Glasgow Rangers break obscure south east London gate record but are Millwall, Charlton and Palace cursed? (From News Shopper)
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Glasgow Rangers break obscure south east London gate record but are Millwall, Charlton and Palace cursed?
3:42pm Wednesday 22nd August 2012 in Sport
MILLWALL columnist MATT LITTLE this week asks why all three south east London clubs have historically underachieved and ponders whether there is a footballing curse at work against teams our side of the river.
A RECORD which has belonged to south east London for more than half a century was finally broken at the weekend.
No longer will the answer to that obscure pub quiz question 'what's the highest ever attendance at a fourth tier football match?' be 37,774 for Crystal Palace v Millwall.
Glasgow Rangers managed to beat the near-on forty thousand south east Londoners who turned up to see the Lions record a 2-0 win over high flying Palace in 1961 with an impressive 49,118 for the visit of a presumably shell-shocked East Stirlingshire.
Not that it's a record Rangers will have wanted or be quick to boast about, I'm sure.
And as amazing a statistic as it is, I'm also sure both us and Palace could do without being reminded of that dark period in both our histories too, with the late 1950s and early 1960s seeing the two clubs spend a few humiliating seasons down in the basement.
Palace were to leave all that fifties greyness behind for the colour and glitz of the 1970s and top flight football, whereas Millwall went on, more modestly, to rebuild their reputation as a tough Second Division club to be feared at their intimidating home in Cold Blow Lane.
Not that it would work out for Palace among all those sideburns, they'd be back down and inventing strange rivalries with seaside towns in the Third Division soon enough.
And we'd go close to another spell down among the dead-men before gorgeous George Graham saved us and set us on the way to better times in the early 1980s.
You see, south east London football is littered with hard luck stories, humiliation and disappointment.
Less than a generation before we ended up in the Fourth Division, Millwall had been the 10th best supported club in the country and going places - until Mr Hitler decided to invade Poland.
It's as if south London football is cursed.
South east London is one of, if not, the biggest urban sprawl in the country.
All three of its established clubs Millwall, Charlton and Crystal Palace have enjoyed periods of attracting enormous crowds, yet have achieved very little with that backing.
West Ham's highest ever attendance is nowhere near what Millwall and Palace have got for even Third Division matches, and it is positively dwarfed by Charlton's crowds in their heyday.
But I doubt the Hammers care, especially when they compare achievements on the pitch.
The three clubs have only one paltry FA Cup and a fleeting top flight presence to show for over a hundred years of endeavour.
Tiny, provincial northern towns like Burnley, Huddersfield, Blackburn and Bolton put us to shame in that respect.
Even the shining light of south London football Charlton Athletic, who contributed that FA Cup and most of the limited amount of top flight football seasons, have been kicked out of their home and faced extinction in relatively recent times.
Strangely, though, Millwall have the most prestigious history out of the trio, having pioneered professional football in the south and having been one of the few clubs south of Birmingham able to give the northern teams a decent match in the early years of the professional game.
Our runs to the semi-finals of the FA Cup, which included the conquering of many a northern giant, earned us the nickname of 'Lions of the South' in the press.
Yet all this was achieved as an East End club and we've never come close to that kind of fame for our on the pitch endeavours again, not since crossing the Thames into south east London.
Even stranger is the fact the club who jointly pioneered professionalism in the south, Arsenal, only started to make real progress once they left south east London for the obviously less cursed surroundings of Islington.
So it's not only taxis that 'won't go south of the river', it's major footballing success too.
Will we ever change that though?
Well, after a paltry 11,000 odd turned up to see us tamely surrender 2-0 to Blackpool I'd have suggested moving to Kent as the only solution to break this curse.
However, we've just put on a slick footballing show against the mighty Peterborough United and hope springs eternal after a convincing 2-1 win.
It could be our year...
Palace, meanwhile, look determined to give themselves another pop at being the answer to that obscure pub quiz question again.
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