Villa win would reignite magic of the cup for Millwall fans

News Shopper: David Forde has a moment to forget as Sam Vokes fires Burnley in front. PICTURE BY KEITH GILLARD. David Forde has a moment to forget as Sam Vokes fires Burnley in front. PICTURE BY KEITH GILLARD.

MILLWALL columnist MATT LITTLE has his fingers crossed for a Millwall victory over Premier League Aston Villa at The Den later this week.

IT’S always terrible to see a team playing in claret and blue waltzing around our hallowed turf like they own the place.

Thankfully our bitter rivals from across the Thames are rarely allowed to do that, in fact the last time they did Margaret Thatcher was the Prime Minister and luminous socks were all the rage.

However, rather than waltz around they crept in, nicked a goal and fled for their lives.

Even the self-styled 'guvnor' Paul Ince bottled corners and throw ins and sprinted for the safety of the tunnel the moment the final whistle went.

Burnley, on the other hand, stayed on the pitch to rightly milk the plaudits of the few hundred away fans perched way up in the frozen wastes of the North Stand, their manager, a certain Mr Sean Dyche, having done a number on his old club once again.

Dyche’s record against us as an opposition player or manager since leaving The Den is so one-sided it almost makes our excellent derby record versus Charlton Athletic look modest.

I heard it was 11 wins and one draw against us, but I haven't bothered to check that.

The games I can actually recall are depressing enough.

I mean how embarrassing is it to call Watford your bogey side?

Perhaps as embarrassing as preceding Saturday’s lacklustre defeat with a blog going on about how it's patronising for pundits and critics to view our relatively lofty position in the table in January as over achieving, a topic that even splits Millwall fans pretty much 50-50.

So with Burnley leapfrogging us into seventh place, and the fact we've had to make Dany N'Guessan a regular first team player, means all the naysayers now have their chance to say 'told ya so'.

But that would be a very glib way of interrupting what I meant.

Newcastle United are currently in a relegation dogfight, off the back of superb season last time out.

Yet it doesn't mean they over achieved, it just means circumstances have changed.

Last season they suffered very few injuries or suspensions.

This season it's been the complete opposite.

That's why I hate that saying - it doesn't mean anything.

Kenny Jackett gets us firing on all cylinders more often than not and with a fully fit XI we are a match for anyone in this division, as results have proved.

But I was never implying other clubs don't have a big advantage over us and that it isn't exceptional we are out-performing far better resourced clubs.

Just looking at our bench on Saturday told it's own story and without our usual in your face style we looked poor and were rightly beaten by an in-form Burnley.

Yet I stand by what I said and will even go as far as saying this result and performance, in a strange way, justifies it.

You see we have such a good manager in place that days like Saturday are few and far between and I think this suggests the Burnley game was the anomaly, not our good wins against Nottingham Forest, Leicester City and Middlesbrough.

Indeed, the fact we are still in the play-off hunt in January shows our good days are the norm - when we are firing on all cylinders and are not the mysterious coupon busting miracles some doom merchants would have you believe.

I don't mind people being amazed or proud we are beating the odds by being above the likes of Wolverhampton Wanderers or Derby County, I just hate the defeatist attitude suggesting we simply can't compete against these giants and should just be happy that we're staying up.

The likes of Stoke City, Reading, Blackpool, Swansea City and Saturday's opponents Burnley have shown in recent years that with the right manager, a bit of luck with injuries and a good blend of players you can upset the odds.

In fact, we can even draw inspiration from the Premier League and the exploits of Everton.

They rely on an excellent manager squeezing the best out of the resources available to him to out-perform better resourced clubs.

They've been doing it for so long it would be disrespectful to tell David Moyes he was over achieving.

Of course when you lose an exciting young prospect to a divisional rival because of money and replace him with an ageing journeyman it does bring into sharp focus just where you are in the football food chain.

But far bigger clubs than us have suffered this fate.

In fact only the fans of Real Madrid have never felt this pain.

Yet our greatest asset is still here and as long as he is then I believe the club will get stronger and stronger each season and perhaps then we could stop being so self-conscious about finishing above the likes of Ipswich Town and put it down to being a well-run club, not some fluke.

We now turn our attentions to another team in claret and blue.

If we can knock Aston Villa out of the FA Cup under the lights at The Den, maybe then that would be an achievement worthy of a throw away saying like 'the magic of the cup' and some thubthumping about the little guy having his rare moment in the sun.

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