Who Are These Jobbers?
I will freely admit, I have few experiences of Millwall I could draw on to write a deep dive dissection of their club and everything they stand (your ground) for. I’m not really au fait with their plight, their success or, hell, just about anything they do. I do know that I’m supposed to be scared of them and how they have some angry men that want to fight people from other places. I am also very aware that they broke my heart in an FA Cup semi-final many moons ago.
However, much water has passed under the bridge since then and the only thing I can really remember is the role Millwall played in one of the most glorious film trilogies of all time - Green Street*.
Before all you weirdos jump and say that it is actually Football Factory that is the superior football hooligan film let me retort by saying a) you don’t know anything about football and b) you don’t know anything about cinema.
There are not many Hollywood directors worth their salt that could craft a tale so poetically as a Harvard graduate battling against adversity to become a “top boy” of a “soccer gang” on the other side of the pond. And wouldn’t you just know it, Millwall are the main antagonists throughout.
The film has everything from Peter ‘Pete’ Dunham’s feud with Millwall hardman and known “psycho” Tommy Hatcher to the touching moment where Matthew ‘Matt’ Buckner (“The Yank”) turns his back on the violence but then punches someone in a toilet stall and the weird sub-plot where we’re all supposed to be angry because he’s a journalist like he’s Donal MacIntyre or summat.
Then there’s also that spectacular segment where they meet The Major who is - wait for the twist - Pete Dunham’s brother?! Anyway, him and Jake Moon from Eastenders used to batter people until someone killed Hatcher’s kid who “looked like a pitbull”. Anyway, he turned his back on football violence but still feels that sweet, sweet urge to fill someone in, they then get grassed up by human weasel Bovver, the pub gets petrol bombed and Hatcher stabs The Major in the throat.
[EDITORIAL NOTE: WHERE IS THIS GOING?!]
Now, you’d think there would be no way a masterpiece like this could be topped, WELL THINK AGAIN. I give you Green Street 2: Stand Your Ground. Our hero Dave Bjorno (one of the squad from Green Street 1 who somehow manages to hold down a job as a pilot) is stuck in prison (the tinker) and wouldn’t you just know it - there’s loads of Millwall hooligans (although the word ‘hooligan’ is not mentioned once throughout the whole thing) in here as well and they are not happy about old Davey’s presence. He’s outnumbered and outgunned but does stop Bjorno? Absolutely not, buddy boy. Have you not read the title? You stand your ground, dingus.
He battles through through gritty English prison (where all the prisoners wear orange jumpsuits, it never rains, the guards have terrible Cockney accents and it’s clearly southern California) until the climax of a game of soccer - sorry, football - to release him and get the girl. It’s definitely the same ending to The Longest Yard and Mean Machine but who are we to judge?
In the end, our hero, our saviour is released from the big house and gets the girl. They celebrate the only way football hooligans (sorry, soccer warriors) know how - by drinking product-placement Heinekens in a massive mansion in the most Los Angeles-looking part of Bermondsey possible.
And just to sum up the sheer beauty and elegance of this film, here are just some of the stellar 5-star reviews:
Jamie Clarke, Rotten Tomatoes
First thing first - this film shouldn’t have been made, but it was good to see at least one of the original cast in it.
Phil Hubbs, Rotten Tomatoes
You enjoy watching unfit middle aged blokes kicking the hell out of each other in meaningless scraps? Watch on.
Gimly M., Rotten Tomatoes
This sequel is what everyone assumed the first film would be. Unabashed violent fun with not much else going on.
Now that, my friend, is cinema.
What? I haven’t said anything about Millwall? Oh right, erm, I hate Tim Cahill, Neil Harris looks like a PE teacher who you see in your local nightclub and, erm, they had a big fight with each other at an FA Cup semi-final once.
*I am yet to watch Green Street 3: Never Back Down.
How Do I Get There?
Alright mate, you thinking of driving down on Saturday? Through all that snow? Good on yer mate, rather you than me. What? Directions? Yeah, I’ve got directions, what of it? Oh, alright, since you asked so nicely. As a kicker, I’ve got a route that means you don’t have to drive through the centre of London on a Saturday afternoon - aren’t I good to you?
It starts off as your generic trip to the capital - A1 (M), A14, M11 - before joining the M25 at junction 6. Follow this to junction 2 exiting for the A2 and keep going past New Cross Gate following the signs for A2 City/Westminster. The ground is on your right and then it’s just a case a bit of street parking, it’s not the simplest of tasks but I’m sure you’re up to it.
If you’re travelling by train, the closest station to The Den is South Bermondsey. As you’ll most likely arrive at King’s Cross Station, take the Northern line to London Bridge and then hop on a Southern Rail service to West Croydon and South Bermondsey is the first stop. Since Millwall fans are really scary, there’s actually a direct walkway built specifically for away supporters at the station to the stadium (lol).
Just to make you aware that there is a rail strike affecting Southern Rail services scheduled for Saturday so keep an eye on that.
Where Can I Get The Sesh Started?
Unless you want to spend your Saturday putting on a faux Cockney accent while angry, bald gentlemen repeatedly ask you for the time, drinking close to the ground is probably not a good idea. There is, of course, the traditional option for south London away matches of drinking around London Bridge.
Both around the station and around Borough Market are decent choices. If you want to walk into a pub straight out of Eastenders then swing by The Old Kings Head and if you want to choke with rage at the price of a pint then The George Inn is a short walk away. There is also The Southwark Tavern and Wheatsheaf all within a stone’s throw of the station.
However, since we haven’t played at Millwall since 2004 I thought I’d give you something a little different. My gift to you is the fabled Bermondsey Beer Mile. While once the retreat of hipsters and those in the know it has, naturally, been overrun with stag do’s but nonetheless if you like a somewhat different atmosphere to your pre-match entertainment then this is for you.
The route starts at Southwark Brewing Co. on Druid Street and takes in a number of independent breweries who open their taprooms to thirsty. Along the way take in the delightful Eebria Tap Room on Almond Road, Partizan Brewing also on Almond Road and U Brew on Old Jamaica Road. All of which will lead you handily towards The Den.
Learn more about this wonderful pub crawl here.
I’m Staying Owa, Is There Owt To Do?
The main problem with That London is there almost too many things going on all the time. Anyway, got your Wellend haircut at the ready? Good, because King of the Wellends - Paul Weller - is playing at the O2 Arena on Saturday night. So, if you are a fan of terrible, terrible haircuts and those songs yer da likes then get yourself there.
Speaking of yer da (or possibly yer brother), Stereophonics are on at the SSE Arena at Wembley on the same night. If you’re determined not to have a full-on yer da night then head to the Royal Academy of Arts in Mayfair where the iconic venue will be transformed into the 17th century Whitehall Palace as part of the RA Lates: Night at the Palace event.
Spend the evening celebrating its ‘Charles I: King and Collector’ with an evening of poetry, music and a masquerade ball. If you’re not going to this then I sure as hell am.
What’s The Ground Like?
The Den is a great name for a football stadium. “Where does your team play, mate?”, “Yeah we play at The Den”. It gives no reference to what it actually is and - if it wasn’t 2018 - does sound quite intimidating for visitors. You’re not going to a glitzy arena plastered with corporate sponsors, you’re going to somewhere you’d expect to watch a cockfight.
It’s probably why Millwall fans are so keen for Lewisham Council to not close it down and build a load of houses on it - it’s pretty understandable. It’s in a part of London that has managed to stave off the incessant gentrification of our nation’s capital and that is the way it should stay for as long as possible.
While it may not be the life-in-your-own-hands venue it’s predecessor was, it can still be a pretty hostile place. However, like most places of this ilk the general threat of violence has been replaced with a lot of people in expensive goggle jackets doing a bit of posturing behind a line of police officers.
Our lot are housed in the upper tier of the North Stand with around 1,500 expected down in south London, have fun everyone.