Rachid Harkouk on Crystal Palace, Brighton, George Best and extra

Every saga has its beginning, and for the rivalry between Crystal Palace and Brighton, that came in the wintry weather of 1976. The groups met five instances that season as the fixture morphed into something tons greater, and the primary big name of the M23 derby was born. Many heroes have been made using this suit, but none can be greater colorful than Rachid Harkouk.


Born in London in 1956, Harkouk started his career in Sunday league soccer and would give up it through gambling for Algeria at the 1986 World Cup. Along the way, the man who would emerge as called Rash the Smash earned a reputation for having the toughest shot in the game, his brushes with the regulation off the field, and once throttling George Best on it.

His wild experience began when he came off the bench to score a splendid aim that earned 0.33-tier Palace their 2-2 draw at the Goldstone Ground in the first round of the FA Cup in November 1976. “I beat 3 or four gamers and smashed the ball into the roof of the internet,” Harkouk tells Sky Sports. “That changed into my creation to expert soccer.”

Palace went on to win the tie on the third strive, at the same time as Harkouk inflicted further damage in the league, scoring and putting in place some other in a 3-1 win at Selhurst Park in the spring. His hero status became showed while his late aim at Wrexham of their final sport of the season helped the Eagles to earn the two-purpose victory they had to win advertising.

Terry Venables, the Palace supervisor at the time, could later describe that in shape because the maximum memorable of his prominent managerial career, and it becomes he who had plucked Harkouk from obscurity. Rather than seek to minimize the participant’s unorthodox approach that so endeared him to the fanatics, Venables sought instead to unleash it upon the competition.

“He usually endorsed me to make the goalkeeper work,” says Harkouk. “He used to say to me that if I may want to hit the goal, then he didn’t care in which I hit it from. So that’s what I did.

“It becomes best due to the fact I have been playing park football before that. I had no fear. He knew that he couldn’t place me in anybody position, so he simply instructed me to play up the front and cross anywhere. It becomes only thru playing for years beneath coaches who had techniques that I began to consider the sport. I think it truly is when I went downhill. Just go out there and play.”

That Palace crew is still fondly remembered using supporters for his or her off-the-cuff technique. “We had been riding at the crest of a wave because we had some extreme players along with Vince Hilaire and Kenny Sansom,” recollects Harkouk. This turned into the generation of the game’s mavericks, although neither the pitches nor the refereeing necessarily favored the flair gamers.

“When I display my buddies the pitches that we performed on, they can not believe it,” he laughs. “There wasn’t a blade of grass with the aid of Christmas. As for the tackling, that turned into just par for the route. Nowadays you cannot breathe on every other player without something going on, but we were kicking chunks out of every other because you may do this lower back then.

“You used to hammer your midfield player for not giving you the ball quickly sufficient or passing it too slowly due to the fact you knew if he did catch it slowly and also you had your returned to aim, then it becomes a suicide ball. You merely knew the center-half could come directly through you. That becomes the game back then. I think that’s why a number of us have such a lot of scars.

“You had to keep your wits approximately you. As callous as it’d sound, you most effective had a referee and two linesmen looking you. It’s now not like these days with the scrutiny they have got. Back then, as soon as the goalkeeper hit the ball and absolutely everyone’s eyes had been in the air, you knew you might deliver it returned to whoever has been giving it to you. It happened loads.”

Tellingly, Hankook’s most brilliant reminiscence of his Palace profession isn’t always one of the many highs; however the low of seeing team-mate Ian Evans suffer a damaged leg against Fulham. In component, it is due to the identification of the wrongdoer, the Manchester United legend Best. Palace supporters of a favorable vintage nonetheless bear in mind Harkouk’s exquisite reaction to the challenge.

“It was a karate kick,” says Harkouk. “He got here in sideways about a foot off the floor and practically snapped his leg easy off. The motive why it’s so brilliant in my reminiscence is that once I looked down at Ian Evans’ foot, it changed into in his crotch, it is how bad the address turned into. George just regarded down and not using emotions in any way. When I saw that, I just flew for him.”

Hankook’s very own career turned into ended on the age of 30 by using a more predictable candidate, the famed hardman defender Andoni Goikoetxea. The so-referred to as Butcher of Bilbao completed notoriety for breaking Diego Maradona’s ankle in 1983, but the incident that ended Harkouk’s profession, while gambling for Algeria at the 1986 World Cup, became as an alternative less dramatic.

“The grass over there in Mexico changed into definitely thick, and while you put your foot into it and tried to turn, the studs just failed to move,” says Harkouk. “Any other time, while Goikoetxea twisted me, I might have simply grown to become with it however as an alternative my foot stayed wherein it was because of the grass. I wrenched my knee and wrenched the whole thing.”

It changed into the type of damage from which players routinely recover nowadays, however back then it transformed into an extraordinary story. “They did not have the technology to help me,” he provides. “It wasn’t malice on his part. It becomes simply unfortunate. But that changed into the stop of me playing football.”

Life because it has no longer been sincere. As a player, Harkouk was as soon as given a nine-month suspended sentence due to an incident with a few counterfeit coins and his issues with the regulation persevered into retirement. He makes no excuses for the problems he has endured.

“I even have executed a few things that I manifestly deeply remorse,” he admits. “That’s component and parcel of developing up and life revel in clearly. It’s the way lifestyles go. I were given divorced too and featured ended up in a one-bed flat. However, there are a million different guys in the identical state of affairs as me.

“I realize some of the older gamers examine the wages that they got in their day and then take a look at gamers now and cannot accept as true with it, however, what’s the point in questioning like that? I try and take a look at the positives as a substitute. I am glad. I even have got lots of desirable buddies. I enjoy life.”

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