Every sports team has one. You know who they are. If you don't, then you should. It's pretty easy to work it out even if you don't. You hate them with a passion. Just the sound of their name makes you gag. Yeah you got it. It's your team's biggest rivals. And for Crystal Palace FC, that team is Brighton.
The hapless Seagulls have been our mortal enemy since the 1940s and eerily echoed our every move up and down the leagues through promotion and relegation. Their desperate stalking ended in 2012 following our meteoric rise to the Premier League and of course life-changing formation of the Austin Eagles. They have soured in the Championship (England's second division) ever since, hoping and praying to one day meet us again.
That time has now come my friends. Last week those coastal cretins succeeded in gaining promotion to the Premier League for next season. Their elevation had looked likely for months now as they were tearing it up in the lower league. And up until a few weeks ago this inevitability seemed more nauseating than ever as our beloved Eagles were balancing precariously on the edge of top tier relegation. Now, with our recent amazing run of form, we can all sit back and salivate at the prospect of playing these seaside spastics next year.
You may be wondering why I detest these monkeys so. It's not like we are in the same town like Liverpool and Everton. In fact, the two grounds are 45 miles apart which in English terms is the same as crossing Texas for Americans. The M23 motorway separates us, hence the rather uninspiring name given to our rivalry, the M23 derby. There have been much more suitable foes in London for us to hate like Charlton and (excuse me will I throw up a little in my mouth) Millwall. But Brighton just really got under our skins. They were like that piece of chewing gum that wouldn't leave your fingers, endlessly moving from hand to hand sticking to each digit as it went no matter how hard you tried to flick it off. Or maybe, to use a more pop cultured analogy, a toothless zombie endlessly mouthing at us in the vain hope of assimilating us into their brainless bunch. Wherever we went they followed. And, annoyingly, up until a few years ago, they matched us step for step. Our two teams have played each other a total of 98 times. Bizarrely we have both won 37 times each with the remaining 24 being draws.
The warring came to a head in my birth year of 1976. That season we both vied strongly for promotion from the lowly third division. An unbelievably large crowd of 33,000 saw Brighton sadly beat Palace on the south coast. It was at this game that those unimaginative buffoons became the Seagulls. As we chanted "Eagles" at them, they brainlessly mouthed "Seagulls" back. 'Cos it rhymes you see. Brilliant! They can't even come up with an original nickname by themselves. Maybe I shouldn't be so harsh on them. I hear it's not polite to insult retarded people.
Over the next thirty years we yo-yoed around with them amid matches with smoke bombs and endless 80s football violence. One highlight was during an FA cup game where Brighton was awarded a penalty in the last ten minutes of the game while we were up 1-0. They scored but the referee disallowed the goal as players had encroached the penalty area before the ball was kicked. On their second take our goalkeeper saved the ball. Ha ha ha. We won. After the game Brighton boss Alan Mullery stormed into the Palace changing room and throw a five pound note on the floor in front of all the players and screamed "your team is not worth that". Bad loser. He was fined 100 pounds for bringing the game into disrepute.
Many Palace fans would prefer to see Brighton languish in a division or two below us never having the chance for retribution. I however welcome their sad little club back to the top. I can't wait to see us destroy them. Needless to say I shall be going back home next year to be a frontline soldier in this titanic battle and, to bring back the zombie analogy, shall decapitate any such Seagulls that come my way.