Monday, December 20, 2004

November 21 (Sunday): The Vision. We are Millwall, Super Millwall. This morning, after a disastrous week I figure “what better way than to chance my arm and luck further” so this morning I up early on a Sunday morning, heading out at 9AM to go back to London (for a fourth day running ) to see Millwall throw it all at West Ham.

I leave home a little after 9AM hoping to catch a 9.30 so I get good time for getting to the Den. When I arrive at North Station, what a shock, it’s Sunday and the trains are fucked. It turns out that there are none going between Chelmsford and Shenfield today and that I will have to catch a bus between those stations. Suddenly timings look thoroughly fucking bleak.

As I wait impatiently for the loser train to Chelmsford (10.05), my cousin Phil turns up on the platform with his girlfriend (Phil being the cousin I have that my friends reckon looks like Chris Leo from the Lapse/Van Pelt etc). Here is one person in the family that actually gives me the time of day (ho ho). Phil is the real success of our family and by the coolest and most accomplished. Suddenly my shit trip to Bermondsey improves infinitely as the hour’s train ride turns into nothing as we talk solid all the way to London. It turns out that I’m not the only person in the family to feel detached from my thirty other cousins and dozen aunts and uncles, not least for not being either in construction and/or a single parent. Phil is actually someone I have interests in common with and it is really fascinating to hear what he is up to in London and what he does in his job. And there is my describing my poxy little flat and my current state of unemployment like a complete chump while Phil nonchalantly points out corporate logos and lettering that he has had a hand in designing: “see this Next band, I did that logo” all matter of factly, no ego. He doesn’t however paint a pretty picture of living in North London (Wood or Forest Green) and amusing we find ourselves getting into a debate with his girlfriend over the Garnham family tree and she actually knows more about our relatives than us because Linda (Phil’s mum) had shown her the family tree book (I want to see that!). When we board the crap double decker bus from Chelmsford to Shenfield, Phil pulls out his iPod to show. Wow, the first person I know with one of these babies. I had read somewhere that their failing is poor volume. No way, this tool cranks. I now want an iPod.

Time ticks past and I get to Stratford at around 11.50. I say my goodbyes, really wanting to try and stay in touch with Phil. I get off at Stratford with a couple of West Ham fans and the three of us run to the train on the Jubilee line. There is actually a noticeable presence of police at this station today; they really expect Millwall v West Ham to spread out this far?

I actually have some half luck with the trains and eventually get to Surrey Quays at around 12.05. Like a proper fatty, I make feeble attempts to run from Surrey Quays to the New Den via the Football Factory route whilst also listening to the match on BBC London on my mobile phone. When I finally get to the New Den (chasing up behind some old bill in the process) I witness a number of people stood outside the ground, apparently listening to the game on the radio and taking in the ambience/atmosphere in the process. And these people aren’t hooligans waiting for a kick off, they resemble ticketless trainspotter types in anoraks. Is this a new phenomenon of trainspotter-esqe football fans. Whatever.

As I fly frantically around the ground, hearing the game in full flow inside the stadium, I swear I see an AFC Wimbledon hooligan called Luke going in.

When I arrive at the ticket office (only the main one remains open post kick off and with only one window open at that) it is painfully excruciating queuing for a ticket whilst at the front of the line some pond life Millwall fan argues the toss with the staff over he has been stiffed on a ticket for today’s game. It is really unclear what has actually happened to the dickhead but all I know he is wasting my fucking time as I can hear what sounds a really good game inside. The guy gets shirtier and shirtier with the girl in the office over some apparent season ticket refund but do security step in and assist? Do they fuck. Eventually however, with people in the queue repeatedly asking me if they need a Millwall team/membership card, I get a ticket for a seat in block 14 (15,16 and 17 all sold out?) and I get inside the ground at around 12.30, spending the remainder of the first half getting a drink (and chips) and watching the game on the TV.

When I get into my seat for the second half, the whole affair/atmosphere feels subdued. Ticketing today has meant that only fans with members cards could get tickets and I guess that has meant why the attendance has turned out so average (for a derby) and will have frightened away an “element” that would have given the game some “sparkle”.

Today West Ham do look the more dangerous of the two teams but Millwall appear to have more life, fight and energy to their game but everytime West Ham go on a break, it just looks that more likely that they are going to score. Millwall play with yet another confusing team/formation, not least for having Dobie, Hayles and Tessem all in the same team. Tessem finds himself receiving some flack for a howler of a miss late in the first half and I’m sure Dobie will soon follow in the grief stakes as he really does fail to impress. Barry Hayles however continues to get physical and look the most dangerous threat up front for Millwall.

The turning point of the half (game?) is when Marlon Harewood gets sent off for West Ham. In a lurching attack, he finds himself flying through the air as he enters the Millwall penalty box. Even from where I am sitting it looks an obvious dive but with the inconsistencies of sub Premiership referees, it looks equally as if a penalty could be given. Fortunately however this guy today is on the ball (perhaps due to the pressure/intensity of the New Den?) and he not only gives the decision Millwall’s way, he rightly books Harewood, who already has been booked and promptly gets his marching orders. In a real rare moment for the Den, I hear fans around me sing “the referee’s a blinder”. With formation on his mind, Alan Pardew fucks around with his team, substituting one striker for another only causing a dismayed reaction from the West Ham fans who promptly sing “are you Roeder in disguise?”. Millwall fans promptly join in singing “there’s only one Glen Roeder”.

Such stupid songs are later replaced with better ones like “stick your bubbles up your arse” and “stick your statue up your arse” but still it remains a really subdued atmosphere for such a high profile match, I guess the police were victorious in snuffing out any fun out of the game.

A man up, Millwall now begin to look dangerous and they even hit the bar when a goal mouth schmoz/confusion sees a West Ham defender panic and only manage to turn it onto his own woodwork after the goalkeeper finds himself long committed. Up front, Hayles remains looking dangerous as Dobie doesn’t really look all that. Late in the game, an inspired substitution is made of bringing on Ifill and Dichio. And with the introduction of Ifill, Millwall look the most dangerous they have all day as he repeatedly skins Ferdinand like a dope fiend and causes all creation of panic in the West Ham penalty area, for whom offence all now seems but a memory.

Eventually Dichio scores with a header at the Cold Blow Lane End from a great cross (via Muscat I believe) and Millwall finally find themselves able to stick it up West Ham’s cunts as the whole crowd goes bollo in the process. A nerve wracking last ten minutes remain as West Ham come close a few times (through Zamora) but Graham Stack, receiving sex case flack/verbals all half, stands strong and tall. It ends 1-0 in the best possible way.

As I head back to Surrey Quays, I receive a text from Stevo. He’s suggesting a meet up at the Sports Café at/for five. The time now however 2.30, meaning over two hours of messing/waiting and knowing his reliability for timing and the state of the trains today, it doesn’t seem too hot an idea. Still, nice to hear from him.

I throw the towel in on my fourth day in a row in the capital and decide to head towards Stratford to head home. When I get to Shenfield, I board the train with some young go getters and I eavesdrop on their conversation and they head out to party or club on a Sunday night! I can’t decide if they’re higher on the social ladder than me or lower. And I really cannot fathom their ages. I really should not be paying so much attention to a group of strangers but on a double decker bus riding between Shenfield and Chelmsford, there really is nothing else to do or think about. By the end of the ride they are talking about videogames and Playstations, making the last Star Wars game sound the best game in history.

By the time I arrive back in Colchester it is 5PM and it suddenly hits me that for a return for eight hours of my life and over £40, today I only got to see one half of football. It is times like these you begin to question yourself, your motives and your actions.

My train of thought however gets pierced when my phone rings with an unrecognisable number and it turns out to be Sara, My Smelly Valentine. Its great to hear from her but as usual she sounds pissed up. She tells me how she has just been on a flight in Australia from Kangaroo Island to Perth and how she had to ride up front, shotgun because the plane was so small. She is hilarious. In a mood/mindset I stop by on my way home to get a kebab as she phones me for a second time and continues to tell me about her time in Australia and these new boots that she has bought (fickle) and commenting on stuff I have written, telling me how funny it is but also pulling me up on certain comments I made about her. Comments and promises are made with regards to her returning to England for Christmas but it all can only be taken with a pinch of salt, not least for the fact that she is pissed on a bottle and half of wine (I believe).

6PM hits and I am still on the phone but the Simpsons comes on TV, which I have to admit, at this time I am much more interesting in doing/seeing, so our conversation comes to a premature ending.

The remainder of the evening is your usual Sunday evening non-event bollocks, seeing me fall asleep during the paranoia fest TV show that is Jon Ronson’s latest nonsense.

np: Jurassic Five – Concrete Playground


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