Millwall 3-1 Charlton Athletic
Wednesday 21 December 2016
There’s still something mythical about the Den. The Millwall supporter. A battle hardened reputation of the persistent offender, everyone’s enemy, liked by no-one, not caring. A stranger on home ground. The (old and new) Den carries with it, etched into the brickwork, emblazoned across every girder, scored into the collective memory of every 1980s football fan, a history tainted with bravado, fearless rivalry, mutual hatred and ultimately a begrudging respect. It’s been earned. The good, the bad, the average and unique.
As a visitor to the Den you don’t come expecting an easy time and the air is filled with a defiant sense of unwelcomeness. And when the visitors are your closest neighbours from another south London enclave then the atmosphere is always going to be a notch above. If supporters are said to be the 12th man then the job of the Millwall fan isn’t so much to encourage the home side, as to put the opposition on edge. It’s verbal intimidation refined to a fine art. Belligerence as a form of release.
Millwall were always a working class apart. Never glamorous, never feted, never groomed for glory. A dockers club. We know the story and it fits like a stevedore’s glove. To be a Millwall fan means a world of constantly fighting – battling for the right to exist, the right to be recognised, the right to have a decent football team. And the Millwall fan, through sheer perseverance, has earned that right more than any one.
So the Den has become, not through choice really, an echo chamber of the damaged underdog of the dislocated working class football fan. Despite football being dragged into the age of global gentrification Millwall remains unapologetically anchored to its roots. The working class still exist here. They haven’t yet been removed from history, erased from memory, absorbed into the maelstrom of middle class media folklore (the middle class would love it for the unreconstructed working class to be eradicated from football altogether). There should be a big fuck-off sign outside the Den with the simple legend WE EXIST.
What Millwall bring to the table isn’t the spectacle of money as entertainment, it’s not even sport as a kind of reflected glory of social status, it is that increasingly rare fired-up belief in something as tangible and discrete as supporting something that belongs to you. Embedded within your dna, part of your psychological make-up, key to your very being. Being a Millwall fan is not a passion, a commitment, a needless expression of devotion, or even a sense of duty, but a core sense of belonging. It comes with the territory, south London, working class, proud.
So everything you want from how football used to be comes home to the Den. As you walk amongst the railway arches up to the Cold Blow Lane end a wave of noise charges out over the stadium up into the freezing night air. Wednesday evening, Christmas time football, local south London derby, time to put on a show.
The atmosphere is electric. Biggest crowd of the season. From before the kick-off until after the final whistle Millwall never stop singing. Fair play to the Charlton fans, they’ve come in numbers and are in fine voice, they gave as good as they got. Some bright spark even threw a smoke bomb over into the Dockers stand which was, by all accounts, picked up by an enterprising Millwall lad who proceeded to ‘smoke’ it. It was that sort of atmosphere, that sort of game.
The Lions play with a kind of stuttering energy, occasional brilliance, both frustrating and joyous to watch but it was Charlton who came out at the beginning full of confidence with a fluid passing game, eager to make their mark.
Over the first 45 minutes Millwall gradually regained their composure and set about breaking down the Charlton defence. It was a quick couple of goals just before the end of the half, the second a beautiful finish – a long floated ball over the Charlton heads which found the scorer unmarked in the box, back to goal, volleying it on the turn past the keeper, that finally allowed the home side some breathing space to relax into their natural game.
Charlton attempted to claw their way back and were rewarded with a goal immediately after the break, again some stunning passing play slicing the Millwall back four in half. But with the home crowd resolutely behind the Lions it was only a matter of time before a third was driven home and the three points secured on a night of classy south london football.
Fjallraven Black gutulia anorak
Schott NYC keystone cardigan (off-white)
Tuk Tuk Larry shirt (flannel oatmeal check)
Edwin red selvage 056RV jeans
Walsh Lostock trainers blue/white/silver
Casual Connoissuer McMurphy hat (creamy white)
The look: Oi Polloi’d up