If this week had been about which football manager could make the biggest fool of himself, then we might very well have ended up with a dead heat between Millwall boss Ian Holloway and the manager of fallen giants Man U, Louis van Gaal. It was the Theatre of Hollow Myths boss that got off to a flying start, reacting petulantly to the jibes of former Fergie poodle Sam Allardyce that the Pride of Devon had metamorphosed into the Pride of Wimbledon, playing a long ball game to thwart the cultured Hammers.
To say that van Gaal was displeased is somewhat to understate the matter. To say that his production of copious paperwork (which he waved wildly and employed to lecture the assembled press) caused some bemusement and raised eyebrows would be hopelessly inadequate. There were embarrassed mutterings and rolled eyes aplenty, among the press and even in certain of the Man U staff present. It was all excruciatingly, gratifyingly cringeworthy.
So, it’s looking very much as though that club has done it again, making a formerly quite sane person head rapidly for the margins of weirdness. They did it to Cantona, they did it (and how) to the already rabidly eccentric Ferguson; even poor David Moyes in his brief spell went slightly doolally. Surely it’s only a matter of time before van Gaal’s presser consists of a single word, the Dutch equivalent of “Wibble” from a wild-eyed Louis with underpants on his head and pencils up his nose. In a club as distantly separated from reality as Man U, it’s just something that happens, figuratively at least.
Millwall manager Ian Holloway, meanwhile, quite possibly has a head start over the previously rational van Gaal in the craziness stakes. Holloway, after all, has solid form for a bit of casual verbal lunacy, as witness his various pre- and post-match pronouncements – especially during a brief Premier League heyday at Blackpool. And let’s not forget, he was a full week behind the Man U manager in the race for any “Nutter of the Moment” Award – but once he got going, he seemed set fair to surge past the Dutchman into pole position, with an incredible outburst after his team’s defeat at Elland Road on Saturday. Eschewing the normal managerial options of blaming the ref, or the pitch, or Lady Luck, Ian has zoomed straight to the extreme end of the loony scale – and he’s pointed his quivering finger directly at that fine body of men and women, the West Yorkshire Police.
Yes, folks – Millwall slumped to defeat not because they were crap and not because Leeds did well enough to overcome them on the field of play. It was those awful West Yorks coppers, victimising the poor old ‘Wall, insisting that their choirboy-innocent fans should have to obtain match-day vouchers, to be exchanged for tickets at a pre-arranged motorway services meeting point. This naturally resulted – as those evil, plotting police had obviously foreseen – in a reduction in the Millwall away support to a paltry couple of hundred. The main big brave boys stopped at home – as they have done for the last few meetings at Elland Road. And, as ever, there’s at least one pisspoor online news outlet ready to join in with some ill-informed and way off beam Leeds bashing, even when – as in this case – it’s the Police being bashed, for once, instead of the club. “Give Me Sport“? Give me strength…
Mr. Holloway is clearly not a man to let a few inconvenient truths get in the way of a frankly ridiculous conspiracy theory. The fact that other clubs with notorious fans among their away support have had similar measures imposed, and yet have still managed to take a large and vociferous following on the road, seems to have escaped Ian entirely. Or has he, in his sudden madness, simply chosen not to see it? Leeds at Cardiff is an obvious example. How nice it would be to blame the Welsh Constabulary for our regular defeats in the Principality. But sanity sadly forbids and facts get in the way too. Bubble match or no bubble match, Leeds are out in force at Cardiff, as they always are, everywhere. Millwall included.
Holloway insists that it’s “time to stop tarnishing Millwall supporters with the mistakes of the past” and suggested West Yorkshire police were “too lazy to deal with the situation in a less draconian way”. All well and good – but imagine the row and disastrous fallout if the WY Police had been as complacent as Holloway would seemingly wish. What if the cops had taken a more relaxed and casual attitude, only to find that a numerically stronger set of Millwall fans had travelled without let or hindrance? What if that carefree band had then decided that some mayhem was in order, some provocation of the locals with tasteful references to Turks and knives, perhaps – with ensuing battles and inevitable broken heads and bloodshed? The police would be a bit embarrassed, wouldn’t they? And Holloway himself would have to look elsewhere for his excuses.
I’m not always here to bury rather than praise a man, simply because he has the misfortune to manage Millwall. After Leeds’ opening day defeat at the New Den, I highlighted Holloway’s timely and sensible remarks about the conduct of his club’s animal fans on that occasion. He spoke frankly, and there was no suggestion of the delusion that such a famously degraded bunch of sick thugs had suddenly grown wings and acquired harps. And yet now, here he is – wanting to deflect attention away from defeat, and seemingly ready to deny the reality of Millwall’s gutter-trash fans in order to find any excuse. I’m honestly baffled and, I have to say, he’s gone down in my estimation – as I know he has in many other Leeds fans’ views. He’s possibly tried to come out with something novel and pungent, but has succeeded only in making himself appear ridiculous, which is a shame. Amused and gleeful Leeds fans have been tweeting the West Yorkshire Police, thanking them for their efforts in achieving victory for United. Holloway has basically contrived to hand the irony initiative to the massive on-line Leeds United presence, and who can blame them for proceeding to hang him out to dry in plain view of a global audience?
It’s high time, in fact, that Holloway recognised and acknowledged exactly what he has on his hands – which is a bunch of supporters who will always let their club down with sick taunts, violent behaviour and a determination to live up to their injured-innocence anthem “No-one likes us, we don’t care“. They’re the worst in football, bar none outside of Istanbul. Millwall the club are complacent and complaisant in the face of this, always ready to minimise the impact of these cretins on the unfortunates they meet along the way, always ready to offer excuses and blame somebody – anybody – else. That’s the situation, and Holloway appears to have shifted from an early season position of recognising and being dismayed by it, to slavishly following his club’s abhorrent line – even to the extent of coming out with such bizarrely ridiculous rubbish as these deeply silly “Policegate” remarks.
A message to Mr. Holloway from Life, Leeds United, the Universe & Everything. You’re a decent man, Ian – and even a half-decent manager. But you work for a scum club with scum fans – as the contents of my email inbox demonstrate every time I have the temerity to write honestly about them. Time to wise up, acknowledge the truth and stop speaking rubbish. If you’re lucky, you’ll be sacked after relegation; perhaps then you can be a proper man at a proper football club again.