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Millwall Preview

Filed: Monday, 24th August 2009
By: Preview Percy

And so to a second London derby in three days. This one is of course in the Carling Cup and the draw must have had the Met simultaneously jumping for joy (at the thought of all that overtime) and groaning in disbelief (at the thought that they would, for once, actually have to do some work for once to earn it).

Of course since the draw was announced every teenage keyboard warrior on both sides of the divide has been chipping in about “standing your ground” and “making sure that they don’t take liberties” seemingly oblivious to the fact that “Green Street” was fiction rather than a documentary. It was a bloody awful film as well for what it’s worth.

Of course it’s fair to say that they have more than their fair share of unpleasant characters amongst their numbers. Years ago your correspondent lived not a million miles away from their ground. Unsurprisingly, most of my then local pub was actually Chelsea. One of the funniest things I’ve ever heard a Chelsea supporter say came up in a debate he was having with a Millwall fan who was spouting forth very loudly that only Millwall fans had any true passion for their team. The Chelsea fan calmly pointed out that: a) the side for whom the fans showed “so much passion” were playing at home in a vital promotion match as they spoke; b) the ground was literally half empty; c) the ground was only 2 miles away from the pub; and d) neither the Millwall supporter nor any of his replica kit-wearing mates had managed to muster up enough "passion" to either make the two mile trip to the ground or to bother to watch the match on any of the 5 big screens that the pub possessed.

Of course whenever Millwall are mentioned there is usually someone on hand to point out the strides the club have made in recent times to disassociate themselves from the more Neanderthal elements of society, though employing Dennis Wise as manager a while back was probably a bit of a publicity own goal in that respect. In researching this piece I did happen across one unofficial attempt to give the club a slightly different image in the form of a website aimed at gay supporters called The Pink Lions. The home page calls upon the London gay community to adopt the club in order to “reclaim the club from the thuggish element” and asks us to imagine a “sell-out at the New Den every week with a carnival atmosphere”. Sadly for those of us who love cheap jokes, since the site was set up three years ago that appears to have been it, with little activity taking place since. You have to give them ten out of ten for trying mind, though I’d say that the home page slogan “You ain’t a real man ‘til you’ve had a ‘Wall fan” is probably a few years ahead of its time in New Cross.

On the pitch it’s been an unbeaten start thus far. They’ve drawn 1-1 away at Southampton and 0-0 at home to Carlisle and away at Southend. Their only league win to date came in the 2-0 dispatch of Oldham which currently leaves them in 8th place in the emerging table with six points from their four matches so far. Goals were a little easier to come by in the previous round of the League Cup as they sent Bournemouth packing with an easy 4-0 victory.

Their first-choice ‘keeper is David Forde who some may remember started his professional career proper at the Boleyn. Forde signed for us from Barry Town in 2002 following a recommendation from the Welsh side’s then manager Kenny Brown. However, in his two years at the club he failed to dislodge David James from the no.1 spot and his days were numbered following the arrival of Raimond Van Der Gow. Loan spells at Derry City and Barnet followed before a permanent move to his home town club Galway United took place. Another couple of years back at Derry ensued before he returned to the Football League with Cardiff. A proposed move to Dundee United fell through because FIFA decided to enforce the rule about three clubs in a season, though if Dundee United had filled out the form with a sticker bearing the word “Liverpool” over where their own name should have been it would have been ok obviously. Forde finally ended up at the New Den at the start of last term. He was on the end of a shocking assault by Leeds’ Jermaine Beckford last season whose elbow to the face would have got him arrested had it taken place in the pub. Forde had the last laugh, saving a Beckford penalty in the play-off semi final.

This being the League Cup there is always the chance that we might see the no.2 ‘keeper start, though given the nature of the match and the fact that Forde started in the previous round this is probably unlikely. However, if Jackett does elect to give his second-choice a run-out, we will see summer signing John Sullivan between the sticks. Sullivan, who arrived from Brighton at the expiry of his contract, is unique amongst professional footballers in that he is the only one to have written “Only Fools & Horses” (note to researcher – you’re sacked.)

Famously, Millwall missed out on promotion last time out after a hilarious play-off final that saw them go down 3-2 to Scunthorpe, a team in claret & blue known as “The Iron”. Which made a few of us smile at the time. Goalscorer for Millwall that day was Gary Alexander, another player who started life out at the Boleyn, eventually ending up the wrong side of the river via spells at Exeter, Swindon, Hull and the O’s. Alexander missed an absolute sitter at Wembley and, if one were in mischievous mood, one might almost think that he was simply doing his job as a former Hammer. An amusing thought but for the fact that he was reputedly a Millwall supporter as a boy.

Also up front has been the prolific Neil Harris who has been at Millwall for what seems like donkey’s years. Harris, who successfully beat testicular cancer in 2001, actually spent three years away from the club, a spell prompted by Dennis Wise’s decision that Harris wasn’t up to a regular first team place. A loan spell at Cardiff was followed by a permanent move to Forest. A loan spell with Gillingham apart, he stayed with Forest until 2007 when he then moved back to the New Den. It looked like the 07/08 season might be his last with the club as, like his predecessor, boss Kenny Jackett decided that Harris was surplus to requirements. However, an improvement in form earned him a new deal and he subsequently went on to break Edward Sheringham’s club record of 111 goals and he scored a hat-trick in the previous round against Bournemouth.

Against Southend last week Harris was used as a half-time sub for Welsh striker Jason Price, who was apparently sacrificed in a tactical change from 4-3-3 to 4-4-2. It wasn’t the first time that that particular substitution had been made this season, though what with this being the League Cup it wouldn’t be a major surprise to see Harris start.

Another familiar name in the squad is that of Zak Whitbread. However, I’m damned if I can work out why his name should ring a bell. Though he was on Liverpool’s books for 3 years, his first team opportunities were so limited that the scouse burglars rarely targeted his house on the grounds that he was more likely to be in on matchdays than not. A US cap at age level, he signed from the scousers permanently in 2006 having earlier completed a loan spell. I guess that his is just one of those names you hear on Soccer Saturday from time to time that stick in the head for no apparent reason.

"What about us?" I hear you ask. Well the temptation must be for Zola to ring the changes and give a few fringe-players a start. There is also the question of James Collins who is the current favourite to be transferred out in an attempt to raise funds for the striker that we so desperately require. Villa are the side being closely linked with a deal and it might affect the price were he to be cup-tied in this one so we may see a return for Tomkins who missed the Wolves match with a knock and was on the bench for the unlucky defeat against Spurs. However comments attributed to the manager suggests that few changes are likely. We shall see.

The match of course has not been without controversy already with the Met insisting on a reduced allocation for the visiting support. Originally, New Scotland Yard insisted that only 1,500 of the original 3,000 seats should be made available but a further 800 tickets have now been released. It’ll be a lively atmosphere to say the least and the result will probably depend to a large extent on how seriously Zola takes this stage of the competition. Assuming we don’t actually stick out a total reserve XI we ought to be too strong for them, though our traditional frailty in the face of lower-league opposition is always a worry. Nevertheless, with a team of near first XI strength I can see us winning this and I’ll plump for a 3-1 this time and a place in the next round for us.

Enjoy the game!

Last season: N/A

Danger man: Neil Harris – as a Millwall player of long standing a win would mean a lot, and his hat-trick in the last round indicates a bit of form.

Referee: Paul Taylor – as a ref on the football league list we don’t encounter him that much, though he did referee our 2-2 draw with Southampton in the 2008/09 pre-season.

Look out for: People trying to tell your fortune or sell you heather. If you must buy the heather make sure it comes from a sustainable source and on no account agree to have your drive tarmaced.

Please note that the opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of, nor should be attributed to, KUMB.com.

Your Comments

by 1englishhammer
05:49AM 25th Aug 2009
''Zak Whitbread, Adiran Whitbread, Ihatebrownand Whitbread.....none have exactly set the world alight.

We have a point to prove, high scoring win with police brutality given to the away fans please (no chair throwing, we only do that at the play-den).... gutted, first Home match against Millwall I've missed since supporting them in 27 years :(''

by Robin
06:38PM 24th Aug 2009
''Another class preview Percy!''

by Sam H
06:13PM 24th Aug 2009
''Are you thinking of the name Adrian Whitbread?''

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