Tag Archives: Millwall FC

Leeds are the Damned United, but Man U Takes Award for Sickest Fans – by Rob Atkinson

In the wake of the tragic helicopter crash at Leicester’s King Power Stadium last night, and with the sad likelihood that we shall shortly hear confirmation of lives lost, there has been much talk of the phenomenon of the “Football Family”, as fans of many clubs have rallied around to support Leicester City Football Club and its supporters at a very dark time.

All that is as it should be, and a respectful, reverent reaction has been almost universal. I say “almost”, because there are generally a few degraded exceptions, and those exceptions are almost always to be found among the usual suspects representing football’s least lovable “fans”. It will surprise few who are aware of their history that, on this occasion, it’s an identifiable group of Manchester United fans, the producers of a toilet roll of a fanzine known as Red Issue, who have plumbed the depths of poor taste as only they can.

This purulent rag has form going back years for the penning and publication of articles and “jokes” that take the breath away with their sheer, savage detestability. Emboldened by that curiously puzzling Manc sense of entitlement and by unjustified self-righteousness, they have disgraced themselves many a time, heaping shame and derision upon a club rarely short of that commodity. I well recall a photograph they published while Eric Cantona was at Leeds, of the Frenchman in the bath with his young daughter, accompanying the image with a caption designed to encourage their leering readers to conclude that Cantona was a paedophile. There was also a chant sung at Man U matches expressly accusing Arsène Wenger of the self same thing. In brief, these are awful, awful people with no redeeming qualities.

But they’ve outdone themselves this time, as can be seen from the disgusting tweets reproduced above, in the immediate aftermath of a football tragedy that has shocked the whole sporting world. It takes a person with his soul deeply rooted in the foulest slime at the bottom of the sewer to even think of such a thing, let alone share it with the world. But that’s Red Issue for you – the lowest of the low, even in the context of Man U fans.

But of course, it’s Leeds who are dubbed the Damned United, which is a sad indictment of people’s judgement for you. Luckily, although Leeds fans do not find halos sitting easily atop their heads, we’re in a different category entirely from the kind of filth they attract in Salford. Even Millwall fans have more to recommend them, having contributed generously to a fighting fund for young cancer sufferer Toby Nye. There is no such softer side to the arrogant, entitled and thoroughly disgusting fans of Manchester’s second club.

If I sound angry, it’s because I am. I’m sick of the media fawning that surrounds a club which embodies everything bad about the game. I’m sick of the way everyone panders to them because of their commercial clout, ignoring the many foul and detestable aspects of a club and set of supporters who feel they can do and say what they like. The media seeks to protect its own interests and preserve lucrative markets, which means they will always go easy on Man U.

As I write, they lead Everton courtesy of yet another blatantly unfair penalty award, reminding me that my own United have now gone 53 league games without even obvious penalties being given. That sums up the disparity of treatment, and maybe it’s an insight into why Man U fans such as the sickos behind Red Issue feel that they have the right to continue outraging any sense of decency.

This year, as every other year, Man U fans will collectively take out an onion to wallow in commercially advantageous grief over the Munich air crash sixty years ago. They will demand respect and empathy, despite the fact that – as you can see above – they have none for anybody else. But they think they’re a special case, and that they should be treated as such. Most of them will never have heard of AC Torino‘s even more tragic and devastating Superga crash, about which I’ve written before. Add “blinkered” to “disgusting”, then.

Man U fans feel that they are a breed apart. And they really are. Just not in the way they would like to think.

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Leeds United Have TWO Jacks… But Will They Both be Aces? – by Rob Atkinson

City loanee and New York alumnus Jack Harrison

Manchester City’s Jack Harrison came on loan to Leeds United in the summer transfer window, with the plaudits of various football legends still ringing in his ears after a previous stint at New York’s Manhattan FC. He was rated the second best player under 24 in the MLS and has earned recognition at U21 level with England. So here, it was fair to assume, was a real prospect.

And, to be fair, Jack has had his moments in a Leeds shirt this season, notably a fine late strike to earn a point away at Millwall. But, overall, it’s probably equally fair to say that the Stoke born wide attacker hasn’t quite – so far, anyway – lived up to that stellar hype. It’s a case of much being expected of the lad, and yet this nagging feeling that he could and should be doing better – given his club pedigree and undoubted ability.

But there’s another (and increasingly impressive) Jack on Leeds United’s books in the shape of young Jack Clarke, who has started to get first team minutes on the back of some imperious displays at development level. Indeed, at one point, someone suggested with apparent sincerity that it really isn’t fair to play young Clarke at U23 level, as he’s just downright too good. Whatever the case, Jack has made his mark, and he seems certain to get the chance of more time in a first team shirt as the season goes on.

Young Jack Clarke celebrates with goal scorer Pontus Jansson

Clarke’s brief but impressive cameo at Blackburn Rovers recently may well have given Harrison something to ponder. The on-loan Jack was back in the team on Wednesday against Ipswich, but it’s not that harsh to say he didn’t pull up too many trees. The home-grown Jack, meanwhile, was champing at the bit from the bench, and you get the feeling that he means to make the most of any opportunities that come his way – as they surely will.

Not so long back, Jack Harrison was asked where he saw himself in five years time and, instead of acknowledging his parent club Man City, he replied “Playing in the Premier League with Leeds”. That’s quite heartwarming, and very laudable – but the up-and-coming Jack Clarke will certainly have an opinion about it.

It may not come down to a simple binary choice anyway – given the versatility demanded of and provided by modern players. It could be that some future Leeds United team will include two Jacks, both of them aces. But, on what we’ve seen so far, it’d be a brave pundit who would bet against Clarke saving Leeds however many millions it would take to make Harrison’s move to Elland Road permanent.

And – who knows? – it may not be too long before that once familiar commentary line is heard again with some regularity at Leeds matches – you know the one…

Clarke – one nil!

EFL Will Schedule Dodgy Away Matches for Cold Tuesday Nights if Bielsa Takes Leeds Job – by Rob Atkinson

Bielsa – soft foreigner? Steve Evans thinks so

The Football League, having received informed assurances from omniscient football experts of the calibre of Steve Evans, now have a strategy for keeping Leeds United well away from promotion even in the event of them appointing as manager the man Guardiola and Pochettino regard as “the best coach in the world”.

According to Evans, the fatal flaw of legendary football coach Marcelo Bielsa is that he “won’t fancy it on a cold Tuesday night at Millwall/Rotherham/insert football shithole of choice”. This priceless nugget of information will therefore inform the League’s approach to arranging United’s fixtures in the coming campaign.

The upshot of this is that Leeds will face only fierce smaller clubs with massive anti-LUFC chips on their shoulders. All games will be played away from Elland Road, with no hot water being available, exclusively on chilly midweek evenings between late October and early March. This will involve significant planning difficulties, but the strategy is described by an EFL spokesman as well worth the trouble, with “the end justifying the means”.

The League has revealed that it will remain in consultation with Mr Evans on an ongoing basis, drawing on his knowledge of pansy foreigners to assist on the potential difficulties presented by United’s imminent appointment of a decent coach. It is understood Evans has also commented that “these latin types don’t like it up ’em”, so the administrators of the game are reviewing the possibility of cold steel bayonets being provided for home dugouts when Leeds visit.

No further statement will be issued until the Leeds vacancy is filled, though it is understood that the situation will be reviewed urgently in the event of United bucking the bookies’ odds by appointing Mr. Mick McCarthy, who has made a career out of winning at hostile football shitholes on cold Tuesday nights.

More on this developing story as we get it.

Millwall Fan’s Employers Distance Themselves from Hurtful Leeds Jibes – by Rob Atkinson

Millwall “fan” Jamie Brinkley has had to make a humiliating and grovelling apology after

Brinkley

Brinkley: heartfelt grovel

a September 2017 tweet in which he mocked the tragic murders of Leeds supporters Chris Loftus and Kevin Speight, who were killed in Istanbul almost 18 years ago. Foolishly, Brinkley omitted to hide his personal details, including the identity of his employers, Excel Currencies – an oversight that appears to have got the self-confessed “young immature man” into some hot water at work.

Recently, the apology reproduced on the right here appeared in social media, making it abundantly clear that young Brinkley had been hauled over the coals by his horrified bosses at Excel Currencies. Understandably, the company do not wish to be associated with the kind of online sickness perpetrated by their employee, and it is almost certain that the climbdown was at Excel’s behest, with some observers suggesting that the text of the apology was provided by the company.

Whether or not Brinkley’s grovel will be enough to save his job must remain, for now at least, a matter of conjecture. They say that there is no such thing as bad publicity, but this sort of thing shows that to be a complete fallacy; it is blindingly obvious that Excel Currencies wish to distance themselves as far as they possibly can from the bad taste of their hapless and clueless hireling.

The pity of it is that this episode could be seen to detract from a very positive aspect of the recent league game at Elland Road between Leeds United and Millwall. There had been some controversy over the ticket prices charged for away fans and, in the days after the fixture, it was revealed that Millwall would issue a partial refund to their fans who had travelled to see the Lions’ 4-3 victory – this was because Leeds had been found to be in breach of League regulations. Fair enough – but some of the Millwall fans then took the extraordinary and heartwarming step of donating their refunded ticket money to the Toby Nye neuroblastoma treatment appeal, to help the five year old Leeds fan in his fight against the rare cancer.

As football stories go, it just doesn’t get much better than that, and it’s very welcome positive news coming out of what has been one of football’s more strained and fraught relationships as Leeds and Millwall have maintained a mutual enmity over the years. Fair play to the Millwall fans who have made such a handsome gesture, and who have simultaneously shown that there are positives as well as negatives emerging out of even the bitterest rivalry. I won’t remember the two Millwall defeats this season with any fondness, but – of the two examples of fan behaviour cited here – I know that most Leeds fans will dismiss Jamie Brinkley as one sick and humiliated individual, whilst applauding the generosity of the over-charged Millwall faithful who decided to help a brave little boy instead of getting their money back.

Well done to all who have contributed towards young Toby’s medical care and treatment. Perhaps Mr. Brinkley himself might care to make a donation. After all, talk is cheap – especially a forced apology. Maybe if he put his money where his mouth is, people, including his disgusted employers, might think differently of him. The same applies to Danny Baker, who has managed to make and then inexplicably repeat a very tasteless tweet since the Leeds game, with no apology from him or his BBC employers. He’s not short of a bob or two surely – so, why not follow the good example of those travelling Lions, Danny? Anyone wanting to tweet Mr. Baker some encouragement to do just that will be able to reach him on @prodnose – let’s get him shelling out.

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Young cancer patient Toby Nye with Leeds skipper Liam Cooper

Millwall Should “Do a Leeds” and Start Next Season on Minus 15 Points  –   by Rob Atkinson

Millwall thugs doing what Millwall thugs do

As any Leeds United fan will remember well enough, the Football League can act with draconian viciousness when they deem it necessary. We started our first ever League One season fifteen points adrift at the foot of that division. The intention was to ensure a second successive relegation and to kill the club if at all possible. That we finished in the playoffs after briefly topping the table was an unbelievable achievement, thwarting the ill-wishers. But it’s also a fact that even such a hefty punishment is not by any means the worst the League can do.

Luton Town found this out for themselves when the League had them start the 2008-09 season a massive thirty points behind the rest. Rotherham and Bournemouth suffered 17 point deductions. The League were showing that they could play hardball – when it suited them. 

These sanctions, though, had one thing in common. They were all for administrative offences, sins of commission or omission by those charged with the running of the respective clubs. When it comes to matters involving crowd control, the League appears to be curiously wimpish in its approach. And yet these are the offences that most affect innocent, match-going fans, intent on a good day out, whose plans are ruined by bands of marauding thugs.

Millwall Football Club are a case in point. Many clubs suffer the shame of odd, isolated outbreaks of wanton thuggery by adherents masquerading under the guise of “supporters”. The difference with Millwall is that these incidents are not isolated. They are tiresomely regular, and the minority of vicious, cowardly thugs in Millwall colours, charging at defenceless families and pelting visiting coaches with half-bricks, are repeat offenders who fail utterly to respond to the occasional weak slap on the wrist.

Those thuggish fans were at it again at the playoff semi final second leg at home to Bradford. As a result, the club is on the end of a charge of “failing to control its fans” – an accusation positively reeking with irony. Millwall has got nowhere near controlling its fans in the whole time I’ve been following football.

And yesterday, at Wembley, the scene of Millwall fans scrapping like jackals among themselves at an FA Cup semi final not so long back, those thugs shamed themselves and their club yet again, running at helpless groups with women and children, striking terror into the hearts of people who just wanted a day out supporting their team. On the day, Barnsley beat Millwall easily, which was punishment of a sort. But it’s nowhere near enough.

The fact is that football has had enough of stone-age behaviour like that of the Millwall fans. Mass violence and the wanton attacking of innocent, non-combative fans has no place in the game. That sort of cowardice didn’t even fit in with yesteryear’s casuals scene, now so passé. But Millwall fans indulge in this sick behaviour time and again. There is no sign of it stopping.

So, it’s high time the Football League got its collective finger out and did something about this. Get them banned or hit them with a points deduction, it’s the only language these people understand. And, for good measure, close their ground for the first few League One games next season. It’s been done before, and for much less – as we at Leeds know to our cost. 

It’s time to stop treating Millwall with kid gloves. The League will have abjectly abandoned their duty of care towards fans of proper clubs and to the game in general, if they yet again turn a blind eye and cock a deaf ear. Make Millwall start next season 15 points behind and playing to an empty stadium. At the first repetition of mass violence or playing area incursion, deduct a further ten points. You know it makes sense. 

Give Millwall a lesson they’ll never forget. The whole game will regret it if the Football League fails now. 

Leeds Fans Knew the Script as Barnsley Outclass Millwall at Wembley – by Rob Atkinson

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Millwall thugs break security to attack jubilant Barnsley supporters

Today’s League One Playoff Final was a script already written; certainly many a Leeds United fan, knowing what we know of the protagonists, could accurately have predicted how events would unfold. 

Predictably, Barnsley would beat Millwall comfortably at Wembley, to secure promotion to the Championship. Predictably, Millwall’s vicious minority would have a mass tantrum afterwards, charging at celebrating Yorkshire fans to spoil yet another occasion involving football’s sickest club, the shame of London. And, predictably, self-righteous Millwall fans would argue that it’s OK for them to do that and that we have no right to criticise, “because Leeds fans have been violent and have sung nasty songs“. It was all massively predictable, well in advance.

And so it came to pass, certainly in the first two particulars. Barnsley swept into a second-minute lead and never really looked back. Even being pegged back to 2-1, after Hamill‘s classy second, presented the Tykes with no real alarms or jitters. Millwall huffed and puffed, but were hopelessly outclassed. Barnsley’s promotion-clinching third after the interval flattered them not one iota. It could so easily have been more.

Then the Millwall fans showed their true colours after the game was done, trying to get at the red-shirted, jubilant Barnsley fans and generally making fools of themselves, as is their wont. One Tweet told of a disabled Barnsley supporter being tipped out of a wheelchair and kicked down some steps. Reportedly also, two Barnsley fans received stab wounds. Who knows if all of that is gospel true? But the point is, you can easily believe it of the degraded bunch of savages that forms part of Millwall’s less than massive support. Now, all that remains is for the Millwall fans who read this, and other accounts, to bleat their standard excuse: don’t point the finger at us! You do it too! And so we have, in the past, as have other sets of idiot fans. Not these days, though, never as often and not as brutally. Let’s face it, we’re not perfect, but we’re not Millwall. Thank heavens.

And surely, the Football League must now address the problem of Millwall and its classless, cowardly, disgraceful followers. This is a club with form for its fans fighting among themselves at Wembley in the past. The same thugs showed themselves up in the semi-final second leg of this play-off competition, with late pitch invasions to end Bradford‘s hopes of mounting a last-gasp comeback. It happens time and time again in a disgusting Millwall history that goes back in a similar vein for decades. It will keep on happening unless this nuisance club are cracked down on – and cracked down on hard. Whatever the problems that may, from time to time, have assailed other clubs – my beloved Leeds prominent among them – Millwall FC stands alone for the frequency and severity of their transgressions. It’s time for swift and decisive action to be taken. 

It probably won’t happen, though. Millwall are a Football League blind spot, just as Galatasaray are for UEFA. Truly is it said that there’s none so blind as those who won’t see, and the football authorities seem determined to look at Millwall’s transgressions through the darkest of blackout spectacles. The media are no better; they seem to have adopted the Beasts of Bermondsey as their token small club ripe for patronising. Meanwhile, opposition fans continue to live in fear of cowardly, mob-handed attacks. Except at Elland Road, of course, where the Millwall tough lads, no angels they, fear to tread. They usually bring about a dozen, who sit in a terrified silence, meekly accept defeat, and slink off home like the craven curs they are.

Congratulations to Barnsley, who – having been bottom of League One before Christmas, will now adorn the Championship with their classy brand of football. They have also obligingly ensured that happy division will stay relatively clean and civilised by condemning the scabby and feral Lions to prowl around at a suitably lower level. The second tier picture is complete now, and it looks an enticing prospect. On today’s evidence, Barnsley FC will not look out of place.

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Barnsley celebrate a well-deserved promotion

Leeds United Bids a Fond Farewell to Doomed Millwall   –   by Rob Atkinson

 

Millwall’s “Leeds away” supporters’ bus will be in use full-time next season

When you bid a fond farewell to someone, it normally means you regret they’re going; that you’ll miss them and eagerly await their return. Leeds United fans have made that kind of farewell often enough – various Elland Road heroes have left us over the years, with varying degrees of regret or relief on both sides.

The fond farewell we’re bidding to Millwall FC, however, is a horse of a different colour. This farewell is one we’re glad to be making. It’s a case of “off you go, chaps, and don’t hurry back”. The Lions probably will be back at some point; we shall have to hope that by that time we’ve moved onwards and upwards ourselves, so avoiding the need to sully our boots in competition with such a very horrible club.

For Millwall, let’s face it, have been a blight on the Championship ever since they dragged themselves up to this level. They have conducted themselves in a less than admirable fashion, certainly off the field and in the stands, where they continue to be followed by a rag-tag bunch of racists and knuckleheaded thugs, who disgrace themselves at every possible opportunity. We at Leeds are familiar with the sickening glee that has accompanied their Turkish favours, so blatantly – even proudly – displayed, every time Leeds have been visitors to their Meccano ground.

This eager desire to make fun of murder and loss is what has distinguished Millwall fans from almost every other set of supporters in the country – Man U being one possible and unsurprising exception. Maybe it’s a southern thing, then – but you don’t get that sort of stuff from many other southern sets of fans – not even Spurs.

Millwall’s visits to Leeds haven’t been anything like as troublesome, mainly as they’ve largely bottled that particular trip North, turning up in dribs and drabs that make an embarrassing mockery of their much-vaunted F-troop reputation. The excuse always offered is that those fixtures have been “bubble matches” events heavily policed with fan travel controlled and tickets issued in return for vouchers. It’s the kind of arrangement that makes away support more difficult, certainly – but not impossible by any means.

Leeds have been affected by such measures – but it hasn’t stopped us taking the usual large numbers to places like Cardiff. Millwall’s recent average at Leeds has been in the order of a couple of dozen who sit shivering, high up in the stand – a sad indictment of a supposedly scary away support. The flip side of this coin is the effect on a game’s atmosphere; on the other hand, it’s preferable to having buses smashed up and your stadium befouled by some fairly uncivilised visitors.

Twitter last night was aglow with supporters of other clubs, jubilant at Millwall’s fall from grace. That says a lot about the way their particular brand of “support” is distasteful to other fans. It was somehow appropriate that it should be Rotherham United who hammered home the final nail in the Millwall coffin by beating Reading and ensuring their own safety – despite a three point deduction that has made Millwall’s failure look narrower than it really is. But Rotherham will take keen pleasure in administering the fatal blow to a club whose fans reverted to type when, shortly after a tiny band of them witnessed defeat at Leeds, a rather larger mob rioted as their favourites lost at Rotherham’s New York Stadium.

Millwall’s relegation is entirely deserved on merit; they’ve clearly been one of the three worst teams in the league, and their demotion is probably a week or so overdue. Their fans also do not deserve to be mixing it with some of the elite clubs in the game; their proper level is where they’re now returning to, and the likes of Barnsley, Burton Albion and Shrewsbury must be wished the very best of luck in dealing with the invading reprobates.

Millwall will not be missed by Leeds United, nor, I believe, by most other clubs in the Championship. May their stay at a lower level be long and unrewarding – and may their supporters reflect that, in the misery and hurt of relegation, they are reaping now what they have been sowing for far too long. 

Millwall Now Second to Cardiff in ‘Too Scared for Leeds Trip’ Stakes   –   by Rob Atkinson

Too soft to go to Leeds: massed Cardiff fans safe at home

Too soft to go to Leeds: massed Cardiff fans safe and well-guarded at home

Prior to this weekend, it had been thought that the seasonal award for “Scarediest Fans in the Championship” would have gone to the stalwarts of Millwall FC, after their entire away following for the recent defeat at Elland Road turned up on a skateboard and spent the match, pale of face and quivering silently, high up in the West Stand. 

However, it has now emerged that the followers of Cardiff City have somehow contrived to out-chicken even those tragically faint-of-heart Millwall “supporters”, by bringing a grand total of zero fans to their away fixture at Leeds United. The trip to LS11 is generally accepted as the acid test by which other Championship clubs can measure their fan’s moral courage or lack thereof. Millwall achieved a rating of “lily-livered“, which was expected to see their supporters crowned “Most Frit 2014/15“. But the Cardiff score has taken them into the realm of the spineless, with a provisional rating of “Soft as an embryo jellyfish“.

A spokesman for the Bluebirds Travel Club, Dai Arrear, confirmed that there had been absolutely no appetite at all for a tough trip North. “The guys are staying in the Valleys, isn’t it,” he quavered, nervously. “They didn’t fancy it, see. So they’re stayin’ yer, boyo, where it’s a bit more peaceful, like.”

The response at Leeds was one of frank puzzlement. United’s away allocation is invariably over-subscribed and the club take a vociferous following with them, even for a midweek “bubble” match. “We thought that clubs like Millwall and Cardiff would return the compliment,” said one baffled Leeds “Barmy Army” regular. “It’s most upsetting and really a bit rude. We always plan a warm welcome for our visitors, as we invariably receive around the country ourselves. To have not one single fan representing you at an away match – it’s ridiculous. Shameful.”

Millwall fans will be relieved to have avoided the unwanted title of “Softest Cissies in the League” in what is expected to be their last season at this level for some time. But the fact remains that both of these clubs trade on what seems now to be an entirely unmerited reputation for exuberant feistiness. It is to be hoped that both will do better in their respective leagues next time around. Millwall are expected to be in League One for the 2015/16 season, and it may well be that trips to Barnsley and Sheffield United will be easier on their jumpy nerves than the Elland Road ordeal. 

Cardiff should have the chance to redeem themselves next time around and may well be encouraged by the thought that, having achieved a zero away following for this weekend, at least things can’t get any more embarrassingly shameful than that, next year.

For now, though, they will remain objects of ridicule, laughed at for being “as scared as David Camoron bottling a live debate with Ed Miliband“. Whether that rather severe judgement seems a little harsh is open to some doubt. But the once-notorious “soul crew” – long prefixed with the letter R in and around Leeds – do seem to be bang to rights on a charge of moral cowardice – and that’s not something they’d be proud to sing about in the Valleys this week.  

Sacked Millwall Boss Holloway’s Decline and Fall Summed Up by Two Cup Finals Against Leeds – by Rob Atkinson

Where did I go wrong?

Where did I go wrong?

Ian Holloway‘s sacking by Millwall Football Club did not come as a great surprise to anyone who has witnessed – albeit from afar – the manager’s gradual disintegration as the season has worn on. Sad though this might also look at first sight, the parting of ways may well ultimately have a happy ending, with the man heading upwards into a more acceptable appointment – and the club plummeting downwards to nearer their natural level.

The season could hardly have started on a more positive note for Holloway or Millwall. The club had one of its two seasonal Cup Finals to look forward to as an opening fixture, with a chance to break out the Turkish flags and some really disgusting football shirts in order to mock the dead, as Leeds United – crisis torn and makeshift – rolled into town. The outcome was predictable on the field; less so off it. Millwall cruised to a routine 2-0 win over a Leeds team that hardly knew each other and played accordingly – and, as naturally happens in this neck of the woods, sections of the home crowd lost no opportunity to have endless fun over the murder of two Leeds fans 14 years previously.

After the game, and after giving due credit to his victorious troops, Ian Holloway was the very epitome of sportsmanship, making no attempt to gloss over the reprehensible behaviour of some Millwall fans and expressing his disgust at the nature of the chants and songs he had heard. It was a surprising but heart-warming departure from the normal “my club right or wrong” managerial line, and Holloway’s stock rose accordingly within the precincts of God’s Own County, as respect was duly accorded.

Wind forward a few months and now we’re heading towards the sharp end of the season. Millwall have declined steadily from their exhilarating start, and they’re in big trouble – and facing another Cup Final, this time at Elland Road. Leeds United have mounted a recovery of sorts, despite a mangled season of coaching staff upheaval and crises further up in the club as owner Massimo Cellino was hunted mercilessly by a pack of slavering Football League hounds.

After ending the August fixture at Millwall three points behind the Lions, United are now five points ahead, and the home game for Leeds is a genuine six-pointer. As ever with these fixtures, it’s what the fans call a “bubble match“. Away fan travel is strictly regulated under this tactic; the Millwall fans have to collect match tickets, exchanging pre-purchased vouchers for them at a service station in Yorkshire – the better for them to be kept an eye on in the hope that maybe they will not wreck any buses this time. For the past few seasons, this measure has kept the size of the ‘Wall away following down to tiny and inoffensive proportions – and so it would be today, something that would end up as an irritant thorn in manager Holloway’s tender hide.

This time, crucially, the honours went to Leeds, creating an eight point gulf between the two side that has grown steadily ever since. Leeds should, by the end of the season, be comfortably clear of the relegation zone – the gap is currently a luxurious 16 points – but it was this result that really started to relieve those nightmarish worries. Had Millwall won, Leeds would have been a scant two points ahead and the nerves would have been seriously twanging as squeaky bum time drew on. In the event, the Lions have signally failed to recover from that Elland Road defeat, currently sitting mired in the drop zone, a full eight points from safety. All quite satisfactory, and certainly a welcome change from the season opener – but how would Ian Holloway’s post-match performance compare to the heights he hit back then in sunny August?

The answer, as we all know is – not well. Not well at all. Depressingly, Holloway seized on the paucity of the Millwall away support, claiming that such restrictions made for an unfair atmosphere and that this had been a major factor in his side’s defeat. He didn’t appear to consider that no away ban was in place – that the Millwall fans had been at liberty to attend – if they could be bothered using the voucher and collect scheme. He didn’t reflect either that Leeds fans face similar sanctions at certain grounds, which doesn’t prevent them from being followed by thousands of fanatics everywhere they go. None of this penetrated Holloway’s head; he was looking for a scapegoat and he had the West Yorkshire Police in his sights, just ahead of pretty much everyone else.

Disastrously – a short while after Holloway had insisted that Millwall fans could be trusted and shouldn’t be subjected to “special measures”, so to speak – they showed their true colours with a typically disgraceful display of bad behaviour at Rotherham, in considerably greater numbers than they had mustered at Leeds. How Holloway must have wished he’d simply kept his mouth shut after the Elland Road defeat.

With the benefit of hindsight, the two games between Leeds and Millwall this season were each a barometer of the now former Lions manager’s standing at the time. As the season started, he had overseen a fairly miraculous escape from relegation the campaign before – and memories were still fresh of his impact on the Premier League as Blackpool manager a season or two earlier. He was eloquent in his post-match press call; there was a lot to admire in what he said – as I wrote at the time.

But as the Elland Road return rolled around, a different picture had emerged. Now Holloway was looking snatched and hunted; his team were embroiled in another relegation battle and, although they had snatched two unlikely wins in the previous two away games, their awful home form threatened to drag them down. Holloway arrived at the home of Leeds United desperately in need of another away win. He got nothing, and was unable to restrain his bitterness and frustration afterwards. His lack of class in seeking to blame matters on a body of men and women charged with keeping the peace in the presence of a notorious away crew did him no credit. The contrast between the Holloway defeated at Elland Road and the one so magnanimous in victory back in August was stark. This was now a man heading rapidly for the buffers, the brakes having failed.

Life, Leeds United, the Universe & Everything called upon Ian Holloway to apologise, after the Millwall disgrace at Rotherham, for the unwise things he’d said at Leeds about what have been shown to be sensible precautions over away travel for certain sets of fans. But there’s no pleasure in seeing a genuine character brought low – and I both hope and expect that Holloway will be back, in a better situation and also a better frame of mind. It seems likely as I write that interim Millwall manager Neil Harris has a bit too much on his hands to rescue the toothless Lions this time around. And, as any regular reader will know, this blog will shed no tears as and when they drop to League One. But nobody – no club – is all good or all bad, and to the decent Millwall fans, some of whom have contacted me with reasoned comments before now, I wish you well in what will probably be a season of League One consolidation next season. And I’m sure that Millwall, too, will be back.

It’s just that I hope, by then, Leeds are mixing it in the big league against appropriately big clubs. Nothing personal, chaps.

Millwall Boss Holloway Must Apologise After Rotherham Riot – by Rob Atkinson

Holloway - looking the other way

Holloway – looking the other way

Life, Leeds United, the Universe & Everything has often in the past railed against the casual attitude of the football authorities towards the lunatic fringe of Millwall fans, a band who seemingly act as they please with little or no fear of official sanction. At various times, the FA, the Football League, police forces around the country and apologists within Millwall FC itself have leant over backwards to excuse those loveable, chirpy cockneys for the mayhem, violence and misery they routinely inflict on defenceless and innocent match-going fans of other clubs – even, on one infamous occasion, involving children wearing their own colours at Wembley as the ‘Wall fans turned on each other during their semi-final defeat. Today, yet again, this blog finds itself totally vindicated by events in its view of Millwall FC and those who follow that club.

Now, after the latest disgusting exhibition of uncivilised brutality at Rotherham United‘s New York Stadium on Saturday, we hear that “the guilty ones will be caught”. Well, it’s way past time that they were. This is not, after all, a secret problem; everyone knows that the London club has far more than its fair share of thugs. And yet as recently as a couple of weeks ago, after another defeat at Leeds United, Millwall’s manager Ian Holloway was raging about the travel restrictions that kept the away following down on that occasion, complaining that this contributed towards his team being beaten and insisting the Millwall fans were reformed, reinvented, just the type of people you’d want to see your daughter bring home when the vicar’s round for tea, more or less.

The blind stupidity of such a claim has been adequately demonstrated, yet again and at the usual human cost, at Rotherham. Which begs the question: will Holloway now apologise for his ludicrous remarks after the Leeds game? Will he, in fact, reiterate the entirely more sensible position he espoused after the opening day fixture, when Millwall fans disgraced themselves by their habitual references to murders in Turkey? On that occasion, Holloway vented his disgust at the Millwall hate mob; his position since then appears to have been revised – but not in a good way. First there was his ridiculous rant in the press after the Leeds United loss – and after Rotherham? Well, he said he “hadn’t seen it”. Selective blindness, Mr. Holloway? Most convincing, I don’t think. Monsieur Wenger does it rather better, as he does most things compared to you.

It does rather make you wonder whether Holloway had cause after that opening game to regret lambasting his own fans. His volte face since then suggests that he may have come under pressure to lay off the criticism of the Millwall support, who are after all a group of people accustomed to attacking others both verbally and physically, and yet curiously sensitive to any hint of criticism directed against them. There is some speculation today about whether Holloway has “lost the Millwall fans”. If he has managed to do that – could he perhaps teach the rest of us the trick?

I know how those fans simply can’t abide any criticism from personal experience; after previous articles I’ve written to have a go at the least civilised group of supporters in the UK, I’ve had my Twitter feed clogged with hateful bile, venom directed at my family, earnest attempts to find my home address with encouragement from the sidelines to pay me a visit and “sort me out” – all that kind of childish, playground rubbish. And of course they’re always ready with a leer and a Galatasaray top or a Turkish flag, to have a laugh about the murder of two Leeds fans in Istanbul and pose for a malicious photo opportunity – all in impeccable taste and good clean fun, of course. Just today, I’ve had them attempting to poke fun at my Dad’s death – it’s par for the course with that lot, and it just goes in the spam bin. But it’s funny how it doesn’t happen with any other club’s fans – only Man U come anywhere near – and contrary to their paranoid and egotistical belief, I do have a go at other clubs from time to time.

For dishing it out and yet being completely unable to take it – and only for that – Millwall fans must be the top firm in the country. Their unwillingness to travel to Leeds in numbers, mumbling pathetic excuses about travel restrictions, tells its own tale of keyboard warriors who shy away from any actual old-fashioned confrontations with one of the more notorious northern sets of fans. They evidently felt a lot braver going to Rotherham, where the victims of these big brave lads included at least one female steward.

All in all, it’s not a very impressive picture and, despite the bewildered ravings of the manager, there is absolutely no sign of improvement. As long as there are soft targets, with almost zero chance of any real resistance, the Millwall troops will be up for it; it’s only when there is some inconvenience or danger involved that they stay nice and safe at home. Holloway, in his more recent comments, would have you believe that they are a much-maligned lot and should be given a break. But that kind of talk can be dangerous; it can motivate self-righteous and yet violently-inclined people to take the next safe opportunity to demonstrate that, yes – they see themselves as having been victims of an injustice, and that they’re going to wreak havoc in revenge.

And another thing: could the Holloway rant also have had the effect of persuading South Yorkshire Police to take a less restrictive line than their West Yorkshire Police colleagues had followed for the Leeds game? Certainly, the Millwall fans were far more numerous at the New York Stadium than they had been at Elland Road. That made for a tinderbox atmosphere; the violence and hatred only really became extreme when Rotherham scored their 85th minute winner, but it seems that it was bubbling under all afternoon.

It’s also a fact that Rotherham and the local Police did have intelligence that trouble could be expected; a Rotherham United club statement read, in part:

“We were aware that a section of Millwall supporters were planning on attending this game intent on causing disorder. Contingency plans were in place to deal with this outcome with extra stewarding and Police resources in place to deal with the anticipated threat. Despite the extra resources deployed this group made numerous attempts to seek disorder throughout the afternoon resulting in the despicable scenes towards the end of the match.” 

So, why wasn’t more done to control the movements and travel arrangements of the visiting support? The events of the afternoon can surely have come as no surprise to anybody connected with either club, the Police, this blog – anybody at all, with the possible exception of the naive and credulous Mr Holloway.

It’s high time that this persistent problem was stamped out. The FA and the Football League have virtually unlimited powers to act against a club with a troublesome support, as we at Leeds have learned ourselves in the past for far smaller transgressions. Millwall are a little club who create problems out of all proportion to their size and standing in the game. That much is self-evident. So how many more times must their “fans” be allowed to besmirch the name of their club, their city and football in general, before something is done? Answers on a postcard, please.

Something needs to happen, and soon. It’s only a matter of time before this sort of thing costs a life, maybe more than one. No football club is worth the spilling of one single drop of blood, and it’s way overdue that Millwall FC realised its own continued existence is far less important than the safety and security of every single man, woman and child who attends a fixture involving it. But the first person who needs to apologise, publicly and profusely, on a charge of making light of a real problem and offering hope and succour to a band of degraded thugs, is Millwall manager Ian Holloway. That could conceivably start off a process whereby the problem might be acknowledged and addressed.

Defeat at Rotherham left Millwall six points away from possible Championship safety, a gulf that this blog earnestly hopes they will not bridge. That’s not in any spirit of wishing them onto League One; after all that division has done nothing lately to upset me. But the bigger sphere of the Championship has earned a rest from what comes along with Millwall, and it would be a happy day that sees their relegation confirmed. That currently looks more likely than not to happen; watch out for a celebratory blog post as and when.

Shame on Millwall FC, shame on their fans, shame, most acutely and deservedly, on Ian Holloway, a man who spoke long before he thought two weeks ago, and who surely must be regretting that now. Shame is the watchword where the Lions are concerned.

When you’re gone, you will not be missed.