Much has been made of the rivalry between us and the lot up the road, especially after the recent matches at the Amex.
And a great deal has been written about events in the mid-1970s that supposedly kicked it all off.
The truth is that our clubs have been rivals for much longer than that. The past 97 years have seen some memorable encounters and I wanted to have a look at some of the programmes from those contest.
It all started in 1920, when leading clubs from the Southern League – Albion and Palace included – joined the newly formed Third Division of the Football League. Our first game against them came on Christmas Day 1920 when they made the trip down to Hove and left with the two points after a 2-0 win. The return fixture was two days later and Palace again triumphed, this time by 3-2. They won Division Three that season and spent the next four seasons in Division Two. Following their return to Division Three, now designated as Division Three (South), the clubs played regularly in the run up to World War II. Palace were on top throughout this period, winning 15 of the 27 matches.
One of the matches where we managed to get the better of them was on March 1934. The programme for that season carried one of the most distinctive cover designs, with some wonderful artwork over an advert for Fryco Aerated Waters and Beverages. Fryco were based in Portslade on the site where the Chandlers car dealership now stands.
Inside, the snapshot of life in the 1930s continues. You could get an all-wool Jaeger overcoat for six Guineas (£6.25), or have your rubber stamps made up at Parkin & Hollands in Grenville Place. The Jaeger shop is now a MAC Cosmetics shop while Grenville Place was demolished to make way for the Churchill Square development. The theatre was always popular, even more so in the 1930s when times generally were very hard. Cosmopolitan Brighton had its fair share with The Regent, The Academy and The Savoy all putting on lavish shows.
On the resumption of football after the War, Albion dominated the next decade until promotion to Division Two in 1957/58. Boxing Day 1951 saw a seven-goal thriller in front of over 24,000 at the Goldstone. The programme was still taking adverts for Fryco although the preferred overcoat supplier was now Barringtons of North Street. Interestingly, overcoats were one shilling cheaper than their pre-war equivalent. The shop is now a Specsavers.
We were not to meet again until 1974/75 when Palace again found themselves in the third tier. Both clubs were building for the future and the football was exciting. The 1975/76 campaign saw Albion do the double over Palace, including a memorable night under the lights in Hove in February 1976. Over 33,000 crammed into the ground to see two Sammy Morgan goals to send Palace packing. It was at this game that, legend has it, the ‘Seagulls’ chant was born, in response to Palace’s ‘Eagles’. Referee Ron Challis (more of him later!) threatened to abandon the game if Palace fans continued to throw smoke bombs and other missiles.
The excitement and tension building between the two clubs was brought to a controversial head the following season when they met no less than five times. The two league games passed off without too much incident but it was in our marathon FA Cup encounter that things took an aggressive term. But, it wasn’t – initially anyway – on the terraces.
After two tense draws at the Goldstone and Selhurst Park, the two titans met for a third time at Stamford Bridge. Much has been written about the events of that night but Alan Mullery and, more importantly, that man Ron Challis, took their place in Albion/Palace folklore. Chelsea hastily put together an eight-page programme for the game and the league table shows us riding high at the top of the Third Division.
Both clubs were promoted at the end of the season and we repeated the feat in 1978/79 as promotion to the First Division was achieved, Albion for the first time. Some memorable encounters then followed before Palace and their fabled ‘team of the Eighties’ were relegated at the end of 80/81. Two more Christmas games at the Goldstone gave Albion fans the upper hand. In 1979, in our first top-flight meeting, goals from Brian Horton, Gerry Ryan and Peter Ward sent the majority of the 28,000 back to their left-over turkey in a very happy mood. This was repeated 12 months later, although the game was a little closer as 27,000 saw Peter O’Sullivan and Michael Robinson (2) score in a 3-2 victory.
At the end of 1988/89, Palace returned to the top flight and apart from a couple of minor cup matches and friendlies, we had to wait 14 years before renewing hostilities on the pitch. That chance came at Selhurst Park on 26th October 2002 – a dark day for Albion fans. This was partially avenged in October 2005 when Paul McShane’s header brought joy unconfined to the travelling Albion support.
Our paths again diverged in 2006 and it was only after we moved to Falmer that we again took to the field against Palace. A 3-1 win for them, including a goal from a certain Glenn Murray, set them up but the following season, the rivalry took yet another dramatic turn with play-off heartbreak for Albion.
The rivalry is as strong as ever.
Ian Hine is a self-confessed Albion anorak now living in Southampton. His first game was in August 1968 and he’s been collecting programmes ever since. In a moment of madness eight years ago, he thought it would be a good idea to digitise his whole collection. He’s still scanning!