Crystal Palace vs Brighton & Hove Albion: Joel Ward on what the Rivalry means to the Players

Written by FYP Fanzine

After seven and a half years at Crystal Palace and half a dozen derby games against Brighton, Joel Ward knows exactly what the game means to Eagles fans.

Speaking exclusively to the FYP Podcast this week, Ward outlined just how aware the Palace players are of the game and its importance.

He said: "I think it's hard not to be aware of it, just because of the buzz of it around the social media, radio, TV, whatever it is. The buzz is there and I think all the players know that. I think any big derby, people know what it is so I think Monday will be a special night."

Palace take on their bitter rivals tonight (Monday) in the first derby of the 2019/20 season and the fifth in the last three years and although Ward will be missing out through injury, he says that playing in it, it's hard to ignore the atmosphere and the occasion after the players cross that white line.

"I think its one of those where yes first few minutes your hairs are up and you know the importance of the game but I think, in the Premier League, every game is like that. The importance of it -- you can't do anything silly.

"When you've played a lot of games and you've got the experience, you just subconsciously go out there and do what you've got to do. As long as you do your job, you're ticking the boxes and making sure you give yourself the best chance."

LISTEN: Joel Ward on the FYP Christmas Special Podcast

Ward was given an early initiation into the Palace Brighton derby in his first season at Palace having joined from Portsmouth in the summer of 2012 as the two teams played each other four times, twice in the league and then in the playoff semi-finals, finishing in that infamous 2-0 win for the Eagles at the Amex in the second leg.

"That was arguably one of the best if not the best away games to be involved in," Ward says remembering that game.

"The first game [in the league] at their place, I was just coming back from injury so I missed that. Then I came back in for the game after for the last 10 games of the season as we went into the playoffs.

"That night, wow, that night was something special. The atmosphere, the buzz after the game was just hard to describe. I think it was Jonny Williams's dad and my dad who were sat close to each other just going crazy. I saw dad later on and the family and I don't think any of them had a voice, just gone." 

In the current squad, only Wilfried Zaha has played in more Palace Brighton derbies, having featured in 10 in the last eight years, four more than Ward.

Listen to Joel Ward talk about the Brighton rivalry, almost not joining Palace at all, the secret to surviving in the Peemier League and some of his favourite moments in red and blue only on the FYP Christmas Special podcast below...