The Den - Millwall
Wednesday 5th February 2003
V Southampton, FA Cup 4th Round Replay, 7.45pm
By Scott Lyndon
How can you not look forward to going to the famous Millwall? Being 20 years old I wasn't around during Millwall's famous era when people were either too scared to go or regretted it afterwards. As a big Saints fan I follow the side all over the country and always wear club colours. I have never had any trouble with home fans - even in local pubs - anywhere in the country. However, after seeing what some of the Millwall fans were like in the first match at St Marys I was wary. I decide to go in plain clothes. It didn't feel like a matchday at all. As I live in London the trip was easy for me. I finished work as normal and made my way down to Waterloo to meet up with the rest of the Barmy Army. We met in The Wellington next to Waterloo station and had a few beers in there until we were ready to go over to South Bermondsey. We decided we wouldn't bother drinking near the ground for the obvious reasons. Just before we left The Wellington we decided to treat the locals to a round of "Oh when the saints". The landlord wasn't pleased and we were forced to make a sharp exit.
Anyway a tube to London Bridge and then a train to South Bermondsey eventually found us walking down a tight alley way with train track on one side and a gypsy camp on the other. There were a few lads trying to get "We are Millwall, no one likes us" going around us, but to no avail. In plain clothes and being a Londoner I should have felt quite secure, but I did feel vulnerable. However, as we got nearer to the ground the few Millwall lads disappeared and the area suddenly felt a lot more friendly. We passed the usual matchday outlets of the burger van, the scarf and badge seller and the programme lady. All very pleasant. There was a heavy police presence but no provocation or trouble to be seen.
As we went in through the turnstiles, I got rubbed down by a nice young steward of the female variety and then into the bar. After 20 mins or so of drinking very fast and a bit if singing we went up to the upper tier. For the replay cup game there were no specific seat numbers allocated to your ticket, which was unusual for Premier League fans, so all the singers made their way to the back and the older more conservative fans sat at the front. I was on the very back row and it was a superb view. The New Den struck me as very simple looking, with four similarly sized stands - everything looking quite new. However, in this day and age that 'look' is actually quite rare, with the introduction of bowl likes stadiums. I liked the New Den because of that.
As the game got under way the atmosphere in the away end was electric ... but the home section(s) were like a morgue. No exaggeration. Saints took a 1-0 lead, which didn't last long until Millwall equalised. That was the only cheer we heard from the home fans the whole night. It went to extra time and Saints got a winner thanks to a brilliant Oakley strike.
For me, it was the atmosphere and the feeling of tribalism inside the ground amongst the Saints fans that made it my favourite away trip ever. As we left the ground afterwards we made the slow walk in a very long queue to South Bermondsey station and didn't get any trouble despite being the victors. One of my mates even plucked up the courage to wear his Saints scarf.
My advice is, if you get the chance to go to Millwall, don't let their reputation through the media put you off. It is a great ground and the majority of their fans are decent. If you are vigilant and sensible you'll get no problems and have a great day out at the same time. Well done to MFC for managing to get rid of the prats that have pulled down the clubs name over the years.
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