Millwall Football Club - The First 125 YearsWritten by Mark Baxter
In 1885, a group of workers at the J.T.Morton food processing plant in the East End of London decided to form a football club which they called Millwall Rovers FC. Today, October 2nd 2010 at The New Den, the clubs ground off the Old Kent Road in South London, that same football club celebrates its 125th anniversary.
The name Millwall always gets a reaction. Amongst some of my mates, who support Premiership clubs, it gets laughed at, derided almost. When brought up among non-football watching people, it’s a real conversation stopper. They react in horror, thinking of the headlines that the name Millwall has gathered over the years, with its connection to football hooliganism.
Among those who follow the club, those who attend matches home and away, the name brings nothing but deep affection. They love the club. If you support Millwall, you have to love it. There is no glamour in supporting them. Glory hunters need not apply.
My Dad, a life-long fan, took me to my first game down there, a mid –week evening kick off, in the late 60s. I would have been 6 or 7, and mad on the sport of football, playing it every opportunity, whether before school, in the lunch break or after, on the council estate in Camberwell, where I grew up.
This was an amazing feeling. I was going to see a real football match, played under floodlights, by real footballers; it was like a dream coming true to me at that age. I suppose my dad could have taken me anywhere and I would have loved it. But he was Millwall; therefore I would be Millwall.
I can still remember the sound of the crowd, the banter, the swearing, and the aggression. My nostrils filled with the smells of hot dogs, Bovril and Percy Dalton peanuts.
I absolutely loved the atmosphere, and I was as hooked as much as any junkie. I HAD to get back down there and drove my old man mad every week to take me back for my ‘fix’.
Eventually, I started going with my mates and forty years later, I still do.
Harry ‘Boy’ Cripps, Bryan King, Alfie Wood, Derek Possee, Keith Weller, Gordon Hill, Phil Walker, Trevor Lee, Jimmy Carter, Terry Hurlock, Teddy Sheringham, Tony Cascarino, Mark Kennedy, Timmy Cahill, Neil ‘Chopper’ Harris…Those names and many others have lived with me through that time.
Honours wise, the club hasn’t won much. As I said, if you want glamour, you’re in the wrong place pal, but we have had our days in the sun over the years. From 1964 to 1967, The Lions, as they’re known, went un-beaten at home for 59 matches, a record broken only by the legendary Liverpool team of the early 80s. The old Den was a fortress. Teams and opposing supporters would have a torrid time there.
Promotion to the old First Division came in 1988, with Millwall topping the table at one memorable point, finally finishing 10th, their highest ever finish. In 2004, we beat Sunderland 1-0 up at Old Trafford to reach the FA Cup Final and qualify for Europe. A never to be forgotten day. Simply wonderful.
And finally this year, winning the League One play-off versus Swindon at Wembley. What a day.
Sadly, my old man died in 2000 and has therefore missed most of those ‘big’ days. But I have taken my old mum along to all of them, and she loved every minute. She’s been supporting the ‘Wall since 1958 and had a season ticket until 2 years back when she retired from going aged 72.
So, the future?
Things are slowly improving with investment coming from the current chairman, American millionaire John G. Berylson, and the club is holding its own in The Championship. Crowds are on the rise and there’s a good vibe among the season-ticket holders like me.
Obviously, the small minority that follow Millwall and indulge in crowd trouble are still there, but this is nothing new, as there are reports of violence on the terraces going back to the 1920s. The ground is in a rough, tough, no nonsense area and the people reflect that. I still think on occasions we’re an easy target for a lazy journalist looking to print a story on trouble at football. Other clubs get up to far worse, but the name Millwall will always guarantee headlines. No one is saying we’re all angels down there, but the vast majority would walk away rather than get involved.
Anyway, as the famous old song says…
“No one likes us, no one likes us, no one likes us, we don’t care
We are Millwall, super Millwall, we are Millwall from The Den”
You know what, we really don’t care…
© Words – Mark Baxter/ ZANI Media