Tonight sees a unique derby match at The Valley where Dougie Freedman takes his Crystal Palace side on a short trip to a local circus, where they have not won so much as a donkey ride for sixteen years. This however is not Merseyside, Glasgow, Sheffield or The Black Country because but this is no ordinary derby, this a South London derby where the rivalry is predominately one-sided!
Charlton Athletic hate Crystal Palace, the football club and of course that includes the fans of the club. Nothing strikingly unusual about one club and its fans disliking another club, other than that we as Palace fans care little about what goes on in London, SE7, as our true disdain surrounds a football club some sixty miles away on the East Sussex coast.
It’s fair to say that there is history between the clubs, most recently Charlton sent Palace reeling out of the top flight on the last day of the season back in 2005, but the damage had been done many weeks and matches prior to the lights being turned out on Crystal Palace’s last taste of top flight football. Charlton celebrated the relegation of Palace on that infamous last day of the season as if they themselves were celebrating a big fat gypsy wedding. The Clowns as they are affectionately nicknamed by the Palace fans’ have hit a few highs and plenty of lows in recent years, culminating in a fall from grace which ended up with Clowntown (an area of London with the postcode SE7 twinned with.......well absolutely nobody) being visited by such footballing giants as Scunthorpe and Hartlepool in the third tier of English football, (no disrespect whatsoever is meant to either The Irons or The Monkey Hangers or their fans in this piece).
Then unlike a phoenix rising from the ashes, and more like a bunch of red nosed buffoons in wigs, baggy trousers and face paint Charlton Football Club and their fickle fans pulled together and managed to rescue a semblance of respectability, by regaining their Championship status this season, after three seasons in the wilderness.
I have never known a football club like Charlton to want a rivalry with a fellow club who only on the basis of geography happen to reside close by, whilst their neighbours simply do not feel the same. For Palace, a match against the Clowns is just another league fixture, and for Crystal Palace and their fans it is the opportunity to win a match, as with any match, every week of the season. The notoriously loud Crystal Palace fans will turn up in their numbers on the day and win, lose or draw they will sing for 90 minutes to show the pride and passion and absolute love they have for their club, no matter what!
Palace and Charlton are bordered by another South London club, in Millwall, all three of whom now ply their trade in the second tier of the English game and some sizeable Premier League London based giants such as Arsenal, Chelsea and Tottenham, whilst we are also surrounded by some other novelty clubs in areas such as West London, East London, Hertfordshire and Kent.
Palace have a rivalry with Brighton that is as animated as any footballing rivalry in the Country, and probably the most unusual of its kind, because if you are not a fan of either team it is very unlikely that you will understand the history and subsequent loathing that the fans of these two clubs have for each other. It is indeed a truly intense and fierce rivalry and the game that both sets of fans look for the moment the fixture lists are released. If as a fan of football you want to understand better what fuelled the Palace v Brighton hostility then do please read this article.
As for Charlton, well they are looking forward to this evening’s game under floodlights like a rabbit about to pass a row of six snarling caged greyhounds before the traps fly open. This is their Cup Final! For Palace fans it’s another game with three points at stake and some clown and traveller based banter to occupy the moment, but bragging rights......well we’re just not interested!
Palace fans love their club, the owners, the management team and the players. To Palace fans, the players must play for the crest on the front of the shirt first and foremost. Any name on the back of the shirt will not break or divide the unyielding united front amongst the fans. The players know this, they play their hearts out for the name on the front of the shirt, because the name on the back can easily be replaced. At Palace we believe in the players under the stewardship of Dougie Freedman, because we have a boss who is a Crystal Palace playing legend and knows how much the club needs the fans and the fans need the club.
Charlton currently have an ex-player as their manager, and I have great respect for him, but I bleed red and blue and 3,000 Palace fans on Friday night will I believe out-sing a stadium where they will be outnumbered in the region of 6 to 1. Come what may after tonight’s match, believe me, this is just the undercard. Come the 1st December and the 17th March, as Palace fans this is when the main event truly takes centre stage!
Bring on Brighton!
Charlton win: Evens (Coral and Ladbrokes).
C.Palace win: 33/10 (BetVictor).
Match Drawn: 5/2 (Betfred, Paddy Power and Totesport).
B. Wright-Phillips 6/1 (Paddy Power and William Hill), D. Goodwillie 9/1 (Bet365), G.Murray 10/1 (BetVictor and William Hill), O.Garvan 14/1 (Ladbrokes and Coral), A. Moritz 16/1 (Bet365 and Blue Square).
Charlton win 1-0 13/2 (Bet Victor), Palace win 2-1 12/1 (Hills, Betfred and Coral) Draw 0-0 10/1 (Ladbrokes).
# Odds correct at time of going to press.
For more odds go to Oddschecker