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Reading fans are the mouthiest of the lot from my Millwall following experience
1:38pm Wednesday 30th October 2013 in Sport
MILLWALL columnist MATT LITTLE reckons Reading fans top the table as the most annoying he has encountered in all of his time following the Lions.
These are the clubs we've played the most often since I learnt how to drive back in the late 1990s and which also cost a reasonable amount in petrol to get to.
I have been all over following the Lions, but my visits to the likes of Rotherham, Stoke, Wolves, Arsenal, Tottenham, Shrewsbury, Wigan, Sunderland, Yeovil etc have been sporadic.
Therefore I cannot claim to have seen enough of these club's supporters to say with conviction whether they are more or less gobby than Reading fans as a rule - but in my own experience Reading are definitely the mouthiest of the lot.
Indeed I have been to places like Forest, Brighton, Sheffield Wednesday, Sheffield United, Portsmouth, Charlton, West Ham, Brentford and QPR enough times to know the Royals certainly give all of those a run for their money too.
Only QPR have come close to them out of that lot, but at least the Rs fans had the decency not to race off five minutes before the end to the safety of their cars and shuttle buses after spending the previous 80 minutes pretending to be Lenny McClean.
Anyways, it actually got me thinking, as it was so sweet to see Liam Trotter convert that injury time penalty to well and truly shut them up - well the ones that hadn't already high-tailed it out of there - because of all the abuse bouncing back and forth during the game.
A point was no more than we deserved, and the chance to ram our gloating down the throats of the home fans was no more than the 1,022 travelling Lions deserved either, having backed the team magnificently throughout.
And it made me wish this kind of thing was more of a regular thing at The Den, because as I've said before, tribalism is a bit silly really, but it's fun and makes football what it is.
But despite growing on me, mainly because it is so out of keeping with the more generic bowl stadiums that followed its construction, the 'New' Den's two tier design is a bit of a nuisance when it comes to away fans.
It has been used as an excuse not to allow clubs with large followings and bad reputations to have a full allocation, and also for shoving 300 Walsall fans miles away in the heavens, with little to no chance of getting any interaction going with home fans, just because it's the easy option for the club and police.
I would love to see the Millwall Supporters Club and the Fan on the Board challenge this state of affairs, which seem to have simply been accepted as unchangeable now.
The vast majority of clubs only bring 500-1,000 supporters to The Den, which the North Lower can easily cater for, even with buffer zones at either end of the stand.
Just think how much it would improve the atmosphere at all home games if the likes of Doncaster Rovers & their 500 fans were on the lower tier and therefore able to better interact with home fans, rather than being up amongst the gods and isolated in the upper tier?
Take Burnley this coming Saturday.
They are top of the league and full of confidence, twill be bringing more than the usual 600 fans, but nowhere near 2,500.
I'll have a guess and say they'll bring around 1,200 odd, which on the lower tier would create a fantastic atmosphere, as opposed to rattling around the upper tier.
But how does this really affect Millwall though?
Well, Millwall fans are fantastic at creating an atmosphere that really does have an effect on the game.
They can help the players raise their game, to run a little bit faster, to make that 50/50 tackle and to keep fighting for the ball for 90 minutes.
There are countless examples of this over the years and it has always been sparked by a noisy away following, despised opposition player, or an incident on the pitch, be it a hard tackle or a bad decision by the officials.
By putting the away followings on the lower tier it could create that kind of partisan atmosphere more regularly, and the 'New' Den could become as legendary as Cold Blow Lane was where, let us not forget, we were unbeaten for long stretches.
I know some will claim we just can't take the risk of having away fans on the lower tier, but I say that's nonsense.
There was no trouble at the Reading game, despite all the abuse flying back and forth, just posturing.
The reason behind that is because with CCTV and heavy prison sentences for football related violence nowadays, even the most unhinged person in a crowd thinks twice before doing anything as reckless as throwing a punch.
Who remembers fans of our arch rivals West Ham United and Chelsea being on the lower tier and having their fearsome charges towards Millwall fans halted by a three foot wall - and the same for our lot?
Besides, the club could have buffer zones in the blocks closest to the North Stand, as well as employ a policy to only sell tickets in those close by areas to season ticket holders and members to begin with.
The other thing which needs to change is our dialogue with the police.
We need to be much stronger on certain issues.
As I'm sure some of you will point out, by moving the away fans to the lower tier it'll just give them the excuse to charge us even more for policing.
But we need to pin them down in regards of numbers of police officers and how they are deployed.
After all, 500 away fans either need X amount of police or they don't.
Because as far as I can tell they don't take into account where fans are housed, judging by the number of them standing around in the corners of the ground miles from the away supporters.
We need to be just as bullish when it comes to the visits of the likes of Leeds United, Queens Park Rangers etc.
Both of those clubs mentioned could have brought more fans than they were allowed and the club needs to really look hard at how we can make that possible, because at the end of the day we are trying to run a business.
Millwall are not in a position to be turning away an extra £50-80,000 for just one match, which is what we are doing if you take into account the extra ticket, food, drink and programme sales the likes of Leeds could generate.
The club and police need to strike the right balance about exactly how many police need to be in attendance and how best they can be deployed to keep costs down, but without risk to security.
There must be a happy compromise, especially as I've stated because of the unlikeliness of trouble inside the stadium due to the reasons discussed earlier, and the walkway outside.
At the moment it seems like we give them a blank cheque and don't make them accountable at all.
The amount of police sniffer dogs for the Yeovil Town game would have been more appropriate for that famous music festival near to Yeovil - Glastonbury, as just one example.
We are literally the only club in the country that seemingly goes out of its way not to maximise gate receipts for big matches, yet still pays for international match level policing, and it needs to change.
I cannot imagine Barnsley not allowing the likes of Leeds United, Sheffield Wednesday or Huddersfield Town to fill their entire away end.
I know this will fall on death ears, as the club would rather take the easy option than genuinely try and create a unique and special Millwall match day experience.
Which is a pity, because the fan interaction at Reading on Saturday was great fun and really added to the day.
Apply this at The Den by moving the away fans to the lower tier and I honestly believe it would create the type of atmosphere that we only see very occasionally these days, even for the most mundane of fixtures.
As an aside, I think we'll beat Burnley on Saturday.
It would just have been nice to really rub it in, as they're probably getting quite cocky and you never know, Alastair Campbell might be there too.
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