2:17pm Wednesday 22nd February 2012
LIONS columnist MATT LITTLE this week tells Bolton’s Fabrice Muamba to take a leaf out of team-mate Ryo Miyaichi’s book and take hostility from Millwall fans as a backhanded compliment rather than moan about it.
AFTER Saturday’s FA Cup game, Bolton winger Ryo Miyaichi took time to hail Millwall fans by saying: “The crowd made a special atmosphere. It was my first real experience of it and it was amazing.”
However, his team-mate Fabrice Muamba felt differently and tweeted: ‘Millwall fans are a disgrace, some of the abuse we receive today - no need for it.’ Not only is it nice to see Ryo enjoys being a part of an emotive game, but conversely we also got under the skin of a footballer who thinks he should be treated like a pampered actor in a play.
Fabrice must be a particularly sensitive soul, as I have seen far, far worse abuse dished out to much more noticeable players down the years.
Still, we did enough to rattle the Bolton players more used to almost catatonic Premier League crowds just by turning up.
It’s funny, though, a lot of people think a hostile atmosphere is about having a full stadium and lots of chanting and noise. It’s not.
A 40-year-old banging a drum or a bunch of spotty kids all singing in time has no real effect on players – I’ve never heard The Valley or Selhurst Park described as hostile.
In fact, even a hearty rendition of ‘no-one likes us’ is unlikely to rattle most pros to be fair, it’s the personal abuse which really seems to rattles them.
Millwall do have the advantage of history and geography too.
Before opposition players even turn up at The Den, they’ve heard all the old stories and it plays at the back of their minds.
Furthermore, they have to drive through the area to the ground.
Whether it’s filled with Millwall supporting dockers or not these days, the drive down the Old Kent Road is still an eye opener for most provincial lads or wine drinking Europeans not even out of their 20s.
So you can only imagine how this uneasy feeling is compounded when an 18 stone south Londoner decides to spit all of his frustrations and resentments built up over the last week at them as they innocently go to take a throw-in.
The loud and proud singing of ‘no-one likes us’ and the relentless drone of the monk chant just add to the intimidation, but they are not the foundation of it.
When Huddersfield wilted under the wall of noise at The Den in the 2010 play-offs, all the damage had been done when they arrived at the ground and took their first throw-in.
The ear-splitting noise was just the cherry on top.
The trouble is the crowd cannot always see you through.
I think the biggest thing we are missing is intimidation on the pitch to complement the stuff off of it.
Bolton might have found their afternoon even more unpleasant if someone like Kevin Muscat or Terry Hurlock had been patrolling the hallowed Den turf We are certainly missing a nasty side to our team.
Take captain Paul Robinson – he leads by example and is intelligent and articulate, but he could do with a nasty sidekick beside him.
Millwall have one of the best historical home records in the country, built on an intimidating crowd cheering on intimidating players.
Yet our current crop are more likely to discuss the best Nando deals with opposition players rather than kick them into row z.
Darius Henderson seems like the only one who bucks the trend, but like the crowd he cannot do it all on his own.
Last night Middlesbrough became the sixth team to easily defeat our powder puff team at The Den this season and it’s wearing thin.
Perhaps John Berylson should start aiming his public tirades at the gutless bunch of modern youngsters stealing a living off of us rather than the fans.
Because if nothing changes then that aggression and spite, which is usually directed at opposition players, will be turned fully on the manager and chairman.
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