29 November 2012


Stalwart contributor Midfield Diamond on how Saturday's match mimics the late 70's, yet the result will no-doubt be predictably different.

There was no disguising it, the headlines on the back pages explained how much of a big deal it was. A promising young Palace winger had been picked for England, despite Palace not being in the top flight. Palace were doing well, significantly exceeding pre-season expectations, while the winger had scored some good goals and appeared to have a few tricks. But his call-up to the full England squad was still a huge surprise to most people.

A couple of weeks later, Palace were due to play their local rivals Brighton and Hove Albion. Albion fans feared the worst while Palace, under a media-friendly manager, talked up the winger’s potential with a view to flogging him to the highest bidder at the end of the season.

The parallels with today, Zaha and Holloway are uncanny. I am actually talking about a long, long time ago, even before the press described Palace as the ‘Team of the 80s’ during the 79/80 season. (They were relegated the following year). I’m talking about 1976, with Palace under Venables and a winger called Peter Taylor who was sold to Spurs a few months later.

Brighton v Palace was my birthday treat in 1976 (we didn’t get to many games in those days), and it turned out to be one of the best birthdays ever. What better way to celebrate than a cold February night under the Goldstone floodlights amongst a 33,000 crowd for the game against our biggest rivals? Yes, that is the correct number of zeroes. There really were 33,000 fans there for a third division game.

I perhaps ought to explain at this point that tippy-tappy football was not the order of the day in 1976, especially not in Division 3 and definitely not during a Brighton v Palace match. The beautiful game that night comprised a full blood-and-thunder physical battle with the odd bit of skill and football thrown in. It was fantastic.

All eyes were on Taylor as he lined up on the right wing, facing our seasoned left-back Harry Wilson. Harry was a good, solid, steady full-back but he wasn’t used to facing England internationals. The first time that Taylor received the ball, Wilson kicked him right up in the air, to huge cheers from the Albion faithful. No rolling about, no surrounding the referee begging for a yellow card (which would have been a waste of time as they weren’t introduced until the following season), just a free kick and the players told to get on with it.

That set the tone for the rest of the game as Wilson followed Taylor all over the pitch and kicked him mercilessly whenever the ball was near enough. Taylor couldn’t get into the game, all of Palace’s attacks came to nothing and Brighton won 2-0 with both goals scored by Sammy Morgan. A truly great night.

Have I set the scene for a repeat on Saturday? I fear not. I expect Zaha to be ridiculously over-protected as he dives and squeals in simulated pain at the slightest touch. That will no doubt impress the premiership scouts. I expect us to lose, I expect FFS Murray to demonstrate the benefit of having a good finisher, and I expect to have a thoroughly miserable day in a thoroughly miserable part of the country. I still can’t wait until Saturday though.

No comments: