Tag Archives: friendship

Leeds Utd Could Lose a Treasured Rival in Millwall FC – by Rob Atkinson

What do you call a Millwall fan in a suit? The accused...

What do you call a Millwall fan in a suit? The accused…

Crisis club Leeds – I say “crisis club” because that’s how the Daily Mail and the Mirror and other such quality news outlets refer to us, so it must be true – may be about to suffer yet another shattering blow. A sporting rivalry treasured on both sides of an apparently vast divide could unthinkably be terminated by what would be a tragic relegation for those lovable chirpy cockney barrow-boys and girls of Bermondsey, Sarf Landan – Millwall FC.

How sad it would be to see this wonderful, heart-warming, community club disappear into the obscurity of the lower leagues. Community is such an important word when discussing the Lions of the New Den.  It is at the heart of everything they do. Older fans may remember the days when community singing was a vital element of every Wembley Cup Final occasion – and it’s sad that those days seem to have gone amid a welter of fireworks and other pyrotechnics.  How grateful we are then to Millwall, for their innovation of “community fighting” at a Wembley semi-final, battling among themselves, tearing into each other like playful and blood-crazed sharks as their team stumbled to defeat, heedless of the terror and confusion of those children present. It was a signature spectacle, bringing back in a manner peculiar to Millwall memories of those days when crowd participation was inextricably linked with the occasion itself. This was a few years back now – fortunately, perhaps, Millwall haven’t threatened to get near a semi-final since.

Visitor’s to the environs of Millwall’s homely little ground (local motto “Say it with half a brick”) will also have carried away with them memories of the warm – frequently hot – welcome they were usually afforded.  Nothing was ever too much trouble for the natives, who were regularly available for cultural exchanges on a twelve-to-one basis, with demolition and amateur dental and glazing clearance work frequently offered at no extra cost, together with a complimentary visit to the local A&E department. Back in the day, the very name of the Lions’ former home, The Den, was enough to make any prospective Daniel all too aware of exactly where he was venturing. The address of the old ground, Cold Blow Lane, added its own especial piquancy to the air of goodwill and bonhomie that traditionally surrounded an away fixture at Millwall.

The thought that all of this could be lost to the fans of Leeds United and the other Championship clubs is a sobering one.  And yet the threat is very real; after a series of defeats in December and the first half of January, Millwall were firmly in the danger zone.  That inept run of results has been interrupted by a draw against Reading and an unlikely win at Forest – but the ragged cockernees are still firmly in the mire.

It would be such a shame if even these fairly flea-bitten and toothless Lions ended up plummeting through the relegation trapdoor.   I’m happy to say that a cordial relationship has long existed between this blog and the close-bred supporters of the Bermondsey outfit.  There has even been a bit of banter here and there – it may surprise some erudite Leeds-supporting readers of these pages that the odd instance of respectable IQ occurs even among the ‘Wall fans every now and then. Yes, even from such a limited gene-pool as that in which those chirpy, loveable cockney brick-slingers exist, there are one or two who can string enough four-letter words together to form a simple, declarative sentence.  With their extraordinarily close “family ties” counting – so you might imagine – against any hybrid intellectual vigour such as we in the North enjoy, this seems remarkable.  But, nevertheless, it does appear to be so.

The dialogue between this blog and those in the vanguard of the Bermondsey intelligentsia has usually been  testy on the surface – that’s what rivalry is all about, even between two clubs so far apart on the evolutionary scale – but I’ve always been confident that warmth and humanity have underpinned all of our dealings.  Why, those passionate and committed – or at least certifiable – fans have even taken the trouble to enquire after my family’s health and life insurance, taking great pains to find out all they can about where we live and what security arrangements we have.

When Leeds had their “Black Friday” almost exactly a year back, there were those Millwall scamps, tweeting away in numbers, playfully rubbing my nose in it. But the following day, as Leeds murdered Huddersfield 5-1 and Millwall surrendered 0-3 to Reading, it all went quiet on their side – still, at least they’d made the effort the previous night.  It’s mainly been good, clean knockabout fun with only comparatively few threats of death and disfigurement coming my way – the defining characteristic of these salt-of-the-earth Lions fans. How I would miss all that if their beloved club’s relegation were to be confirmed – as seems sadly* likely. Then again, some welcome consolation would be found in the fact that Millwall’s demise will almost certainly mean the Championship survival of Leeds United after our most difficult season for a good few years.

Perhaps, if they do go down, they’ll be back sooner rather than later.  If not,  then beyond the fixture at Elland Road this coming Valentines Day, which Millwall will be under pressure to win, it’s unlikely that our paths will cross again in the foreseeable future. And, as Millwall normally bring only a few dozen fans to LS11, belying their obviously spurious reputation for being fighting troops (other than among themselves) it appears there will be little prospect of cultural exchanges of banter, or whatever on the February 14th matchday. Which again is a pity – but if North to Elland Road is too tough a trip for the majority of Lions fans, there’s little to be done about that.

It does rather look as though a whole era of friendly competition, mutual badinage and a couple of Cup Final outings in the limelight each year for little Millwall might just be coming to a tragic end. And it’s a pity. But United will find they have bigger fish to fry, the Millwall fans will be able to chalk one scary trip “Nawf” off their calendar, and each club will be able to get used to life in very different circles, with Leeds mixing it with huge clubs like Tuna billionaires Sheffield Wendies and Millwall – or in the local argot, Miwwwaww – bestowing their unique charm on the likes of Barnsley and so on.

So, let us not mourn over what might soon be past.  Let us, rather, be grateful it happened at all.  It was fun pretending we were on the same footing for a while, but all such fun has a natural end, and this may just be it.  Let us, then, shed just one silent, wistful tear – and move on.

* Not really.

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Brave Leeds United Fan Makes Ultimate Sacrifice for Charity – by Rob Atkinson

Brave Darren Forsyth suffers in the name of charity

Brave Darren Forsyth suffers courageously in the name of charity

The remarkable bravery and noble self-sacrifice of a lifelong Leeds United fan drew plaudits over the Christmas holiday, when a deal was agreed which will benefit Wakefield Hospice to the tune of an additional £400 on top of cash already raised. The extra money will be welcomed by the charity – but it will be very hard-earned indeed. For Darren Forsyth, 38, landlord of the Hammer & Stithy in Ossett, West Yorkshire, has had to agree to wear a Man U baseball cap for this coming Sunday evening’s five hour bar shift. Coincidentally, this weekend also marks the fifth anniversary of Leeds’ famous victory at the Theatre of Hollow Myths – when as a third-tier team, they knocked the then-champions out of the FA Cup.

The bizarre charity deal was struck after a Boxing Day raffle in Mr Forsyth’s pub raised £400 for the Hospice. Big-hearted Darren has notable form for fundraising, having helped raise over £10,000 for several charities over the past couple of years, since he has been in charge at the Hammer & Stithy. After the success of the Boxing Day raffle, Darren’s friend – scum fan Phil Hemingway – offered to double the £400 total if Mr. Forsyth would agree to wear a Pride of Devon shirt. Darren was not prepared to sell his pride that cheaply though, and remarked that wearing such a despicable shirt would cost his friend £1,000. An agreement was reached that five hours under the scum cap would be worth £400. Mr. Forsyth is pictured above, with Mr. Hemingway, as donations are handed to Samantha Wood of Wakefield Hospice.

The mind rather boggles at such an outstanding display of self-sacrifice and nobility. Mr Forsyth knows that his ordeal on Sunday will earn him some ribbing from the regulars – but he’s quite prepared to put up with this in such a good cause. “If wearing the hat raises more money for charity, then I’m not bothered,” he said, courageously. ““Me and (Man U fan) Phil always have a bit of rival football banter!”

Rumours that Mr. Forsyth will spend Monday having his head completely shaved and thoroughly disinfected are not be confirmed, but clearly cannot be discounted. It has also been claimed that an additional sum of money might have been raised by the Man U fan Mr Hemingway’s agreement to wear a Leeds United shirt for the duration of Darren’s cap ordeal. Sadly, however, the shirt in question allegedly rotted away the instant it touched the gloryhunter’s skin, so that deal had to be called off.

Those who admire and appreciate Darren Forsyth’s singular act of courage and sacrifice can support his efforts by making a donation to the Wakefield Hospice here.

Game Giant Mattel’s “Complete Disregard” for Their Legion of Online Scrabble Fans

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Toy manufacturing giant Mattel are under fire from thousands of fans addicted to their online version of “Scrabble“, the popular word game played on a board with letter tiles, which has sold approximately 150 million sets worldwide. The row has erupted since the virtual web-based game, played regularly by a legion of Scrabble addicts on the Facebook platform, underwent “improvements” recently – changes which actually amounted to a complete revamp and not, according to angry users, in a good way.

The first inkling of change came in an online message seen by users as they started or rejoined ongoing games. A better experience was promised, and an exciting new look. What wasn’t flagged up was the overnight loss which would ensue, of game records, results, scores and contacts built up in some cases over years of enjoyable competition. Overnight, hordes of dedicated users found that their treasured online profile of games and opponents had been lost. Many thousands of people who had found friends in this virtual Scrabble world were angered to find that their fellow players were not in touch with them anymore, no warning having been given, no consultation having been entered into, and no option to retain the friendly competition that had lasted for so long and given such enjoyment.

What these frustrated online Scrabblers are left with is the unwelcome sight of a new version of the Facebook-hosted game which some have described as “brash” and “vulgar”. The rankings they have built up over long periods of participation, some players having many games on the go at any one time, have been lost, utterly and without warning. As many as 3.5 million online users were left with an unwelcome surprise as their opponents vanished along with the Scrabble-based friendships which had grown up between so many of them. Is this right or fair? More importantly perhaps for Mattel, is it even good business? There is, after all, that powerfully iconic word “goodwill” which many business people (and even some international conglomerates) keep close to hand at all times, as a reminder not to go stomping all over their customers, for fear that they may take their custom elsewhere. But Mattel seem curiously insensitive to the implications of goodwill in this case, and appear instead to be determined that there should be no going back, despite the growth and proliferation of some vociferous movements of protest and resistance.

The fury of the people affected, who have been so abruptly denied their daily “fix” of Scrabble and companionship alike, is readily understandable. A typical player is 72 year-old Kath Ward from Dunstable in Bedfordshire. She told the Mail Online:

‘My daughter knows that I like Scrabble, so when she found the game on Facebook she encouraged me to join and I signed up just to play. I have loyally played it every day since unless I am on holiday or terribly busy. I play for about three quarters of an hour to an hour depending on how many games I have on the go. I have made friends with people all over the world. People were very nice, you start off saying something like “that was a good word” and go from there. You get to know people. One of the people I regularly played with is in Spain and when we were there she invited us to visit. It saved all your games, so you had a record of all the people you had played and your statistics. This game means a lot to people – mostly silver surfers – they had dozens of friends on it. But it’s all been wiped overnight.’

Mrs Ward’s is one voice among many thousands being raised angrily at the sudden and arbitrary way in which their pastime has been wrenched from them. Users are talking about friends they’ve been in touch with for years, forming an online community of online Scrabble addicts, often chatting about general matters in between games, sometimes arranging to visit on holiday – but in many cases the previous version of online Scrabble was their only contact, and for some – shatteringly – the friendships have been lost with the abrupt deletion of all existing data.

On a purely competitive level, the point is also made that this was Scrabble – not some passing fad as many online games are – and that Scrabble people are obsessed with their records and rankings. Who should know this better than Mattel, the creators of the game? And yet they have acted in what seems an extremely rash manner to eradicate all these records, rankings and scores. The Mail Online reported a spokesman for Mattel as stating:

‘The Scrabble Facebook game is now managed by a new partner EA Mobile. The benefits of the new game include gameplay across devices, the addition of the Collins Official Scrabble Wordlist, the ability to play in six languages, the option to customise boards and tiles and the option to play ad-free. As part of the transition, we were unable to carry over ongoing games and statistics, the timer mode and the manual match-making function. The new version will have the same robust statistics moving forward.’

On that last point, many long-time Scrabble users are highly dubious, claiming that the ongoing stats include many people who have actually abandoned the game in disgust at the changes which were imposed. Mattel appear determined to remain obdurately on course with the new game; outraged former users seem equally set on maintaining their loud objections and making as much of a protest as possible for as long as it takes. The strength of the movement against the changes appears to be growing: one Facebook group maintains that the Scrabble changes are reversible, and continues to demand that Mattel see sense, look to their customer goodwill and set matters straight.

Watch this space!