Former Albion hero signs for Palace

McShane scores the winner for the Albion

by Tom Stewart

Former Brighton & Hove Albion player, Paul McShane has joined rivals Crystal Palace on loan, and is likely to play against his former club at the end of this month.

McShane, who played for Brighton in what became a disastrous 2005-06 campaign, went down in Albion folklore by scoring a 79th minute winner in a 1-0 win at Selhurst Park.

THe Irishman, capped 26 times by his country, was Albion fans’ player of the year that season whilst on loan from Manchester United.

Since then his career has stuttered somewhat. The following season he joined West Bromwich Albion and performed well in a side that almost won promotion to the Premier League. This earned him a £1.5m move to Roy Keane’s Sunderland.

‘The Ginger Prince’ played just 26 games for the North-East side and was loaned out to Hull City, before making a permanent move to Humberside. He was loaned out to Barnsley last season and now Crystal Palace. McShane has played just 47 games for Hull since 2009.

As a Brighton fan, nothing comes close to beating Palace. A rivalry that seems to confuse those who don’t partake in it is as intense as any other in the football league. In my Albion supporting lifetime we have constantly lived in the shadows of our rivals from up the road.

Financial difficulties and homelessness have meant that we have spent much of our time in the bottom two divisions, and our three seasons in the second tier was a case of us punching significantly above our weight.

Palace on the other hand have spent that time in the top two leagues, with frequent jaunts to the promised land of the Premiership.

My first taste of this rivalry came in the 2002-03 season where an Albion side who had enjoyed two straight promotions were now hopelessly out of their depth, and had a new manager in the shape of Palace legend Steve Coppell.

We travelled to Selhurst Park full of hope, despite being stranded at the foot of the table following 11 straight defeats, but were brought straight back down to earth with a 5-0 thumping. Later in the season, when Coppell had began to work his magic and eventually almost clawed us out of relegation, Palace visited the Withdean Stadium. A Bobby Zamora-less Albion could not find the net, despite misfiring striker Graham Barrett almost writing his name into Albion folklore with a delightful chip which unfortunately hit the post. The match ended 0-0.

Relegation that season meant we had to wait for revenge. We were promoted the next season via the play-offs but the very next day Palace did exactly the same. An improbable relegation escape despite operating on a budget not much better than a sunday league outfit (i’m pretty sure a non-league team actually outbid us for a player that season), and relegation for Palace meant we were to play them again.

That brings us to that night. Brighton had not won for 7 matches, and in fact had won just one game all season, so things didn’t look great. However, Mark McGhee’s collection of youth teamers, loanees and free transfers pulled off the unthinkable. Enigmatic Frenchman, Sebastien Carole floated in a corner, McShane lept with Palace defender Emmerson Boyce and somehow the ball floated into the top corner (many claim the ball was actually a Boyce own goal).

A spectacular save from keeper Wayne Henderson, and a disallowed goal in the closing stages gave Brighton a 1-0 win.

Palace have since got their revenge, a 3-2 win later that season with a last minute Jobi McAnuff goal saw to that. As did Brighton’s relegation later that year.

It took until this season for the teams to meet again. Albion were unbeaten in the league at their brand new American Express Stadium and the team were flying high at the top of the table. When record signing Craig Mackail-Smith put Brighton ahead early on many were expecting a rout for the Seagulls. However the game slowly but surely saw a swing towards Palace. They were dominating in midfield with the impressive youngsters Zaha and Williams starting to outshine the likes of Dicker and Harley in the midfield battle.

And sure enough, 3 goals in the last 10 minutes, including one from controversial former Albion striker Glenn Murray gave Palace a 3-1 win. Not only had they shot down a confident Albion, they were the first away team to win at the Amex in the league.

Albion go into the game later this month with a slightly different mindset. A dip in form in December was ended with a 3-0 win over league leaders Southampton, with 17-year old Jake Forster-Caskey excelling. If Albion can add to their squad within the next month then they have a real chance  of getting revenge over their bitter rivals.

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