Martin started the ball rolling last season by by asking Nick Hart – @CBL_magazine on Twitter and creator of the “Achtung! Millwall” podcast – one basic question as part of our preview ahead of City’s home game against the Lions.
The questions was… ‘We all know your song (“No-one likes us, we don’t care”), but what is the spirit behind it?’
Nick’s response was brilliant. And minus even the vaguest follow-up question, he gave MFW a superb insight into what’s life is like for a Millwall fan in the 21st century. If you haven’t, you should read it… it’s here.
So, when it came to finding a Bermondsey contact ahead of tomorrow’s game it was a no-brainer. This time we didn’t even both with a question.
Over to Nick…
Let’s be honest, it’s been a funny old start to the 2018-19 season for the Lions.
Last time around we seemed to have all the luck in the world during that incredible and adrenalin fuelled near-miss February to April run for the playoffs. A series of results incidentally that culminated in that most Millwall of occasions, namely an apocalyptic home loss to eventual winners Fulham. A game missing only the arrival of the four horsemen, wailing banshees and satanic visions at the crossroads of Zampa and Ilderton Road. Well, this term there has been a slight sense of ‘after the Lord Mayor’s show’ to proceedings.
Yes, if there is one thing that we Millwall fans cannot tolerate, it is bland averageness. Drama is all at The Den and, on too many occasions since August, Neil Harris’s men have fallen into the worst of all Bermondsey traps. Namely not appearing fired up for the new campaign.
Of course, the unsettling impact of big money from other clubs played its part. Luring away firstly the on-loan Ben Marshall to your good selves at Carrow Road – reputedly on £27,000 a week to work as an assistant groundsman our sources tell us. Secondly, George Savile sold for £8 million to the bright lights, cafe society and chic soirees of the Riverside Stadium in Middlesbrough, have served to unsettle our squad.
Incidentally, Savile’s parting comments that he saw The Den as a ‘stepping stone’ in his greater trajectory toward footballing glory appear to have gone the same way of 1980s away fans at Cold Blow Lane. After any rainfall, they used to have to negotiate the Somme-style puddles at the old Den to get to the turnstiles via a single plank of wood. Fall off and into the mud – and you never come out alive …
Goodbye George, hope the bench has a comfy cushion on it up there…
Both Ben and George are of course discovering that it is better to be loved at The Den, than be a ‘so what’ at an aspiring Premier League bottom six side. I dare say their wages help cushion the disappointment though …
One of the prices of Neil Harris’s success last season, built of course on such homely principles of maximum commitment, taking in huddled rejects and never, ever bottling a tackle for fear of the wrath of your own fans, being that players such as Jake Cooper in central defence, Jed Wallace on the wing and Lee Gregory up front will attract external interest. A sentence which produces a passing mental image of Alan Partridge gyrating in a go-go bar, whilst his former BBC producer offers another £20 note.
Thankfully the Millwall recruitment team are matching the high esteem in which ‘Bomber’ is held within the game, by finding such rough diamonds around the lower reaches of the game. Keep an eye out for Ryan Leonard in midfield and Shane Ferguson for classic examples of lost players finding their home wearing the roaring lion badge. Sometimes players don’t like that idea.
You will remember Zak Whitbread from years past, who left Millwall with the sniffy idea that he was better than our rough and ready stadium and was, in fact, some kind of latter-day Franz Beckenbauer. Only to discover the awful truth on arrival in Norfolk.
So after some early season searches for the Millwall mojo, I am glad to report that – at last – results and as importantly performances are starting to come again. Including a 3-0 win over a hapless Ipswich Town last Saturday.
In recent matches, win, lose or draw, that most important of phrases at Zampa Road ‘looking like a Millwall team’ can, at last, be said again of this squad.
In many ways, we are not cursed with the weight of expectation that the Canaries (and others in the league) find themselves under. So the difference in league position between our two clubs I do not expect to make much difference in the match. As so often though, I do think the game will be an interesting clash of styles. One that is hard to call – but I think a point for Millwall could be classed a decent result nevertheless.
Last season’s madcap rush toward playoff football and the possibility of a one season tilt at the sanitised Premier League, is as amusing as it is faintly ludicrous. But there we have the ‘Millwall way’ in a nutshell: none of us want to go back to League One particularly, but we are not afraid of it either. Equally living slightly beyond our means in the Championship as the football authorities least favourite smudge on the pristine glass window of modern football appeals deeply to the Lions’ psyche.
Just imagine how many apologies for any ‘industrial language that you might just have heard’ that Sky and BT would have to make if we ever did get promoted?
Score prediction – Norwich City 1-1 Millwall
Nobody would relish a trip to Carrow Road with City sitting proudly in the promotion places and looking the part. Nobody perhaps, except for Millwall, whose fans frequently remind us that they “don’t care”. Millwall had a decent October, picking up victories over a couple of reasonable sides as well as beating Ipswich. Enough for Neil Harris to be nominated for the Manager of the Month award alongside Frank Lampard from Frank Lampard’s Derby County and Schteve MacClaren. Farke’s own efforts went unnoticed, presumably, because the Champions of Europe regained top spot last Sunday. Here’s what our panel think…
Penney predicts: The Lions haven’t won at Carrow Road in 50 years but this won’t be Along Come Norwich. They’ll have to wait a little longer for their first away win of the season. 2-0 City.
Andy assumes: Sometimes on a winning run you get the feeling that the team are struggling to keep up the levels and need a breather. Not this time. All guns are still blazing. Back-to-back 4-0 wins.
Gaz guesses: Impossible *not* to predict a City win when on such a run, but there will be a setback at some point, probably when we least expect it. However… City 2, Millwall 1.
Cookie concludes: Natural pessimism is having to give way to cold, hard facts. City are flying so you have to back them to make home advantage count. City 2, Millwall 1.
Stew suspects: A different challenge, and may be trickier than we’d immediately think. But City have something special at the moment – actually, several things. 2-0 City.
The oppo’s opinion: Norwich City 1-1 Millwall
Siri says: The answer is City 4, Millwall 0