Away Days - Millwall
OK, lets not beat around the bush here. The simple thought of a trip into deepest, darkest South East London should be enough set any right minded human being into survival mode.
Forget what the progressive press say about racial harmony, forget the early noughties spin from the celebrity ex-chairman about how they are becoming a family club and are on top of their hooligan problem. Take it from someone who has been to the New Den on several occasions - Millwall is not a nice place to go to as an away fan.
Now you may fancy your chance against Theo Paphitis in the Dragons Den, but believe me, even the old grannies serving the half time pies could out muscle most folk visiting the New Den.
If you really are insistent upon going to Millwall, then I recommend having a few drinks in Central London beforehand. Going for a pint anywhere deeper into Bushwacker territory than London Bridge, and you really are being a bit of a twat.
They serve beer in the away end, but it is vastly overpriced and watered down, as they know they have an effective monopoly on sales once you arrive in Bermondsey. It probably isn’t in your interest to get too pissed anyway, as you never know what might happen in these parts.
Having lived in South London for several years as I cut my jib in the media-jungle, I had the opportunity to attend several games. As a neutral, I felt it was rude not too seeing as it was only a few stops on the overland train from my Clapham hovel to South Bermondsey, and they were at the time celebrating promotion to the second flight after a spell in the lower half of the league structure. For me, Millwall felt right a real London club, unlike the plastic premiership fare I had been served up courtesy of corporate season tickets.
I must be one of a very select group of Swans fans who can boast that they have sunk a pint in one of Millwalls locals on a matchday. I am also not embarrassed to admit that I was quite easily, without a shadow of a doubt, the softest person in the pub that afternoon.
To get a sense of the welcome that awaits any away fan supporting a team with a bit of a rep, I will give you some factual trivia about Millwall:
1. You are only allowed access to the home stands if you have a prison tattoo.
2. The ground beneath the New Den was formerly the home of Londiniums gladiatorial arena during Roman times. On wet afternoons, you can see the lights reflect off the blood of dead Christians.
3. The official away supporter figure is seasonally adjusted to account for “disappearances”.
4. Access to the ground is via narrow alleys, railway subways, and a shark infested pool, or via a wasteland of bottles, bricks and skeletons where foolhardy souls have fallen previously, and their bodies left to rot.
5. In these parts, the Met Police do not wear their riot gear by choice. This is a specialist division who upon signing up to the force had a surgical addition to their corporeal being, making them part man, part machine. A bit like Darth Vader, but without the need for a gruff American voiceover.
I think what I am trying to say is, no matter how hard you are, or how tough you may consider yourself to be, Millwall are harder.
It comes with the territory, so get over it. Just remember, the football hooligans are the respectable ones in these parts. They are traditional carriers of knuckle-dusters and knives, and as such are unlikely to be carrying guns.
If upon exiting the ground you for some stupid reason choose not to catch one of the awaiting “specials”, and even if you do lose the local footie thugs with your Andersonesque turn pace, you will undoubtedly end up in one of the numerous estates that blot this part of he world. The likely outcome will be gunshot wounds to the chest or stomach, and an incautious relieving of your Nokia.
Should you take the sensible option and be the holder of a return train ticket from either London Bridge or Victoria, exiting the ground for you will involve being slowly marched between high sided fencing as if on a final ascent towards the Nazi Gas Chambers. Nobody knows quite what awaits them, but you can almost smell the unease. At this point you will be unable to see the Millwall, but you will certainly be able to hear their war cries. If you are unlucky, you may even catch sight of them. This, believe me, would not be a good thing as you would then be within easy bricking range.
Once on the train out of hells own station, it is like a Sunday School mystery trip except with lots of fat blokes instead of nice middle class families. Everyone is glad to be onboard, but nobody will have a fucking clue where the train is going.
If you are not planning to be shepherded onto the 6.15 out of Paddington, I advise you sit tight and hang back until the OB have moved the Burberry Clad masses along whichever concourse they have deemed it safe to take you to.
Follow this advice, and the following week you too could safely enjoy fairytale accounts of how you were there when we “done the Millwall”.