Thank God Millwall will never fit in with the Sky generation

News Shopper: Millwall owner John Berylson. PICTURE BY EDMUND BOYDEN. Millwall owner John Berylson. PICTURE BY EDMUND BOYDEN.

MILLWALL blogger MATT LITTLE this week celebrates the fact his beloved Lions will never fit in with the mainstream media’s perception of what a football club and its fans should be like.

IT’S funny how Millwall fans have often been portrayed as morons in the media and by certain comics.

In fact, if we received royalties every time we were mentioned in one of those formulaic panel shows aimed at the gormless masses to get a cheap laugh, we’d be able to afford Wayne Rooney, never mind Chris Wood.

No, I have always thought of us as some of the savviest supporters in football instead and I’ll explain why.

Did you hear that awful Daily Mirror radio advert about keeping up-to-date with all the comings and goings in the transfer window by buying their weekday and Sunday editions?

In it they depict football fans as mindless idiots with the emotional maturity of an eight-year-old child, equating the transfer of a favourite player with the emotional upheaval of splitting up a marriage and family.

Anyone who laughed at these adverts should only be allowed out of a secure location to watch Michael McIntyre shows periodically.

Yet this is a template of the average football fan Sky have been trying to force upon the football community ever since taking over the running of the game in 1992 - unquestioning clones dressed top to bottom in club shop tat who are willing to pay whatever it costs to watch the team they ‘love’ with zealot like devotion that really does make them football fan(antic)s.

It is like they want children to pick a team at the age of seven and never grow up.

You’ve got to give the TV executives their dos though, because from working in schools for the last five years I can confirm these kids born into the warm TV glow of the Sky era are truly brainwashed.

I’ve lost count of the amount of times I’ve been asked without any irony ‘but who are your Premier League team?’ when I’ve replied ‘Millwall’ to their ‘who do you support?’ question.

These are kids who were born in the very neighbourhood that Brighton & Hove Albion were formed.

For them Brighton are, until they get into the Premier League I presume, merely their local side, whereas Chelsea, Arsenal, Manchester United and Manchester City (shudder) are their ‘teams’.

The fact Charlton Athletic has lost more than 10,000 regular fans in the few years since exiting the Premier League shows even a club with a unique story to tell isn’t above this kind of football charlatanism.

Depressed yet? Well don’t be because as you are reading this, you were fortunate enough to be born into an area or family strongly connected to Millwall FC, which one Birmingham City fanzine writer described as ‘ground zero’ for football.

What the Birmingham City fan was implying was this Sky version of the average football fan doesn’t really apply at The Den.

He had written his article after a League Cup second round tie on a cold Tuesday night, where the 7,000 Millwall fans in attendance defied the demographics of the modern game.

I don’t take too much pleasure in suggesting the Emirates has never been close to being that intimidating and partisan, even for the visit of Tottenham Hotspur – because if you really think about it that’s quite a depressing reflection on English football.

Getting back to what I was saying about Millwall fans being the savviest football fans out there.

Well unlike Palace fans, who have been taken in by a who’s who list of chancers over the years, we saw straight through Peter de Savary and his five-year plan and gave him short shrift.

And rather than puff our chests out, like they would at Selhurst Park, we mercilessly ridicule any player who spouts nonsense about being pleased to join ‘such a big club’.

Do us as a favour, we’re not Manchester United or idiots.

Yet this cynicism does come at a price.

While we haven’t totally sold out as fans, our fans have rarely totally sold out The Den.

We have heard it all before about ‘irons in the fire’ and ‘going for it in January if we’re in a strong position’ but frankly we don’t believe a word of it.

I bet the club wish we were as mindlessly loyal as other fans out there.

After all, why on earth do 25,000 people still keep going to watch Derby County mediocre season after mediocre season?

Is there really nothing else better to do up there?

The Millwall faithful know we have hit the wall we always hit.

Too good for the Third Division we always storm up, do well the following season and then watch our promising team dismantled before we slide back down and start over again.

I’ve seen this several times, with four promotions and three relegations in my 33 years on the planet.

I don’t mind this cycle too much.

Yes it’s frustrating, but it has its highs to balance the lows.

Millwall have won a divisional championship and had two exciting Wembley appearances in a period where far bigger clubs like Aston Villa have simply tread water.

But I’m one of the eight to 10,000 Millwall fans who go no matter what, to whom Millwall is much more than a football team, where The Den is a place to meet friends and family and a physical monument to my roots and a focal point in my life.

We will moan about the endless cycle the club endures, but usually over a pint on match-day.

The other Millwall fans out there, the ones who help us set records at Wembley and inflate the ego of Charlton fans who think that they are a big club (don’t snigger), have also seen the writing on the wall and are staying away until another big game comes along.

It is this mentality our chairman John Berylson simply doesn’t understand.

In his mind he has pumped millions into the club just to keep us going and so he thinks, maybe rightly so, a lot more of the 45,000 who went to Wembley twice should be a little more grateful and show up more often.

But the crucial thing to take away from this is the ‘just to keep us going’ bit.

This may be as good as it gets for Millwall, but that still isn’t good enough for the savvy stay-aways.

They know despite our relatively lofty position, we haven’t got the resources for a serious promotion push and, more importantly, we don’t have the ambition to change that.

The Chris Wood saga hammered this home to them.

We didn’t play badly against a decent Hull City side, but it is only the hardcore who are going to pay for the pleasure of seeing us huff and puff in this division, while bemoaning the fact we are one good striker and a bit of luck with injuries away from being a very good side.

Instead of asking more fans to turn up out of loyalty, and wasting millions just to stand still, perhaps the savvy thing to do for John Berylson would be either to really go for it or simply pack it in.

For all of our 45,000 sakes I hope it’s the former, because the latter doesn’t bear contemplating and really would make this the golden days the glory hunters seek.

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Comments (8)

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12:34pm Wed 6 Feb 13

70HARB says...

‘Millwall have won a divisional championship and had two exciting Wembley appearances in a period where far bigger clubs like Aston Villa have simply tread water’.

Since Millwall reached the FA Cup final in 2004, Aston Villa have been to Wembley for the Carling Cup final, an FA Cup semi-final, appeared in the Europe League 3 times and finished in the top 6 on 3 occasions.

Hardly ‘simply treading water’ given the competition in the Premier League. You might experience it one day.
‘Millwall have won a divisional championship and had two exciting Wembley appearances in a period where far bigger clubs like Aston Villa have simply tread water’. Since Millwall reached the FA Cup final in 2004, Aston Villa have been to Wembley for the Carling Cup final, an FA Cup semi-final, appeared in the Europe League 3 times and finished in the top 6 on 3 occasions. Hardly ‘simply treading water’ given the competition in the Premier League. You might experience it one day. 70HARB
  • Score: 0

12:56pm Wed 6 Feb 13

LittleByLittle says...

Sorry, I just thought of the most boring big club that haven't won anything for years & came up with Villa.

Now you've pointed out they've actually appeared in a League Cup Final AND finished just outside the Champion's places to play in the prestigious UEFA/Europa/Dolmio Five-a-side Cup or whatever it's called nowadays two more times than a team from the Old Kent Road I'm all turned around on the matter!

Pretend I said Newcastle instead!
Sorry, I just thought of the most boring big club that haven't won anything for years & came up with Villa. Now you've pointed out they've actually appeared in a League Cup Final AND finished just outside the Champion's places to play in the prestigious UEFA/Europa/Dolmio Five-a-side Cup or whatever it's called nowadays two more times than a team from the Old Kent Road I'm all turned around on the matter! Pretend I said Newcastle instead! LittleByLittle
  • Score: 0

1:08pm Wed 6 Feb 13

70HARB says...

I see your point about the fairweather/woodwork fans though.

15,007 turned out for Villa in the FA Cup 4th round. That's almost triple the attendance of the previous round v Preston (5,364).

The last home Saturday match before that was v Barnsley where 10,118 turned up. So where were those additional 5,000 for Preston? And where did those extra 5,000 come from for Villa?
I see your point about the fairweather/woodwork fans though. 15,007 turned out for Villa in the FA Cup 4th round. That's almost triple the attendance of the previous round v Preston (5,364). The last home Saturday match before that was v Barnsley where 10,118 turned up. So where were those additional 5,000 for Preston? And where did those extra 5,000 come from for Villa? 70HARB
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1:28pm Wed 6 Feb 13

LittleByLittle says...

Are you seriously asking that as a genuine question?

Like every other club who had a less than inspiring draw we saw a below average attendance for the Preston match because I suspect many season ticket holders wanted to save the money.

There was actually 13,500 Millwall fans for the Villa game, that's just under 2,000 above our average...so hardly a massive influx of glory hunters.

I think the really annoying thing for the club is the fact that only 6,000 on average commit to a season ticket, when the club is capable of taking 45,000 fans to a Third Division Play-off Final in two consecutive years against unattractive provincial opposition.

But that's what the above blog covers - the reasons behind that. We have 8-10,000 hardcore fans, whilst the floating majority have heard all the nonsense before about 'going for it' and stay away.

Unlike local rivals such as Charlton and Palace we have never had any sustained success to make those floating fans season ticket holders etc. Indeed, before promotion to the Premier League Charlton averaged 7-10,000, even with a triumphant return to the Valley. I'd imagine if they'd have spent the last 20 years playing mid table Championship football they wouldn't have built up a 16-18,000 fan base.

After all, when asked to pay to watch a FA Cup tie against a divisional rival just under 6,000 bothered to turn up at the Valley.

Yet they created a strong loyalty in season ticket holders.

The only way Millwall could achieve that is by experiencing sustained success - see Fulham as another example.
Are you seriously asking that as a genuine question? Like every other club who had a less than inspiring draw we saw a below average attendance for the Preston match because I suspect many season ticket holders wanted to save the money. There was actually 13,500 Millwall fans for the Villa game, that's just under 2,000 above our average...so hardly a massive influx of glory hunters. I think the really annoying thing for the club is the fact that only 6,000 on average commit to a season ticket, when the club is capable of taking 45,000 fans to a Third Division Play-off Final in two consecutive years against unattractive provincial opposition. But that's what the above blog covers - the reasons behind that. We have 8-10,000 hardcore fans, whilst the floating majority have heard all the nonsense before about 'going for it' and stay away. Unlike local rivals such as Charlton and Palace we have never had any sustained success to make those floating fans season ticket holders etc. Indeed, before promotion to the Premier League Charlton averaged 7-10,000, even with a triumphant return to the Valley. I'd imagine if they'd have spent the last 20 years playing mid table Championship football they wouldn't have built up a 16-18,000 fan base. After all, when asked to pay to watch a FA Cup tie against a divisional rival just under 6,000 bothered to turn up at the Valley. Yet they created a strong loyalty in season ticket holders. The only way Millwall could achieve that is by experiencing sustained success - see Fulham as another example. LittleByLittle
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1:46pm Wed 6 Feb 13

70HARB says...

The difference between Millwall and the likes of Palace and Charlton is that the latter pair have played in the Premier League.

Until Millwall commit to some sort of plan to achieve Premier League status, nothing will change.

At least they'll be one South London representative in the Premier League next year if Palace keep up their form!
The difference between Millwall and the likes of Palace and Charlton is that the latter pair have played in the Premier League. Until Millwall commit to some sort of plan to achieve Premier League status, nothing will change. At least they'll be one South London representative in the Premier League next year if Palace keep up their form! 70HARB
  • Score: 0

1:51pm Wed 6 Feb 13

LittleByLittle says...

The chairman should note actually that the last time Millwall showed ambition gates went from 5,000 to 16,000 on average in just 2 years...and that was in the worst decade for football attendances since WW1 the 1980s, and at a club with the worst fan reputation in the country.

To put it in context the mighty Liverpool averaged 35,000, same as League Champions Arsenal, who had averaged 28,000 the year before, which was more than Spurs at 24,000 and West Ham at 20,000. The likes of QPR, Luton and Charlton averaged under 12,000.

In the period 2000-2002 when we had a genuinely team consisting of Cahill, Reid, Ifill, Warner, Harris, Sadlier etc we attracted 16,500 for a league match v Rotherham in the Third tier with no promotion issues to be decided, 15,500 for Wigan and 18,500 for Gillingham, and for Oldham (which was a Championship winning match).

The following season 15-16,000 odd turned up for games against Ipswich, Coventry and even Wimbledon. 18,000 came for a Friday TV game v Wolves, with no promotion issues to be decided. If Palace had of filled more than the top tier that would have been another 18,000 plus game. The Den record gate for a league match was set that year v Grimsby - nearly 19,000 just to see us make the play-off 4th spot.

That was before enforced membership schemes though, and the last time the club had anything like a sustained amount of success - 3 seasons.
The chairman should note actually that the last time Millwall showed ambition gates went from 5,000 to 16,000 on average in just 2 years...and that was in the worst decade for football attendances since WW1 the 1980s, and at a club with the worst fan reputation in the country. To put it in context the mighty Liverpool averaged 35,000, same as League Champions Arsenal, who had averaged 28,000 the year before, which was more than Spurs at 24,000 and West Ham at 20,000. The likes of QPR, Luton and Charlton averaged under 12,000. In the period 2000-2002 when we had a genuinely team consisting of Cahill, Reid, Ifill, Warner, Harris, Sadlier etc we attracted 16,500 for a league match v Rotherham in the Third tier with no promotion issues to be decided, 15,500 for Wigan and 18,500 for Gillingham, and for Oldham (which was a Championship winning match). The following season 15-16,000 odd turned up for games against Ipswich, Coventry and even Wimbledon. 18,000 came for a Friday TV game v Wolves, with no promotion issues to be decided. If Palace had of filled more than the top tier that would have been another 18,000 plus game. The Den record gate for a league match was set that year v Grimsby - nearly 19,000 just to see us make the play-off 4th spot. That was before enforced membership schemes though, and the last time the club had anything like a sustained amount of success - 3 seasons. LittleByLittle
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1:53pm Wed 6 Feb 13

LittleByLittle says...

70HARB wrote:
The difference between Millwall and the likes of Palace and Charlton is that the latter pair have played in the Premier League.

Until Millwall commit to some sort of plan to achieve Premier League status, nothing will change.

At least they'll be one South London representative in the Premier League next year if Palace keep up their form!
I'll never recognise anything from Croydon representing south London.

To me south London is Lambeth, Southwark, Lewisham and Greenwich.

Be like saying Barnet represent North London or Dagenham & Redbridge the Eastend.
[quote][p][bold]70HARB[/bold] wrote: The difference between Millwall and the likes of Palace and Charlton is that the latter pair have played in the Premier League. Until Millwall commit to some sort of plan to achieve Premier League status, nothing will change. At least they'll be one South London representative in the Premier League next year if Palace keep up their form![/p][/quote]I'll never recognise anything from Croydon representing south London. To me south London is Lambeth, Southwark, Lewisham and Greenwich. Be like saying Barnet represent North London or Dagenham & Redbridge the Eastend. LittleByLittle
  • Score: 0

9:31pm Fri 8 Feb 13

bn79 says...

LittleByLittle wrote:
70HARB wrote:
The difference between Millwall and the likes of Palace and Charlton is that the latter pair have played in the Premier League.

Until Millwall commit to some sort of plan to achieve Premier League status, nothing will change.

At least they'll be one South London representative in the Premier League next year if Palace keep up their form!
I'll never recognise anything from Croydon representing south London.

To me south London is Lambeth, Southwark, Lewisham and Greenwich.

Be like saying Barnet represent North London or Dagenham & Redbridge the Eastend.
So does that make only Bexley S.E London?
[quote][p][bold]LittleByLittle[/bold] wrote: [quote][p][bold]70HARB[/bold] wrote: The difference between Millwall and the likes of Palace and Charlton is that the latter pair have played in the Premier League. Until Millwall commit to some sort of plan to achieve Premier League status, nothing will change. At least they'll be one South London representative in the Premier League next year if Palace keep up their form![/p][/quote]I'll never recognise anything from Croydon representing south London. To me south London is Lambeth, Southwark, Lewisham and Greenwich. Be like saying Barnet represent North London or Dagenham & Redbridge the Eastend.[/p][/quote]So does that make only Bexley S.E London? bn79
  • Score: 0

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