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Message boards thrive on football fan stereotypes
2:15pm Tuesday 24th April 2012 in Millwall
LIONS columnist MATT LITTLE this week examines the online stereotyping which makes up a large proportion of posts about opposition teams and their followers on internet football forums.
ONE of the interesting knock on effects of technology for football fans is the fact nowadays we can find out what the opposition really think of us.
I say 'really' because I doubt many away fans told the dockers exiting Cold Blow Lane they thought we were rubbish or that the home crowd were a bunch of ruffians.
And I certainly wouldn't have thought it prudent to trawl around the pubs of Leeds asking the locals what they thought of our cheeky cockney wit at the game.
But thanks to the world wide web we can now know what Nigel, the Crystal Palace fan living at home with mum, thought of our version of their awful 'We Follow' song.
Or even how much Eugene, the Charlton fan, is looking forward to getting revenge next season at The Den for their many humiliations at the hands of the Lions.
Whoops, I have to apologise there for those two caricatures of our dear south London cousins, as both are very ignorant stereotypes.
However, stereotyping is the main currency of trade on 21st century football message boards I've noticed and some of the perceptions others have of us are, by turns, both amusing and bemusing.
Take the Ipswich Town message board as an example.
A number of Tractor Boys broke ranks and praised the Lions' following at Portman Road for being loud and proud, with one describing us as pound for pound the loudest fans in the country, only to be shouted down by one Town supporter who reasoned we didn't have 14 GCSEs between us.
Ah, yes, that old classic - Millwalll fans are thick.
Yet the Lions fans most in the public eye are one of Britain's most successful trade union leaders, like him or loathe him, and the Liberal Democrats’ most credible MP.
And of course an award winning and respected journalist who transformed football broadcasting for the better and wrote some of the wittiest and best NME reviews of all time.
As a devoted listener of BBC Radio Five Live's football phone-in show 606, I'd say we've still got some way to go to prove ourselves, as a group, as thick as the legions of King Kenny Liverpool callers or the 'it's not the West Ham way' mob.
But I digress.
Then there's the ‘Millwall fans are racist’ jibe.
This still rears its head surprisingly frequently and often in a context totally disconnected from football sometimes.
Of course, this was an old favourite of Have I Got News For You?
Therefore Milllwall fans voting 'another' black player as their choice of player of the season must be slightly confusing for those that persist with this view, especially when it was a foreign black footballer!
Anyways, the perception I have always found most amusing on opposition message boards is the idea we are a dirty or physical side.
I think this is a development from us being associated with football hooliganism.
Our fans are animals ergo, so are our players, no matter if we're fielding Terry Hurlock or that wet blanket George Friend. Remember him?
I've lost count of the times this season I've moaned about us being too soft and almost polite compared to the opposition.
The likes of Palace and Leeds did a right number on us, yet to read an opposition's view on our team you'd have thought we only played Vinnie Jones clones.
Furthermore, in the build-up to a game at The Den, it's not uncommon to read opposition fans’ perception that SE16 is a hard place to come.
Flattering, but sadly not too true for most of this season.
Even so, opposition managers and the media will also focus on this notion too.
Not that I'm complaining, Millwall being a hard place to come as a football truism is no bad thing for us.
Again, this is a knock on effect from our reputation as an extremely partisan lot.
Sadly referees also come with that perception too.
I'm not one of those that think there's a conspiracy against us, but I do think referees are keen to prove that they won't be intimidated by our famously hostile and vocal crowd.
Maybe they also think our players will invariably be a bit physical and dirty too?
Indeed, the amount of yellow cards we get in some games are laughable.
Anyway, I would like to imagine the current perception people are forming of us is that we've got a very good manager, some decent players and a great team spirit that looks set to cement our place as number one club in south London.
And if not, and they dwell on all their negative perceptions, well, how's our famous anthem go again?
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