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January 19 2021 7.46am

How 'poo-gate' inspired Palace to Brighton victory

April 15 2020

Aaron Wilbraham (Photo: Andy Roberts)

Aaron Wilbraham (Photo: Andy Roberts)

It may be one of the strangest derbies in English football, but Crystal Palace and Brighton have thrown up memorable clashes over the years.

Commonly known as the 'M23 derby' the clubs are separated by 40 miles – but it's been recently referred to as 'El Gatwicko' due to the proximity of the national airport.

The fixture means the world to so many fans and they will assure you it's among the 5 biggest derbies in the world.

The rivalry all kicked off in the 1970s with both sides were competing in the old Third Division when flamboyant Malcolm Allison was in charge at Palace and the outspoken Alan Mullery was at Brighton.

As a war of words continued between new Eagles manager Terry Venables and Mullery, the supporters regularly clashed off the pitch during the height of hooliganism.

In one feisty 80s on-pitch tussle, Brighton star Gerry Ryan’s career was ended by a horror tackle from Palace’s Henry Hughton.

Then there was the crazy game when referee Kelvin Morton awarded five penalties in 27 minutes at Selhurst Park in 1989. Ian Wright, Mark Bright and John Pemberton all missed penalties for Palace but they still won – with a spot kick.

Perhaps the strangest – or smelliest – encounters was when the sides met in a Championship play-off semi-final tie at Brighton in 2013.

The Palace players were stunned to find excrement smeared on the dressing room floor when they arrived for the second leg at the Amex Stadium.

Eagles boss Ian Holloway was furious after it was believed that someone from the Brighton camp had done the dirty deed to get at their arch rivals.

Ex-Palace striker Wilbraham said the incident inspired the players to win the game 2-0, but he later discovered it was actually their coach driver who did the smelly damage.

He told Under the Cosh: "We turned up at the stadium and the smell in the changing room, it was like someone had sh*t and like it was smeared it all over the shower and toilet areas. It was all over the floor, these brown swirls and the smell…

"The boys were fuming and we went into that game thinking, ‘Right you f*ckers, doing that’. Even if it was a member of staff, we went into it fired up and won 2-0 and knocked them out. Afterwards, they were doing an internal investigation into it."

A few days later, the Palace kit man then pulled some of the players to one side and informed them that it was in fact the coach driver who did the stinky damage after he failed to make the toilet in time.

"The changing rooms hadn’t really been done yet so there was no toilet roll and he’s sh*t himself," Wilbraham added. "There’s no one about so he’s used these blue hard paper towels you get to dry your hands and tried to clear it up with a bit of water.

"He’s probably panicking trying to do it quick. He’s not told anyone because he’s thought he’s done a good job of cleaning it up. We’ve walked in a couple of hours later when it’s dried. For us and Holloway, we didn’t know anything about this."

Unbeknown to the Palace coach driver, he ended up playing an integral role in the team reaching the play-off final. Holloway's men then beat Watford in the Wembley final to seal a spot in the Premier League.

The Barcelona-Real Madrid derby may have the glamour, Boca Juniors vs River Plate might be the most fierce but neither would have had anything as bizarre as the now famous 'poo-gate' affair.

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