A muffled Lions roar

Brian Parish heads off to the early kick off in the FA Cup as Millwall come to East London accompanied by a huge police presence.

The last few weeks have been good for the Daggers. Back to back wins at home between Christmas and the New Year over Barnet and Gillingham moved us up to the heady heights of 20th in the division. On the Bank Holiday Monday, our fourth game of a hectic schedule saw us visit Roots Hall, and a game against Southend United. I had chosen some time back to give this one a miss, and instead attend West Ham. The text message from Dagenham Dan at the end of the game to say that we had drawn 1-1 put a spring in the step (although we dropped back down to 22nd), which was especially needed after watching the Hammers laboured win over Coventry.

The good run of form continued on Tuesday night, in an Essex Senior Cup tie at Brightlingsea Regent. A side containing a few first team players won 1-0 to secure a place in the semi finals for the second time in three years. While the county cup may not figure high on the priority list, it was good to see players like Mark Arber making his return from injury (and scoring the only goal), as well as Rob Edmans. Edmans was a summer signing from Chelmsford City, but is actually yet to play a first team game due to a broken leg which was sustained before he signed for us. It was most definitely a risk, but one that hopefully will pay off for us in the future.

All this good form leads us to today, and the third round of the FA Cup. For many, this is when the competition starts, as all the clubs currently playing in the top two divisions enter the tournament. However, away from the privileged of the premier league, we all know that it actually starts in August, although none of the teams that started back in the summer survive in the competition.

Our record in the FA Cup over the last couple of years in mixed to say the least. As a conference club, we reached the third round three years in a row, which actually culminated in a appearance in the fourth round in 2003. A last minute goal by Zema Abbey at Carrow Road for Norwich put them into the fifth round at our expense, although it had been a heroic performance in front of around three thousand travelling fans. Since promotion in 2007 though, we’ve only made it this far once, and that was in the first season up. A trip to Southend ended with a 5-2 defeat, and our goalkeeper Tony Roberts achieving what must have been an FA Cup first; the first keeper to score in the competition (in 2001), and then to be sent off in the opposition penalty area. Since then, our record has not been great.

Although we have made through to round three, our only win came after extra time at Bath City in the first round replay. The two games against Walsall in the last round ended in draws, and if you want a stat here, then it is that our last win in 90 minutes in any FA Cup tie (be it the original game or replay) came on Tuesday 18th November, 2008 against Hereford. Since then, we have played eight, and the only win was that game at Bath. Continue reading

The Lions sleep tonight

Abigail Davies wasn’t scared about entering the Lions Den and seeing her Swans end their playoff hopes for another season.

Having already secured a place in the Championship play offs, Swansea City travelled to The Den looking to claim their first victory on the road in six attempts. Whilst Millwall went into the game knowing that anything less than 3 points would end any hopes of back-to-back promotions for Kenny Jackett’s side.

Brendan Rodgers made two changes to the team that claimed a comprehensive victory over Ipswich at The Liberty stadium on Monday, as Alan Tate stepped in to partner Ashley Williams in the heart of defence with Garry Monk ruled out due to a stomach bug. Darren Pratley also returned to the starting line up in place of on loan striker Fabio Borini- meaning Stephen Dobbie started the game out on the left wing.

The home side were the quicker out of the blocks with an early effort from James Henry which failed to test Dorus De Vries. Continue reading

The Battle of Southwark

Trivia question for the day.

Q: Name a football team named after a person?

I am sure in years to come we will see Dave Whelan Athletic instead of Wigan judging by the subtle changes he is making in Lancashire, and who would begrudge Roman slipping in an Abramovich into Chelsea as a thank you to the hundreds of millions he has “invested” there.  But I could not think of one team named after a person.

That was until I was researching games for this Saturday.  I have been using the Octopus prediction system for years.  I bought it back from Korea in 2002 and I don’t understand what all the fuss is about.  It’s just one of those paper things you used to make when you was at school but with legs – you remember – pick a number, then a colour and it would always say something like “you smell” or ” you fancy Debbie” even if you actually were Debbie.  The TBIR prediction model helps us chose which games to go to.  Today the criteria was a)within 10 miles (have to be back by 5.30pm), b) somewhere new and c) near a supermarket as I have to get some bits in for tea……And the answer today was ……Fisher FC v Millwall XI. Continue reading

England’s finest export

Question: Who is the most successful English player currently playing abroad based on trophies won?

Most people would undoubtably plump for Mr Beckham at this point but they would be wrong.  Leytonstone’s finest has only won the La Liga title since leaving Manchester United despite the glory that always surrounds him.

The Answer is Kenneth Steven Pavey.  Who you may say, but I can assure you that Kenny is a true living and breathing legend in his surroundings and will be plying his trade in the Champions League come August time – yes a real Englishman in the Champions League (take note Arsenal!) when AIK, Sweden’s treble winners in 2008 take their place amongst Europe’s elite.

So how did Pavey come to be plying his trade in a land best known for IKEA, Volvo and long long summer nights.  Pavey made his debut at his local club Affenley FC in South East London before moving to his boyhood favourite club Millwall FC as a schoolboy.  Unfortunately the dream of playing for the Lions didn’t come through and so he moved down the A2 to Rymans League club Sittingbourne where he made his debut in one of the most progressive non-league clubs around.  So progressive that he almost found himself on his way to Aston Villa where he seemed to have impressed when on trial in 1998 but the clubs could not agree on a fee and just a few seasons later he was catapulted into the world of Swedish second division football. Continue reading

Football fans are too easy to wind up…

Picture the scene.  You have saved for months, even years, to follow your country in South Africa.  You’ve got confirmation of your tickets, both the new England shirt and are looking forward to your trip in a few days time.  What could go wrong?  Well how about a call from the Home Office?   Click on the link to see how much this trip means to a Millwall Fan.

Help for the Heroes…

Life is all about choices.  Every second of every day we have to make choices, and through those choices we have to be accountable for our actions.  Anyone who knows me will know how I bang on about accountability on a daily basis.  So this week I had a big choice to make.  I had to choose between an all-Kent derby in the FA Trophy at the Crabble between Dover Athletic and Dartford, or a trip to the New Den to watch a League One game between Millwall and Wycombe Wanderers.  Again, anyone who knows me will know that I would choose the former any day of the week.  Or would I?  You see there is something I have not told you dear reader(s) in the past.  And that is, for the past fifteen years I have been a shareholder of…..Millwall plc.  Yep, I have been an investor in one of West Ham’s greatest enemies.

Why you may ask?  And when I look at the 0.02p per share price I ask that question all the time.  I do have over 100,000 shares, so assuming the share price increased by 1,000 times I may make my money back.  But I am in it for the long haul and not a quitter.  I invested as I saw some potential in the club.  The club had played in the top division (then League One) for a couple of seasons and for a short period they actually topped the league.  Serious money was invested into the club, a new stadium was built and with players like Alex Rae, Kasey Keller, Terry Hurlock and Mark Kennedy took the club back to the play-offs to go back to the Premier League but they fell in the semi-finals.  The share price was at an all time high and investors were flocking to get on board (well so my broker told me!).

Since then the club and the share price has fallen, and apart from a couple of seasons in the Championship a few years ago where Millwall spanked West Ham 4-1 in one forgettable Sunday league game they have been in the third tier of English football.

All washed up?So fast forward a few years and Millwall announce a whopping £5.2m loss for the year against a turnover of £6.4m.  But the good news is that this is slightly better than 12 months ago where the figures were £5.6m loss against £5.3m turnover.  So lets put that into some perspective.  As a business they have lost £10.8m over two years against revenues of £11.7m.  Part of the reason is that wages are still far too high – in fact wages last season were 97% of the turnover.  Such a situation would not be allowed to happen in leagues in Germany or Spain where wages cannot be more than a certain percentage of turnover.  The club is essentially putting its future in serious risk in trying to chase promotion.  The problem they have for the next twelve months is that League One is potentially the strongest it has ever been, with Norwich City, Southampton and Charlton Athletic coming down from the Championship to join Leeds United, Colchester United, Southend United and MK Dons who have either the experience or money to push for promotion.

Last season they reached the play off final at Wembley, losing to Scunthorpe United at the last knockings.  Many feel that would be the end of an era for the club but this season they are again pushing for a play off spot again.  Unfortunately attendances are down at the New Den by 20% which will have an impact on the long term.  The visitors for this one, Wycombe Wanderers came into the game bottom of the league, with just one win all season and having been thrashed 6-0 in their last away game at Huddersfield Town and dumped out of the FA Cup by Brighton & Hove Albion in midweek.  Hardly the form you need to walk into the Lions den.

So anyway, back to my reasons for choosing Millwall over Dover (or even Ramsgate which was a late option for their FA Trophy game versus Bishops Stortford).  There was two reasons.  Firstly, Lolly had wanted to “experience” Millwall for quite awhile.  She had heard lots about them, since a few of her class mates support them (and I hasten to add had never been to see them) and it would give her even more “cool points” with the boys, which she loved.  CMF was not so keen, thinking of the recent game versus West Ham at Upton Park as the model for their games.  But I persuaded her that it was not the case.  In fact she had actually been to the New Den twice and on neither occasions had we seen any problems (well apart from an armed robbery and a couple having sex on the roof of a car but they happened outside the stadium so technically the club or its fans cannot be blamed, although one of the people having sex did have a home shirt on).

But the second reason was much more of a defining point.  Two of our guys from New York were over for the weekend and wanted to catch a match.  With such limited Premier League action on offer in London their thoughts turned to lower down the table, and bingo, Millwall came up.  Now, Luge is English, a die hard Torquay United and Man Utd fan, if there can be such a thing and someone who appreciates the finer things in live.  He regularly dines at the Tribeca Grill, shops at Saks and lives in the heart of Chelsea.  So Millwall would be right up his street.  Andy on the other hand is a true New York sports fan, following the Giants and the Yankees and getting his fix of “soccer” from The Football Factory and Green Street.  Yep – Andy was coming over the Atlantic as a modern day Elijah Wood, preparing himself for some Seventies style action.  Unfortunately, the good work that the club had put in over the past years in developing a safe environment for fans had been undone by these films.

We met up in London Bridge, a few hundred yards from the office and caught up on gossip from the respective offices (and there was certainly some of that from both sides of the Atlantic – I could tell you but then I would have to kill you).  I also got to meet the “new girl” in the New York office – Kellie.  Now Kellie, despite being American, was a Millwall fan.  She times her annual leave trips back to the UK with Millwall games and sports a Millwall screensaver on her PC – hard to believe but its true.

So we had a couple of beers before heading 5 minutes down the line to South Bermondsey station and into the lions den…

Evening allMillwall 0 Wycombe Wanderers 2 – The New Den – Saturday 21st November 2009 3pm
So apart from a dozen or so police around the entrance, there was nothing out of the ordinary to see for the Americans.  Andy knows his sport, and probably watches more football (of the UK variety) than most English fans and was looking forward to a game of quality, excitement and passion.  Well he came to the wrong place as the game was hardly a classic played in swirling rain.  Millwall did not create a single chance in the first half as Wycombe set out their stall early on and simply did not budge.  For a team yet to record their first win on the road, and in fact being bottom of the league, they controlled the game from the first whistle.  The highpoint of the first half was when my own Jeff Stelling, Danny Last from EFW (for once without a game today) text me that West Ham were 2-0 up at Hull.
I told Lolly and her reaction was a little over the top for the audience around us and I had to tell her in no uncertain terms to shut up.

The crowd around us were a strange bunch.  In theory we were in the family section, but the vast majority were single blokes.  In front of us was an interesting bunch.  Dad, complete with Millwall lion tattoos on both sides of his neck wearing Millwall shirt, hat, dog-tags, jacket and by the smell of it, Millwall aftershave.  He was accompanied by his blonde (with very bad black roots) wife and their 5, yes 5, children, all under the age of 5 who had absolutely no interest in the game.  All of them had matching Millwall shirts and tucked into crisps for the whole half.  So at a cost of £7 per child and £20 per Adult plus £30 for each Child shirt their day out cost at least £225..what a bargain.

The first half had absolutely no flow.  Millwall had to replace Ton Craig early on after he received a kick in the head from Wycombe’s Gareth Ainsworth, and Pitman was stretchered off for Wycombe a few minutes off meaning we had over 4 minutes of injury time before the break, and everyone was glad to hear the referees whistle to bring the misery to an end.  Lolly’s smug grin was wiped of her face when I told her firstly that her hero Carlton Cole had scored an own goal for West Ham, and then that Hull scored two late first half goals to put them 3-2 ahead.  So, add to the fact that our original choice of game, Dover v Dartford was a pulsating 2-2 draw and we had really drawn the short straw.

Millwall had designated this game a “Help for Heroes” game and proceeded the match with a collection.  At half-time a group of active servicemen were paraded around the pitch, some holding their Millwall scarves.  I have to say the reception given to a man by the crowd was outstanding.  Following up at the end of the group was an ex-serviceman who had lost both legs in a recent conflict but received by far the biggest cheer as he went around the pitch.  I was staggered by the reception.  Here was a crowd that’s reputation goes before them but they showed their patriotism that perhaps at other grounds would be outlawed, complete with a chorus of Land of Hope and Glory – brilliant work Millwall and you should be very proud of your stand on this.

So, the second half brought the same inept Millwall performance.  No Harris or Alexander up front, instead Jason Price who was being mocked by the crowd for looking like the ex-X-Factor Jamie Archer.  Let me repeat his name.  Jason Price.  But for some reason he sported the name JJ Price on his back – why?  Have the rules changed to allow nicknames, or is there two J Prices at Millwall?  Egos taking over the world…..

Wycombe were being encouraged by their fans high up in the North Stand, took the lead in the 55th minute when a corner from the right was headed home by Christ Westwood.  Did Millwall respond at all?  No.  The long balls continued to be pumped over the heads of the front two and it was no surprise when the visitors doubled the lead in the 71st minute by Kevin Betsy who shot into the corner of the net after an excellent run.  We were still to see a Millwall shot on goal and now they needed two goals.  But nothing came.  Even five additional minutes did not provide an opportunity for the home team to create an effort on the Wycombe goal and the chorus of boos at the final whistle showed what they thought of the team.

We wandered out, through the railway arches in the pouring rain.  Lolly was a bit happier now that West Ham had secured a draw, and amazingly Lewes had scored a 95th minute equaliser away to Eastleigh to secure a FA Trophy replay but was glad that Millwall had lost and she was there to see it.  Next time I will go with the gut instincts and take the non-league option!

About the New Den
The New Den opened its doors in August 1993 at a cost of around £16million. It was the first stadium built in the UK that fully complied with the Taylor Report. The ground is a dramatic improvement from the dank and foreboding ‘Old’ Den and is quite smart looking. The new Den is made up of four fair sized two tiered stands that are of the same height. The corners of the ground are open, apart from one corner where there is a large video screen. The stadium is used to film the Sky One Channel TV show; Dream Team, which features an imaginary team called Harchester United. Views from all stands are good and unobstructed

How to get to the New Den
It is probably best to go by rail, as South Bermondsey Railway Station is only a few minutes walk from the ground. There is a direct walkway specifically built for away fans which takes you directly to the away end and back to the station afterwards. This has made the Police’s job of keeping rival supporters apart so much more manageable. If your team brings a sizeable following, then an ‘away fan’ football special may be laid on from London Bridge. In these instances the police are well drilled in getting away fans into the ground from the special train and safely away afterwards. Although don’t be surprised if you are held in the stadium for sometime after the final whistle, before being allowed back up the walkway to the station.

Although there are two tube stations that are about 15-20 minutes walk away from the ground. Surrey Quays & New Cross Gate, both on the East London Line. The line is now closed until sometime in 2010.

Driving is not really an option as there are few places to park around the stadium. If you do chose to them follow signs from the A2 at New Cross Gate for the ground.

How to get a ticket for the New Den
Tickets for most games can be bought on the day of the game at the Ticket Office (not at the turnstiles themselves) or Online at http://millwallfc.com.  Ticket prices are as follows:-

West & East Stands (Upper Tier): Adults £25, Over 65’s £17, Under 16’s £14, Under 12’s £12
West Stand (Lower Tier): Adults £25, Over 65’s £15, Under 16’s £11, Under 12’s £8
Cold Blow Lane (South) Stand: Adults £20, Over 65’s £13, Under 16’s £11, Under 12’s £8
West Stand (Lower Family Enclosure): Adults £20, Over 65’s £13, Under 16’s £10, Under 12’s £7

Thanks to Duncan Adams for the above information from his excellent Football Grounds Guide.