One of those long-running feuds that goes back so long that few (least of all the warring factions so heavily invested in it) can quite remember what prompted it in the first place, Crystal Palace and Brighton resume hostilities on Monday night in what is arguably the Premier League’s weirdest derby. A quick recap: having endured a somewhat pr1ckly relationship during their playing days at Tottenham, Terry Venables and Alan Mullery were appointed managers of third division clubs Palace and Brighton respectively, within a month of each other in 1976. The sides would go on to meet five times that season, tensions simmering on each occasion before reaching – quite literally – boiling point after the fourth encounter when a Palace fan threw a cup of coffee over Mullery.
Reaching into his pocket, the Brighton boss pulled out a handful of change. “That’s all you’re worth, Crystal Palace,” he shouted, accompanying his exhortation with some V-signs. Led away by the Old Bill, he was subsequently forced to dig deep again after being fined £100 for bringing the game into disrepute. A bitter rivalry was born, albeit between two clubs located 45 miles apart and with no other obvious grounds for mutual contempt beyond an airborne cup of hot beverage and some scattered coins.
While tea, coffee, Bovril and hot chocolate are all available from the Selhurst Park concession stands, in these straitened times any Crystal Palace fans thinking of scalding mild-mannered Brighton manager Graham Potter might think twice about doing so when confronted with the knowledge it will cost them £2, and that’s without factoring in the accompanying night in the cells, court appearance, fine and banning order. The more flash among any enraged fans are discouraged from hurling other available missiles in the form of burgers (£5), hot dogs (£4.50) or Tuscan bean pies (£4) for the same reasons.
“I know what it means for the fans to win the game,” parped Palace Pat Vieira in the buildup to the Sarf Lahndan ding-dong. “I know the trouble our football club went through. I understand how passionate both fans are about the game.” Travelling Brighton fans will head up the A23 to see their Seagulls take on the Eagles in the Angry Birds Derby, knowing that victory will catapult their side to the top of the Premier League table. Having hailed the “fantastic atmosphere” at Selhurst, Potter captured the essence of this intense rivalry with a typically Churchillian cri de couer. “Hopefully we can play well and bring the result back,” the Brighton manager roared, with the kind of stirring rhetoric that is likely to inflame coffee-wielding Palace fans.