How did Albion and Palace become rivals?

It has always intrigued fans who don't support the two clubs at either end of the M23. Just what is the rivalry between Albion and Crystal Palace all about?

By Bruce Talbot • 22 February 2021

By Evening Argus.
Alan Mullery shouting from the dugout during his first spell as Albion boss.

It’s not based, like all of British football’s historical grudges, on geography. There are 45 miles between the clubs. Portsmouth's Fratton Park is closer to the Amex than Selhurst Park.

Neither is it a rivalry rooted deep in the past. There have been 103 games since the teams first met in 1920 and for the next six decades Albion and Palace got along just fine.

Then came 1976 when the teams met five times during the season under two up and coming managers. Since then, Albion vs Palace has had an edge to it.

Alan Mullery had taken over as Seagulls’ boss while Terry Venables had recently been appointed at Selhurst Park. The pair had been team-mates at Tottenham – captain and vice-captain – and were now trying to get their teams out of the Third Division.

By Rex/Shutterstock
Former Crystal Palace manager Terry Venables.

The blue (or red, depending on your allegiance) touch paper was lit after the teams were drawn in the first round of the FA Cup. They drew 2-2 at the Goldstone and after watching his side dominate Mullery said, “Give Palace their due, they worked really hard for a draw and that’s what they got. I dare them to do it again at Crystal Palace.”

Three days later Albion dominated again, Palace worked hard again and this time it finished 1-1. In the days when cup ties were played to a finish a second replay was scheduled for Stamford Bridge. Postponed twice because of bad weather, it eventually took place in front of more than 30,000 in early December.

Palace took the lead but Peter Ward had a goal disallowed for handball, Palace skipper Jim Cannon later admitting he had pushed Ward towards the ball.

With 12 minutes to go Albion were awarded a penalty after Chris Cattlin was brought down. Brian Horton scored, but referee Ron Challis ordered a re-take for encroachment – the consensus afterwards that it was Palace players trying to gain an advantage – and this time Paul Hammond saved Horton’s spot-kick.

By Rex/Shuttertock
Alan Mullery (centre) during his first spell as Albion manager.

Palace hung on to win 1-0 and after the final whistle Mullery made a beeline for Challis to complain about the re-taken penalty. “It was a terrible decision,” he said afterwards. His anger had hardly dissipated when a Palace fan threw hot coffee over him as he headed for the tunnel. “I pulled a handful of change out of my pocket, threw it on the floor and shouted ‘That’s all your worth, Crystal Palace!’ And I’d have shouted it at anyone who did that.”

Mullery was charged with bringing the game into disrepute and fined £100. He later wrote to Palace chairman Ray Bloye to explain that he had been misquoted when he later described Venables’ team as ‘rubbish.’

Both teams won promotion and in 1979 accompanied each other into the First Division, Palace pipping Brighton to the title when they won their final game of the season.

Albion won three and drew the other of their four meetings in the old First Division.

More recently. there was a four-year hiatus, after Palace had knocked out Albion in the Championship play-off semi-final, before they met in the Premier League for the first time in 2017.

Albion have won two and drawn three of the seven top-flight meetings since and knocked Palace out of the FA Cup in 2018. The sides drew 1-1 in their last meeting at Selhurst Park in October. 

As rivalries go, it's still relatively new but it has still endured for nearly 50 years and former Albion striker Glenn Murray, who played for both clubs, says players soon become aware just how much it means to the rival fans.

By Paul Hazelwood
Glenn Murray tackles Palace's James Tomkins during Albion's 2-1 win at Selhurst Park.

“Growing up in the north, Brighton v Palace as a derby wasn’t on my radar really,” he said. “The teams aren’t close distance-wise but I soon learned how important it is for the fans.

“I think it catches out players who are not used to it – that intensity, it’s always a bit feisty.

"It’s just my career path that I ended up playing for both clubs, but I like to think that both sets of fans appreciate that I always gave 100% for the shirt."