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Steve Lovell On Cold Blow Lane

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Sunderland and Millwall – cut from the same cloth?

Roker Report’s Jon Guy says Millwall, of all the London clubs, are the closest to Sunderland in outlook’. However, that doesn’t stop the mere mention of The Lions bringing him out in a cold sweat...

Photo by Jack Kay/Express/Hulton Archive/Getty Images

There is just something about Millwall.

While they cannot be seen as a club the size of Sunderland I have always thought of all the London sides they are the one that are nearest to Sunderland in its outlook. Despite the reputation of their fans, the club is very much a community club.

For Sunderland supporters, the majority of us were either born in the north east, or our family were. It doesn’t matter where you live, you will support your team.

The same can be said for Millwall fans. They are not a team that gets most of its support from fans who have never been to The Den or The New Den and live thousands of miles away because they’re trendy or successful.

Their fans are passionate, to say the least, and the vast majority are actually very happy to talk football with other fans, and they like a drink or two.

Having said that, Millwall aren’t a team that I have too many fond memories of facing.

As a youngster, I went a few times to the original Den – the fact it was in Cold Blow Lane was totally apt. If it was intimidating for the players, it was just as bad – if not worse – for the fans.

Safety Fence The Den Milwall FC circa1987
Welcome to Millwall
Photo by Russell Cheyne/Allsport/Getty Images

In the streets around the ground from the station you always felt like you were taking your life in your hands, and I can remember one year when my friends and I came badly unstuck.

We travelled down on the train from London Bridge and had hidden our scarves and anything else that may have identified us as being of red and white persuasion.

However, as quiet as we were, our non-south London accents were soon picked up.

We had sought to look as confident as we could ambling out of the station, like we knew where we were going. But clearly, the fans who had realised we were from the North East not South London had told a fair few of their mates.

As we headed to the ground a group of 20 or so lads started following us and given there were six of us, within 100 yards it was pretty clear they had a good idea who we were there to support.

Millwall v Liverpool Photo by Mark Leech/Offside via Getty Images

We started running and were delighted to see two police officers at the top of the road. As we reached them, we shouted we were being chased (it was obvious, given the Millwall fans were now 30 yards behind us).

I will never forget the response: “Well, you better run quicker, you’ve got two minutes to the ground, and they look to be catching you!”

We were caught in sight of the ground, and thankfully while we got kicked and punched as they caught us, it wasn’t as bad as it could have been.

On the pitch, it has always been a decent game against Millwall, but I can never forgive them (or our team at the time) for our defeat at Old Trafford in the FA Cup Semi-final.

April 2004 saw a weekend of FA Cup semi-finals with Manchester United and Arsenal on the Saturday, while we took on Millwall on the Sunday.

We decided we would make a weekend of it and got tickets for Ricky Hatton’s fight against Dennis “The Menace” Pedersen on the night before.

We arrived at Old Trafford knowing that given Manchester United had beaten Arsenal, the winner of our game would be playing in Europe the next year regardless of the result in the final.

It was a poor game made even more so by the fact we gifted Tim Cahill his goal, which shattered my, and all of our, dreams of following Sunderland into Europe.

FA Cup Semi Final: Sunderland v Millwall Photo by Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images

As I say, for me, Millwall are a club that stirs mixed emotions; they’re a community club and have fans that can make a great night out.

However, they’ll always be the team that denied me my European dream. And the fans that chased us around The Den.


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