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A thin line (and 60 miles) between love and hate

21 April, 2017 — By Richard Osley

Richard Osley

SPAMMED by London property prices, I did what a lot of non-oligarchs do and moved to Brighton at the start of the season.

Us ex-pats are badged down there as the ‘DFLs’, people Down From London, but when you take the kid to a playground, everyone pushing the swings seems to have migrated from some corner of north London, each looking frazzled by a Southern Rail strike but desperately telling everyone about how cool Brighton is at all times and how nice it is to “have the beach there”.

And it is cool, but what has been missing in London-By-The-Sea for too long is a top league football team… until Monday that is, when the Seagulls finally got over the promotion line they’ve been trying to cross for the last 34 years.

The joy was understandable, a pitch invasion, horns beeping, flags in windows. Late on Monday night, some of the team, including player-of-the-year Anthony Knockaert, whose feet must be worth a few million, were carried from the station and down to the clocktower.

Now, the most curious thing from watching this as a newbie in town – and yes there have been Saturday afternoons where I’ve cheated on Arsenal to glory-support the Seagulls at the Amex – is the venomous hatred most of the fans have for pointless ol’ Crystal Palace. It’s bizarre. They are 60 miles apart but there are songs about burning down Selhurst Park and how large Sam Allardyce’s tum is. When the fixtures come out next year Brighton fans will be just as eager to know when they are playing Palace as much as any of the more glamorous Premier League opponents.

Apparently, it goes back to the late 1970s when both Brighton and Palace were gunning for promotion to the old first division. The rivalry also stemmed from a lasting one-upmanship between Alan Mullery (then Brighton manager) and Terry Venables (then Palace manager) who had been competitive inside their own changing room when both playing for Tottenham. Still, that’s quite a fable to turn this chilled out, carefree clichéd town of vegans into an army of crusaders looking to clatter Crystal Palace.

I mean, who even has the energy to hate Palace, a team which has thrived on irrelevance through virtually its whole existence. It’s akin to being hateful to the hopeless blandness of Foster’s, The Corrs or Russell Howard, so the only possible conclusion you can come to is Brighton and Palace fans felt so bereft of having no local derby and so manufactured this manic M23 rivalry.

That’s when we come back to Arsenal, and the doom that awaits. Spurs, finally, are going to finish above the Gunners. Even worse, Spurs could win the league – and what say Tottenham beat Arsenal in the first ever north London FA Cup final. Even after a lifetime of a hilarious superiority that would sting.

And yet, what would we do without Tottenham? We’d be searching down motorways and train lines for someone, anyone, to banter with and sing songs about. We are lucky to have them!


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