Daily Archives: 20/10/2013

Hurt Feelings and Childish Tantrums Down Millwall Way – by Rob Atkinson

No-one likes them, and apparently they care TERRIBLY

No-one likes them, and apparently they care TERRIBLY

Tears are being shed, teddies thrown out of cots, feet stamped in darkest Bermondsey. Tantrums are the order of the day.  Millwall fans are feeling hurt and slighted, and d’you know wot, Guv’nor?  They don’t fink it’s fair.

They have this catchy little song they sing to something vaguely resembling the tune of Rod Stewart’s “Sailing”.  The melody (for want of a better word) is just about recognisable, despite the distinct lack of choirboy types among the New Den congregation.  It’s sung loud and proud, if not all that sweetly, but what can you really expect from proper ‘ard ‘ooligans eh?

The thing is, the words are a bit misleading.  There’s a catchy verse or two about being Millwall, Super Millwall, from The Den, and then it goes “No-one likes us, no-one likes us, no-one likes us, we don’t care.”  And this is where the irony kicks in because, to judge by the reaction my few “home truths” articles about Millwall and its fans have received recently, they DO care.  They care terribly, and their feelings, bless ’em, are painfully, grievously hurt.  The resentment is palpable, which seems a little odd when set against the background of the misery that, over the years, these barely civilised ruffians have doled out to visiting fans.  I’d normally use an “allegedly” in that last bit, but you know. Come on. Get real.

They’ve caused mayhem on the road too, whenever they’ve travelled in sufficient numbers.  Happily, as they normally bring only a hundred or so to Elland Road, they tend to huddle together quietly at our gaff, being ever so well-behaved and not saying “Boo” to a goose.  But generally speaking, the behaviour they like to display (if their numbers are sufficiently intimidating) to opposition fans strikes a curious contrast with the prevailing attitude if anyone has a go at them in print.  Then, the collective lip starts to quiver, tears spring to the eyes and the mewling and whinging starts.  This petulant attitude can reach quite a crescendo, and seems to consist mainly of childish protests along the lines of “You’re as bad as us!  Pot, kettle, black!!  IT’S NOT FAIR!!!!”  All very disappointingly soft and lacking in the hard-as-nails, “not bovvered wot anyone else finks” image they like to portray in their little song.

So, over the past few weeks, I’ve gained a new and unfamiliar impression of your average Miwwwaww fan (they’re not very good at pronouncing their L’s darn sarf).  Previously I’d thought of them mainly as squat thugs, built on troglodyte lines, eyes close-set, knuckles tattooed “Love” and “Hate” and an anchor on the forearm with “Muvver” etched beneath it; terrifying when part of a mob – which is how they would invariably operate. But in the light of the piteous squeals and squeaks of protest I’ve received lately, I’ve had to revise this image.

Now it seems to me that yer typical New Den habitué is a more sensitive soul altogether, with perhaps a rather weak chin beneath a trembling “north & south”, vulnerable blue eyes all a-brim with big fat tears – and the whole topped by the kind of golden curls you associate with that soft lad whose mum would never let him play football in the street. He’ll be a bit skinny, built more for flight than fight, and his whole demeanour will be suggestive of someone who, if anyone should raise a voice to them or speak an angry word, might very well break down altogether and run home shrieking to hide under the bed.  It’s a picture at odds with popular folklore – but what else can you conclude when you hear such awful, grief-stricken and self-righteous fits of pique?

The kind of people I’ve been hearing from, so distraught and horrified that I could even dream of being critical or unkind, would appear to be the type that are quite happy being as offensive as they can get away with in the furtherance of their pursuit of happiness, but – and here’s the thing – who get extremely unhappy should anyone tell inconvenient truths about them, or make uncomfortable allegations – maybe even generalise a bit or otherwise paint a grim picture of the archetypal Millwall fan.  They get so cross, it’s amusing.  They take to Twitter, where they spend half their time going on about how they’re not bovvered – and the other half making it abundantly clear how awfully, painfully bovvered they are, and calling down divine judgement upon the head of the inoffensive blog that is the source of all this distress.

Such is life, I’m afraid.  Sadly for the Miwwwaww fraternity, if you live by the sword you have to accept you might very well die by the sword – or even by the pen which, as any literary type will tell you, is easily the mightier of the two.  It’s simply a case of suck it up, stop whinging, straighten up and fly right, all that kind of thing.  Or of course, the option is there to “Carry on Crying”, if that’s what floats the Millwall boat, soft and silly as it might appear to everyone else.  It’s your call, Miwwwaww fans.  I’m happy to say that I couldn’t give a toss.

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Brilliant, United!! Leeds Utd 4, Birmingham City 0 – by Rob Atkinson

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Cometh the hour, cometh the Beast.  As Leeds United vaulted out of the doldrums with a display of all-round excellence against Birmingham City today, it was action-man skipper Rudy Austin who was their drive and inspiration.  You can pick any cliché you like to describe the excellence of Austin’s bionic performance.  He gave 110%.  He covered every blade of grass.  He was a powerhouse in midfield, a last-ditch impassable obstacle in defence – he even found time to score the goal that provided United with a precious breathing space they’ve enjoyed all too rarely in recent times.

All that said, this was no one-man show.  From back to front, from top to bottom, Leeds were bang up for it today and would have beaten far better teams than Birmingham City, who were simply blown away by the hunger, commitment and endeavour of the Whites’ frankly voracious performance.  From the kick off, United set a tempo far too punishing for the hapless away team, and the Blues had to withstand ferocious pressure in a first fifteen minutes of siege football.  That they emerged without conceding from that opening quarter-hour was mainly about some casual finishing, but Blues had defended grimly and must have been hoping for some respite if the storm would just blow itself out.  Then City keeper Darren Randolph came out to make a neat interception but tried to be that bit too clever and had the ball nicked off him by the ubiquitous Austin.  A first time pass to Ross McCormack who looked up and, seeing an empty goal 25 yards away, calmly propelled the ball into it.

Leeds had earned that breakthrough and they now set about consolidating it. Birmingham had to redouble their defensive efforts as well as trying to make the odd foray upfield, but by and large they were swimming against a flood tide as white shirts poured forward and Leeds players won most first and second balls all over the park.  The inevitable second came after the half-hour.  McCormack found time and space wide left, and advanced on the defence before putting a quality ball into the City box where Austin, at the end of a lung-bursting 70 yard run forward, was found in splendid isolation on the edge of the six yard box to plant a neat header past the helpless Randolph.  The first half’s coup de grâce was administered by the towering Matt Smith who had headed a diagonal pass into the path of McCormack.  The striker’s shot from a narrow angle was saved, but Smith was on hand to identify the space at the near post and neatly wrong-foot Randolph to finish efficiently.

A 3-0 half-time lead was beyond the wildest dreams of the long-suffering Leeds faithful, who must have spent the interval torn between celebrating, pinching themselves and praying for a continuation of what had been a masterful performance from United, even allowing for the frailties of the opposition.  City came out with the intention of playing for pride and perhaps at least winning the second half.  The introduction of recent Leeds nemesis Nikola Zigic might have caused a few collies to wobble and Birmingham did show a greater presence in the game in the second half, pushing United back and causing the odd flurry in defence, one goal-line clearance from Tom Lees being particularly memorable with Paddy Kenny beaten by a lob.  But Leeds’ nerve held, their confidence remained high and they defended adequately when they had to while managing to attack dangerously at every opportunity.

The hard work and persistence of Austin with the subtler promptings of young Alex Mowatt, allied to Smith’s aerial presence and McCormack’s intelligent space-seeking runs, always promised a fourth goal to set the seal on a highly encouraging afternoon. That fourth goal, when it came, was a thing of beautiful simplicity.  Smith was the scorer on 74 minutes, having had an emphatic finish ruled out for a narrow offside decision two minutes earlier.  Now though, Mowatt received possession on the left in a tight enough situation to deny him the chance to do anything but feed in a first-time cross. This he did, and the quality of the ball to the far post was such that Smith’s second goal of the afternoon was served up to him cooked to perfection on a silver plate with all the trimmings.  It was a sumptuous cross and Smith snapped up the chance gratefully, powering an unstoppable header into the net at the Kop End.

This was a performance of verve and style from United, the shape and make-up of the team proving just right for the task of dispatching a Birmingham side who are capable of much, but who were simply not allowed to perform on the day and were, in the end, sent packing, well beaten and thoroughly demoralised.  City manager Clark bemoaned the crass defending that contributed to at least two of the four goals, but in truth he will be relieved that his team escaped a far more savage beating. In the first half particularly it had been men against boys and it’s no exaggeration to say that United could have run out winners by seven goals or even more.  As match-days go, it was the kind of occasion Leeds fans have been denied for far too long.  This was a banquet of a performance after too long on starvation rations, and every man played his part to the full, though nobody could deny the marvellous Austin his man of the match accolade.

All credit to Brian McDermott and his players who have evidently made good use of the fortnight’s international break to get a few things thrashed out.  The desire and hunger of this display was wonderful to see and it sets a standard that McDermott will wish to see as a default level of performance from now on.  Whether the squad is strong enough for the long haul is severely open to doubt and there are still wrongs to be righted there.  But United’s big win has shown that, on their day and with their main men available, they are capable of handing out no end of a hiding.  More of the same next week against Huddersfield would do very nicely indeed.

Millwall Cowards Tarnish Football Yet Again – by Rob Atkinson

The second "accident"

The second “accident”

It seems that not a Millwall match can go by without their simian fans perpetrating another disgrace and further confirming their club’s long-standing reputation as a pimple on the backside of the game.

This time, the assaults took the form of footballs hurled at QPR’s managerial duo Joe Jordan and Harry Redknapp. Jordan was hit first, the ball reportedly jamming the frame of his glasses into his face, smashing the lenses and drawing blood. Then Redknapp, who had arrived at the New Den on crutches following recent corrective knee surgery, suffered an almost identical experience, the accuracy of the throw for the ball to hit him on the side of the face doubtless thrilling the coward responsible.

Alex Ferguson’s ridiculous attempt last season to dress up the incident where van Persie was struck by the football as attempted murder was characteristically over the top and wide of the mark. Despite the bizarre claims of the slightly bewildered and out of touch former Man U dictator, a football is not of itself a deadly weapon. Jordan and Redknapp were not in danger as such, but it must be intensely annoying to be targeted by morons behind the dugouts while trying to direct the efforts of your team. That Millwall scored a second equaliser while Redknapp was still remonstrating with the classless ape concerned added grievous insult to what turned out fortunately as only a minor injury.

It’s the principle of the thing, of course – football men should be able to go about their work without being annoyed by over-excited cretins in the stand. The proportion of boneheads in the Millwall support makes this sort of thing a semi-regular occurrence at their matches, and sadly at the New Den not all the cowards are in the stands. Home manager Steve Lomas chose to try and dismiss the twin football salvo as “two accidents”. The employees of Millwall Football Club must surely at some point become sick and tired of having to make excuses for the pond-life support that shames the club so often and so deeply.

On this occasion, with Jordan’s glasses shattered, the craven apologists who spend so much time excusing the actions of what appear to be semi-feral savages must be relieved that no sliver of glass found it’s way into the old warrior’s eyes. Relieved for Jordan, yes, but more so because there must come a time when the comatose idiots at the Football League wake up to the fact that it’s only a matter of time before someone gets seriously hurt at Millwall.  The officials at that club must live in a state of constant readiness for severe sanctions following some or other exhibition of crass violence from their hard-of-thinking crowd.

A cowardly attack by throwing a football into people’s faces at short range is one thing – and a man on crutches plus another wearing glasses are about par for the course for today’s breed of snivelling Millwall thug. But how long before some bright lad turns up with a pool ball or a set of darts in case there’s no football handy? How long, with irresponsible idiots like Lomas blithering on about “two accidents”, before someone loses their sight, or worse?

Alex Ferguson was comically wrong to try and call a football an instrument of murder. But once opposing football staff at the New Den realise they’re likely to be pelted in the course of their work, and that their genial hosts will clumsily try to excuse this, then they would do well to worry about exactly what will be thrown at them next time. It may well become de rigueur for body armour and perhaps safety helmets to be worn in the away dugout at the New Den – because nothing, it seems, is beyond the pale at Millwall.