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Millwall fans just don't consider Charlton as serious rivals
3:06pm Tuesday 12th March 2013 in Sport
MILLWALL blogger MATT LITTLE explains why he doesn’t consider neighbours Charlton in the same category as Crystal Palace or West Ham when it comes to club rivalries ahead of this weekend’s derby at The Valley.
LAST week I had a bit of rant off the back of yet another poor home defeat and can only put it down to the fact I believe Millwall players should be aware of what is expected of them when they step foot onto the hallowed Den turf - that they have a responsibility to live up to our legacy as one of football’s toughest away days.
Thankfully we have a manager who understands and respects how important that legacy is to the Den faithful and on Sunday it looked as though Kenny Jackett had finally communicated that to the players.
To be fair, the likes of David Forde, Alan Dunne, Jack Smith, Shane Lowry and Danny Shittu have always bought in to this.
But too often this season they have been on their own, so hopefully the manager’s harsh words after the disgusting roll-over to Wolves have worked.
Indeed, against Blackburn maybe the quality was lacking, but no-one could question the commitment of the players this time-out, as the Rovers players are certainly nursing their bruises.
And that is all we ever ask for at The Den, that opposition players know that they’ve been in a game.
We will need that kind of commitment for the remainder of the season because while we travel to Ewood Park tomorrow night hoping to secure another trip to Wembley, we have the much more pressing matter of addressing our drop down the table on a scale not seen since 1996 and the days of Jimmy Nicholl.
Personally I think we will be fine, but I’d prefer to make sure of our Championship status sooner rather than later and a win from Saturday’s trip to The Valley would be a nice start.
I thought carefully about describing it as a trip to our rivals, but decided not to.
After all you would hardly put the two of us together in that sense.
In fact, a Luton fan I used to room with in the RAF used to joke that we should do a derby swap with Watford v Charlton and us v Luton making much more sense.
Don’t get me wrong, it’s certainly a big local game.
So is Notts County v Nottingham Forest, but just like that Nottingham derby it lacks any real intensity.
It’s a marriage of geographical convenience rather than a bitter football feud.
That’s because, unlike Crystal Palace and West Ham, Charlton have never really inflicted any of the pain on us which is vital to building up a good rivalry, it’s very much a one-sided affair.
Whereas Palace have gleefully picked over our carcass when we’ve been at out lowest or most vulnerable, in return inflicting the likes of Bobby Bowry and Ricky Newman on to us, Charlton have always been the most obliging of neighbours.
I cannot ever recall them stealing our most promising players or us losing an important game to them, nor have I experienced them humiliate us in the same manner we have them over the years.
Indeed, it is by far and away the most one-sided derby series in English football – in Millwall’s favour, and I’ve lost count of the amount of times we’ve scored a late winner or equaliser against them.
Conversely, I can recall plenty of times Palace and West Ham have inflicted painful and cruel defeats on us, or have lorded it over us in some obnoxious way.
Then there’s what I see as Charlton’s neediness - and just like on the dating scene it’s not a very appealing or attractive quality to have in a potential rival.
All this ‘I thought you didn’t care about us’ nonsense is a bit much.
Yes, of course we think it’s a big match, the two grounds are less than four miles apart.
But we sell out our allocations for our other two derbies home and away just as quickly, yet don’t have to constantly keep reassuring Palace or West Ham fans this proves we do care about them after-all.
I just hope West Ham United don’t keep any pet rabbits at their ground, as I fear Charlton fans might boil them in a fit of jealous rage should we sing about the Hammers on Saturday.
Add in their delusions of grandeur and they start to look more like crazy neighbours than genuine rivals.
If you ever get stuck talking to one of their fans and they start prattling on about Charlton being a big club and referring to us as ‘Smallwall’, just keep nodding politely without making eye contact.
Whatever you do, don’t say you don’t know many big clubs who play on a sand-pit of a pitch or have a sponsor that’s just one apostrophe away from being embarrassingly Sunday League.
And never bring up the fact it was because of gates of 5-6,000 for Second Division football, in a crumbling monument to a different era, they became the first professional club to ever be kicked out of their own stadium.
Nor mention it wasn’t their heroic return to The Valley which saw them average more than 12,000 for the first time in nearly 30 years, but promotion to the Premier League and the promise of cheap tickets and travel for people from places like Herne Bay and Maidstone to watch, not Charlton, but Thierry Henry et al.
Because if you do, they’ll get so angry the chips on both of their shoulders will start to fry.
Although if they try to boast about their crowds dwarfing ours, then you’re allowed to laugh and simply say – Greenwich council employees, school children, tickets, free – and walk away.
By the time they’ve worked it out you won’t be able to hear their duffle-coat muffled implosion.
For someone who honestly isn’t that bothered about Charlton, Addicks fans reading this will suggest I ‘doth protest too much’.
Maybe they’re right.
But they have every opportunity to ram this column down my throat and surpass their wild celebrations at gaining just a 0-0 draw at The Den in December come Saturday.
I just hope to God we can keep our excellent record against them up, not for bragging rights but because we desperately need a result from somewhere, anywhere.
Agree or disagree? Leave your comments below.