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★★★★★

No One Likes Us (Millwall)

Written on: 06/04/2005 by Millwallman (1 review written)

Good Points
An independent magazine that is well written and amazingly good value at £1. Regular features include "Lion Tales" and "The Story So Far". Halfway Harry and the Fat Blokes cartoons are always topical and funny.

Bad Points
Few really. Could do with more photos and standard text layout.

General Comments
No One Likes Us (Millwall)

Lion Tales

FA Cup The Final Word



Early January and Walsall have just scored at the Den in the 3rd Round of the FA Cup. Millwall have not enjoyed a cup run for many years, and it looks as if 2004 will be no different. However, by half time Millwall lead, emerging victorious by 2 goals to one.



The draw for the 4th Round pulls out an away tie with the soon to be defunct Telford United. What on paper seems an easy draw rapidly becomes a potential banana skin, as bad weather leads to continued postponements, meaning that both teams are still in the draw for the 5th Round, where Burnley are pulled out of the hat, and a home tie at that! All of a sudden a path had opened up to the Quarter Finals for the first time since 1985, and Cup Final Frenzy was up and running.



The 2-0 victory at Telford on a terrible pitch was a testament to Millwall's ambition to make 2004 their cup year, and those who turned up at the Den witnessed the tense 1-0 victory against Burnley. They could have equalised in the last minute but they didn't, and that's what a cup run is all about!



Looking at the remaining 8 teams, I put on my predictive hat to see if there was a possibility of us getting any further. Tranmere at home would do nicely, followed by the winners of the Birmingham / Sunderland match in the Semi Finals, thus pairing the remaining big guns with each other. Now if Sunderland beat Birmingham and Manchester United beat Arsenal (who would probably beat Chelsea), there was a path for a Millwall / Manchester United Cup Final, and Millwall would have a chance, just a chance against Manchester United!



Sometimes Lion Tales touches upon a flicker of fiction, and everyone laughed at these suggestions. Then we drew Tranmere at home and the vision firmed up Millwall versus Manchester United in the Cup Final.



The Den was a tense place for the Tranmere match and I just knew that we would not win, despite most of the crowd expecting a comfortable two-goal victory. A packed tense Den is a brilliant place to be, and Muskat's penalty miss was just pure theatre. That goalkeeper will never save another penalty like that again in his career. A sadly deflated crowd sunk away from the ground, many considering that "the big opportunity" had been missed. But why?



Although Tranmere had a great home record in the cup, people were forgetting this was Millwall's year, and the heart told me that we would scrape a one-goal victory. However, the tension was unbelievable. I began watching over a pub meal. Indigestion soon necessitated moving away from the screen, allowing the cheers, groans and expletives of the rest of the gathering to inform as to events.



Two early goals and the meal tasted much better. I was all set to watch the second half until Tranmere scored. The pub was vacated, and for a while the car radio was my link, but that too was unbearable. In the end I took the dog for a walk, pacing the empty streets until the match was scheduled to be over, leaving the teletext on, for I knew that on returning, if the match was over Millwall would have won.



Arriving back I could barely look at the screen, but there it was in black, white, blue and yellow...Millwall had won 2-1, a fact celebrated the next day by the Millwall flag flying from the rooftop at work "I never put it there honest guv"!



So to the Semi Final, and yes, Sunderland were the opposition, and at Old Trafford too, a great location and we'd already beaten them twice in the league. Whatever the negative comments made about the membership scheme, I had confidence in it, hence let a few days pass before wandering up to an empty Den to pick up a couple of tickets, selected after careful negotiation and advice from the helpful ticket office. In a way something was lost by not queuing for hours as for the Wembley extravaganza, but I'm 5 years older now and need an easier life!



The trip to Old Trafford was brilliant. Stopping off in Cambridge, Arsenal's defeat to Manchester United was witnessed, just as I knew it would be now to beat Sunderland.



Cheshire is a great county to stay in during a visit to the normally cloudy Manchester, and the patrons of the Alvanley Arms went just a little quiet when one of our crowd of nine called out "come on you lions" as we entered the quaint 16th Century Coaching Inn. Our meal passed, observed by the mildly amused posh "Cheshirites" on what was the evening before the morning before the main event.



Driving up to Sale early Saturday morning 04.04.04, the roads were empty yes, approaching from the south west was a masterstroke! Once there, a lift direct to Old Trafford awaited, and the atmosphere began to build. Three or even six stretch white limos glided by, and the density of blue and white increased until we arrived, jammed in a road right outside the ground.



I got out and it hit me the noise, the sea of colour, the anticipation. This was Millwall and this was as big as it got! On these occasions the atmosphere has to be sucked in. You have to wander along the streets and in and out of pubs, both absorbing and contributing to it.



Old Trafford is a fine ground, which from where we were seemed full, and "Jocko" and I had fine seats. Now drenched in atmosphere the match began and Sunderland hit the bar. From that moment on, the result was a foregone conclusion. Cahill scored

(04 on 04.04.04), and getting in at half time ahead meant Millwall would win. Deep down there had been an irrational fear, planted by my father, dating back to 1937, that Millwall would take the lead, Sunderland would be level by half time, and then win it in the second half. That half time whistle was so sweet.



Sunderland played it a little dirty at times and gradually took the initiative, with Millwall defending deeply. However, there was no need to worry the elongated Millwall chant had begun, the team was being sung home and Sunderland were being intimidated. At one point "Jocko" turns and says "Michael I think we are the only two in the ground sitting down", so we stood and waved the rather tacky flag that he had bought outside the ground.



"No-one likes us" is a great anthem and now the world would hear it, for Millwall were in the FA Cup Final and had a place in the EUFA Cup. For a brief moment the announcer forgot himself, wishing Millwall the best of luck in the Final, until a brief silence indicated that he had been reminded that we were playing his team, Manchester United.



Chairman Theo was now on the pitch he gets a mixed press. Personally I think he has done well, sometimes needs to communicate with real supporters a little more openly and effectively, but, hey no, he has done well.



We did not leave Old Trafford for the best part of an hour, wandering up towards an empty Metro station on the city side, to board a virtually empty train, which filled up somewhat as we entered Old Trafford, back into Cheshire. It was like the old days before segregation, with rival fans mixing openly as they had done before the match ever get the feeling that low profile sophisticated policing is the answer?



Arriving back in London late Monday, stopping off in Cambridge to send a letter to the Times to criticise their disgusting coverage of the match, a letter that was later published, I was again pleased that the membership scheme would guarantee me a Cup Final ticket. This was as good as it could get. Millwall versus Manchester United in the Cup Final and over 6 weeks to smile about it, although events at Old Trafford, and later in Nottingham, would seriously weaken the team and undermine our chances of ultimate glory.



Cup Final weekend began on Friday at work with a large Millwall cake, blue and white napkins, a football rattle and a Cup Final rosette. The journey to Cardiff started immediately after the cake had been consumed at lunchtime. I don't usually fly colours from the car, but FA Cup Final anything goes, and the lights flashed and the horns sounded as legions of Millwall fans overtook my rather pedestrian vehicle.



Bristol, stopping off point for the night, just up the road from the old Rovers ground, now an IKEA store, is a good location, and the journey to Cardiff was completed on Saturday morning by train. The queues outside Bristol Temple Meads stretched for hundreds of metres, but there are ways into that station, and within 90 seconds I am crammed into a sardine can heading for Cardiff.



As with the Semi Final, outside the ground there is no obvious segregation, and rival fans mix openly. Again the police have done a magnificent job, using intelligence and common sense. There is little chance of any serious trouble, for 22nd May 2004 is official Millwall Day and no one would be allowed to spoil it.



Wandering around Cardiff there is more blue than red, a virtual sea of blue, even though the United supporters outnumber Lions fans by at least 2:1. The atmosphere at this stage is even better than at Old Trafford, so I just sit down at the main entrance on the top of a wall in the bright sunlight, and take it all in. Simon Hughes wanders by dressed smartly, Millwall flag in hand. Jeff Winter signs autographs on what will be his last matchday. The team coaches arrive Neil Harris spots one of his mates in the cheering crowd. In the background a growing sea of red looks on quietly.



If there is anyone untouched by the unique atmosphere of over 70,000 people brought together to Wales and with a common purpose, then they are sadly not human. Talking of which, the referee at Nottingham now gets his deserved critical mention, sending off Mr Dichio for a bit of "handbags" full in the knowledge that he would miss the Cup Final, and surely aware that Millwall's depleted squad would have lost their slim chance of victory. For goodness sake, Jeff Winter probably wouldn't even have booked the man. Look at the consistent efforts of Mr Wise to entice a booking during the Final, succeeding only after battering most of the United team! The Nottingham referee is no doubt an ally of the infamous Mr Styles of Barnsley. If I had my way they would both be sent down a redundant mine shaft for eternity! Anyway, it is now 2.00pm and time to move into the ground where most Millwall supporters already reside.



The Millennium Stadium is even better that Old Trafford. The acoustics are funny, loads of noise from one end and passive anorak lookalikes everywhere else! The clock speeds up, and "Abide With Me" is being sung loud and proud followed by the National Anthem, which in turn is followed by the Millwall Anthem. Meanwhile, the United fans look on in amazed silence at the massed flag waving all singing all dancing legions of Millwall fans.



Millwall were never going to win, but had Neil Harris not been given falsely off side, had Mr Wise jumped at Ronaldo, had David Livermore's fair tackle not been punished with a penalty, and had the "Rude Van's" final goal been given off side, we would have won 1-0! However, I had consistently stated that we needed to score 3 to have a chance and we didn't have a shot, courtesy of the referee at Nottingham who helped spoil the Cup Final as a competitive event by banning our centre forward.



There were pluses. Marshall's save from Keane was one of the best I have ever seen If he could play like that every week Millwall would be 10 points richer by the end of the season. His concentration levels were phenomenal. Without doubt, the biggest plus was the Millwall support. There will never be a team with such a dedicated support base at the FA Cup Final again. If you think back, can you ever remember the supporters of the losing team waiting behind for the cup presentation and singing a song for the winners? No, of course not, but this was Millwall's day, and this was special.



The media were left with a few spare column inches, for there could be none of the expected criticism of the Millwall fan base. Some of their inches were filled with praise, some begrudgingly, some genuine. A few of the low life journalistic brethren criticised the team for "not trying", but on the day Millwall fielded a team that would not be out of place in the 2nd Division. They played like Lions though and gave their all. A full strength Millwall side would have won the cup on 22nd May, about that I have no doubt. Well done to everyone who participated in the greatest day in Millwall's history. Make sure the memory never fades and the passion never dies. Millwall remain a special club who "fear no foe wherever they go".



Michael

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