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Opinion

Did somebody mention Millwall? Newcastle United back in the day…

1 month ago
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Just read a great piece on The Mag about an away day at Stoke in the mid-90s where football related violence was on the go.

I wasn’t there but heard about some of the experiences, people and cars being attacked and disgusting scenes.

I’ve been to Stoke on many occasions (not the nicest of places in my opinion), Stoke being a very small place and simply one of a few small towns sitting side by side.

I remember being in Burslem to see Newcastle United take on Port Vale when we were bottom of the old second division, being in a must win situation under King Kev.

The best experience in Stoke, rain pouring down and Jack Charlton brings on Gazza. Sporting a Chris Waddle mullet hair cut, de rigueur at the time, and podgy thighs. The people around me saying “who’s the fat lad”…don’t think it was his debut but was forcing his way into the side (ED: Newcastle won 1-0 due to an own goal – Saturday 4 May 1985).

Places like Stoke, Leicester, Derby, are in a strange zone of chips on the shoulder, as they are not deemed big clubs but their support is fairly decent when they have success, but their city status is weak due to their size and miserable disposition.

Notts Forest are back in the big time just like Aston Villa. These are the “big” midlands clubs. However, when they drop out of the top division their crowds plummet. They have their hardcore and I give them credit.

Back to Newcastle and a recent article stated facts on attendances in the second tier and we smash records, including Man U when they dropped out of the top division. That’s not the point, we know who we are.

So going back to the original article about the Stoke away day, which ends with the comment ‘Millwall 1988…’

Not sure I was there that day but I have been a couple of times to Cold Blow Lane as it was.

Millwall has a reputation for violence. Late 80s, my first experience of the Old Den started with drinks in Catford then off up to New Cross for more beers at the Rosemary Branch with my mates from North Kenton, Ritchie and Jeff. Ritchie proudly wearing his silk scarf bearing the names of Harvey’s heroes.

We pass by terraced houses, then at the ground searched for weapons and allowed to walk along a cinder track adjacent to the ground, while idiots from the gardens bombard us with stones.

In the ground there are fences and nets surrounding the away fans to stop missiles coming down on us.

Millwall supporters scale fences and try to get near us and our reaction is… and? It’s half time and Ritchie rolls a spliff and smokes it metres away from raging Millwall lads who want to fight us (Smoking in grounds was ok back then).

After the game we head back with the Millwall support to the boozers in New Cross, Ritchie still with his Harvey’s heroes silk scarf on, we continue to have several beers surrounded by Millwall lads.

What prompted me to write this was the experiences of people at Stoke away and I am sure people will tell me how disgusting Millwall supporters are. We know they have a large contingent in that category, however, the ferocious anger towards us that we experienced in the ground, dissipated as we went for more beers at the Rosemary Branch after the match. The Millwall lads just drifted away.

A couple of years later and I am in the Rosemary Branch for a Saturday afternoon drink.

Five o’clock arrives, as do a stream of Millwall lads with turf from the Old Den (It’s their last game there and they have brought souvenirs), he turf is laid out on the bar and drinks are served on what was the pitch.

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