World Cup fever may be abating around the country with England’s dismal performances and early exit – but in one small and unregarded part of Sarf-east London, the bunting still flutters bravely, the excitement still builds and the atmosphere is abuzz with more than just the usual stench of unwashed bodies. Bermondsey is rocking with fevered anticipation, because Leeds United are on a journey from far-away civilisation into the Lions’ New Den. The name of the Yorkshire giants is on the lips of every local resident who can “tawk pwopah” and those who can read are eagerly assimilating the preview articles in that giant of the local press, the “News Shopper” – a paper which rejoices in its description of being to local reporting what Julian Clary is to Rugby League. Excitement could hardly be any higher; there is a carnival atmosphere abroad on the narrow and dirty streets. The biggest game of the season is first up – it’ll all be downhill from there.
Such is the level of interest in the Cup Final event that Millwall have actually sold out their hospitality boxes – the last word in Bermondsey executive luxury (pictured above) – almost two months ahead of the game. The boxes, constructed out of the finest Lidl-surplus cardboard and each furnished with a crate of White Lightening cider, a barrel of jellied eels and the latest in high-capacity, low-odour commodes, went on sale shortly after the opening fixture against Leeds was announced – and within 3 days, both boxes had completely sold out. For two groups of up to three Millwall fans each to show such dedication and faith this far ahead of the season is as unprecedented as it is impressive. The boxes cost a mind-boggling £17.49 each for the Leeds game, as opposed to a more reasonable £9.99 for an ordinary match – but even that’s still four times the average weekly wage for the fans of the Lions. The fact that around half a dozen fanatics have made such a heavy investment is a mark of their faith in their relegation-cert favourites – and also, of course, of the attractiveness of a match with such famous opponents.
All that remains now is for the Lions to produce their normal enhanced level of effort for what they acknowledge is the biggest game in their calendar, with a view to replicating last season’s fluke result. If that unlikely outcome could be made a reality, then it’ll be a case of Knees Up Muvver Brown all the way to Valentines Day, when upwards of a dozen intrepid souls will venture norf for the return fixture at Elland Road.
Yes, folks – World Cup or no World Cup, football fever is well under way in the noisome back-alleys of Bermondsey – as the countdown continues to the first of the Lions’ two glimpses of the big time next season. Don’t miss out! Both state-of-the-art hospitality boxes have gone, but your place in the stands is still up for grabs – so dig out those Turkish shirts, tool up, get some dutch courage dahn yer Gregory Peck – and it’s orf to the Den on August the 9th – Cup Final day!!
See yer dahn there, me old china plates…