Saturday, 7 November 2015


Benfield v Guisborough today. My 15th Northern League game of the season. So far I've seen 60 goals at a cost of £81 admission which works out at £1.35 apiece.

Here's something about the days when you got similar value in the second division (or whatever they are calling it these days)

I have a soft spot for Millwall. That’s not a sentence you read every day, is it? The reason I like Millwall is because in my younger days I lived in a flat in the Old Kent Road. The Old Kent Road is Millwall territory. I lived all over London and everywhere else you saw kids wearing shirts from a whole variety of clubs including – inevitably – Manchester United and Liverpool. In the Old Kent Road, Bermondsey and Southwark, the only shirts anyone wore were the blue of Millwall. This was partly because Millwall ran an excellent and active football in the community scheme, but mainly it was because Millwall were, well, Millwall and most people considered it wisest not to give offence.

That was back in the days of the original Den. I used to see four or five games a season there when my old Boro idol Bruce Rioch was manager. The Den was supposed to be intimidating, but I always found it quite jolly. Even as an away fan. Back during the 1990/91 season we played a midweek game there, went 0-2 down and then came back to 2-2 thanks to a mesmerising substitute display from Paul “Nookie” Kerr. Afterwards, when we were waiting for the police to allow us to leave the catering staff came out and gave us all the left-over food from the executive boxes. Free shrimp vol- au-vents hardly chimed with the Lions’ ferocious reputation, but it seemed typical to me.
I went to that game with my girlfriend. She was a chef in a London restaurant and came straight from work. We went into the away end. ‘I was a bit worried they might want to look in my bag,’ she said. I asked why. She opened the bag a bit so I could look inside: it contained a paring knife, a filleting knife, a 10-inch blade cook’s knife and a stainless steel Japanese cleaver.
‘What did you bring those in for?’ I gasped. She replied that Bermondsey was a dodgy area and she was worried they’d get stolen if she left them in the car.
After the game we  went to meet some Millwall fans she knew in a pub in Bermondsey Road. One of them was a fruit and veg man who delivered to the restaurant she worked at. Years later I’d switch on the TV and see him making weird cooing noises over a summer pudding – Greg Wallace.

Not that it was all Masterchef, midget pork pies and sandwiches with the crusts cut off. One day, shortly after I’d moved to SE1, I was walking down Leathermarket Street. There was a boy sitting on a wall. He was about eight and he was wearing a sweatshirt bearing the Millwall Lions badge. When I came level with him, he shouted, “Oi, mister. What team you support?”  “Middlesbrough,” I replied bold as brass, because he was only about four foot eight - I was sure that I could outrun him.


I walked off and when I’d gone a few yards I heard the little kid singing, “Sign on, sign on. Cos you’ll never get a job, you’ll never get a job”. Amazed, I turned round. When he saw me looking at him the boy dipped his hand in his pocket, fished out a coin and brandished it at me, “Here’s 10p” he yelled, “Buy yerself an house”.


That was Millwall, for you. You had to laugh. It was either that, or buy a shotgun.


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