Millwall, bloody Millwall !
When the draw was made, I felt a mixture of apprehension and excitement. Thereâ€™s a history between Everton and Millwall going back to a cup tie in 1972 when a number of Millwall supporters were alledgedly stabbed when they tried to â€˜takeâ€™ the Gwladys Street End.
From a personal point of view, Iâ€™ve experienced a number of runs with â€˜sarf Landonâ€™s finestâ€™. Made infamous by a â€˜Panoramaâ€™ TV programme in the late 1970s, Millwall were the self appointed â€˜Top firmâ€™. There was never many of them, but they always seemed to be full of lunatics â€“ a nasty mixture of old men and half-wit teenagers. Thankfully I never had any serious problems with them, but I must admit, Iâ€™d had â€˜dentist appointmentsâ€™ or â€˜a lack of moneyâ€™ which always gave me the excuse to miss Evertonâ€™s various trips to the Den and New Den over the years.
But this time, there were no excuses, footballâ€™s changed, we live in the Sky TV fantasy world now, all football supporters have their faceâ€™s painted, sing wacky songs, do â€˜easy easyâ€™ after every goal, the hooligans are no more.
Well the hooligans are still there at Millwall, but in military style operation, the police met our coaches a few miles from the ground and with an escort that would have even kept us safe on the streets of Baghdad, we arrived at the New Den.
We were parked in our cage, safe from the animals and wandered freely the few yards to the ground â€“ another â€˜modernâ€™ ground. I canâ€™t fault the place really, they sold us beer, at a reasonable price, the view was fantastic and there was ample room for my legs, but it was pretty soulless â€“ even my local ASDA has more character.
Inside the ground, the massed ranks of Millwall â€˜supportersâ€™ occupied a significant chunk of the two sides of the ground closest to our end â€“ not too many painted faces in there, no ugly fat blokes with their shirts off, just 100s of identikit burberry clad Neanderthals. Iâ€™ve been to both West Ham and Glasgow Rangers in recent years â€“ this was different, the majority of â€˜hooliesâ€™ have been weeded out of football, but not at Millwall. They baited us with â€˜your support is f**king sh*teâ€™ (we had 3000+ there, what more did they want ?) â€“ we replied with â€˜Millwall, here we are, Millwall, Millwall here we areâ€™. They even tried to launch an attack on our end at one point â€“ easily contained by the police, but they were still sad enough to try.
And on to the game, Moyes chopped and changed after the good win against Charlton â€“ and Dickie was back in goal after Nige picked up an injury, the â€˜clueless twosomeâ€™ of Bent and McFadden were up front, Arteta was back out wide again and Beattie, Osman and The Big man on the bench. Everton huffed and puffed and had a couple of reasonable opportunities before the inevitable happened and Dickie conceded.
1-0 down, the general concensus at half-time was that Everton couldnâ€™t score in a month of Sundays, Bentâ€™s attitude stank, McFaddenâ€™s too ‘average’ and one paced, even for the challenges of a poor first division defence and that Dickie is not the answer in goal. In short, we were going to be tomorrowâ€™s headlines, the main match on Match of the Day, the first major shock of the day and laughed at by everyone else.
The second half was an improvement, sulky arse Bent was substituted, Beattie, Ferguson and Osman all came on and made a big difference. Ossie may have his faults(I think he’s a bit light-weight), but this was his day and he struck the equaliser. Kilbane had a great chance to win the game late on, but surprisingly enough, hit the ball well over. 1-1 and back to Goodison a week on Wednesday.
Moyes must learn a few lessons here, donâ€™t change a winning team unless forced to. Bent, Kilbane, McFadden and Wright are not good enough. This has been a long hard season so far, and new faces must be brought in now otherwise this side do have the potential to take Everton down. There are worse teams in the Premiership, but one of them may just go on a good run and drag us into the mire.
The trip back was quiet â€“ we were held in the cage of a coach park for the best part of an hour while, presumably, the police cleared the streets of the â€˜litterâ€™. I think that was the safest away game Iâ€™ve ever been to â€“ the police have perfected the art of keeping the animals at bay.
As for the Millwall supporters, they all went home to their jellied eels and â€˜ma and paâ€™, a nice cup of â€˜charâ€™ and to â€˜sort it artâ€™ and to plan for their trip to Goodison next week.