether or not I am a true Brighton fan? For various reasons, there are teams I hate more than Palace; Manchester United, Chelsea and Portsmouth being those teams.
To me the rivalry is now more pantomime villain than arch enemy. I don’t really see the need for any violence or anger, but obviously it does happen. There is always banter between me and my Palace friends, especially as Palace are always above us and beating us. Thankfully the last game at The Amex changed that, we finally won with a glorious victory in the rain.
The good thing I can say about Palace fans on the whole is that you come across as local people supporting your local team. I can only applaud that, especially with big teams like Arsenal and Chelsea on your doorstep, oh and Spurs too.
This years REMF offers another great chance to show that the rivalry between the clubs doesn’t have to be a horrible one. In fact, it proves that working together we can do brilliant things.
Join us at the Amex Stadium on Monday May 30th to see if Palace can win. Tickets are £5 for adults, U16s in free and kick-off is 6pm.
Andy Johnson and Robert Quinn will be playing for the Eagles!