As you’ve probably ascertained from the fact that this was an away game, the finances were getting easier. This wasn’t even my first away game of the season either. I was of course, still in debt, but I could see the end of the tunnel, and it wasn’t raining outside. I’d still got a fair bit to go mind, with Blues having qualified for the Europa League through winning the League Cup, I hadn’t enough money to go abroad to watch them. I’d always promised myself that if Blues ever got to Europe, I’d get myself a passport. I still haven’t got a passport. I can’t see Blues ever playing in Europe again in my lifetime, but you never know. Stranger things happen at sea and all that guff. So yeah, things were starting to get easier. I wasn’t doing as much overtime, simply because I didn’t need to. I only ever really do overtime if I desperately need the money to pay something off. I’m not one of those that likes to hoard the stuff. I’m not a saver for the Hell of it. I save up specifically for something. I may love to wear designer gear, but I won’t go into debt for it. It’s a personal adult treat for myself because we were such a poor family when I was a kid. I certainly don’t resent my childhood, far from it, I had an amazingly happy one. Any hardship I had to put up with as a kid, has strengthened me as an adult. I’m grateful for it. It puts me in great stead for whatever life feels like chucking at me. ‘Go on life, give me the best you’ve got. Take a run up. I dare you’. I actually feel a certain level of sympathy for people who have had an easy life and then start moaning like crazy when they do come up against a problem. The poor little lambs, it can’t be easy for them. So to Millwall then. A new, new ground for me. Yeah I know, the famous second leg playoff was yet another iconic game Blues fans still talk about, that I never made. The stalwarts of this awful blog will no doubt be scratching their heads thinking that I’ve written about Millwall. You’re right, I have. That was the old ground, not the current one. Anyone who had already sussed that out, really need to get a life. There’s much more important things you could be doing instead of reading this utter tosh. The ginger one had jumped ship once we’d been relegated and the vast majority of the squad had almost taken the front doors of St Andrews off its hinges in a rush to escape. Chris Hughton had arrived, managed to con some fairly decent players into playing for us, we were going alright with all things considering. Considering what? Considering our chairman and owner had been arrested in June on money laundering charges. To say things were interesting at Blues is an understatement. Within 12 months, we’d won the League Cup and qualified for European football for the first time in what felt like forever, got relegated and the manager leaves, the last dual event was pretty much usual for Blues, but the owner getting arrested? Only at Blues. Right, where was I? Ahh, that’s right, Millwall……So….., I left my flat feeling quite contented with myself and walked to the station to get the train down to London. These days, I would get the train down to South Bermondsey after drinking in town somewhere, probably around Borough Market. Being on my own and quite frankly, out of practice, I got the tube down to New Cross Gate. Also these days, I’ve an Oyster card, but I didn’t back then. It was early when I got off at New Cross Gate. Knowing that it’s not the most hospitable place in the world, especially for an away fan, I had my wits about me still. I gave the pub across the road a miss, and carried on left. If I thought that pub was a ‘no goer’ it was positively inviting compared to the New Cross Gate Inn. Inn was not something I was going to do. As I glanced inside, as I walked passed, I noticed a huge projector screen at the one end, with two lines of heavy duty, wooden benches in front, the kind you find in pub gardens up and down the country. These however, were obviously the pubs INDOOR furniture. The next pub seemed a little bit better, but after buying a lottery ticket from a shop nearby, I decided to carry on a little further. I came to a small bar that was obviously West Indian frequented. A sound system was set up in the corner, as was a food counter advertising patties in the opposite corner and the ultimate give away, Red Stripe lager on draft. Back then, I was still drinking rubbish, and Red Stripe rubbish was rubbish that I really liked. I had a couple of pints of it, before venturing back to the Marquis of Granby. I walked in, looked around. I was definitely in Millwall country. Thankfully, most of the pub were more interested in the Rangers game on telly than they were in a lone away fan like me. Luckily for me and to the satisfaction of a huge number of them, Rangers were winning. I kept an eye on movement towards the door and towards the ground. When you’re not sure of where the ground is and how to get there, it’s advantageous to blend in as best you can. If you’re in a pub, you pick a friendly looking group of locals and synchronise your drinking to match theirs. A small group won’t notice you because they’re too wrapped up in their own company. By synchronising your drinking, you can follow them out of the pub at a safe distance because you’ll have finished your drinks at roughly the same time. You just need to match their pace to the ground then. It’s probably why Daryl prints a map he can follow. He’d need an anvil or cannonball chained to his ankle to slow him down. Some places, you can reveal that you’re an away fan of course, and you’ll be perfectly fine. Millwall is one where it’s a lot more volatile and better to stay shtum. I’d chosen my unwitting guides, and followed them through a dodgy looking housing estate to the ground. Once at the ground, I approached a steward for directions to the away end. Through the turnstiles, I had made it in one piece.
The only first teamer that hadn’t managed to escape was Liam Ridgewell, and with the January window now open, he was playing out of his skin to get a move. Something that he hadn’t been doing until the middle of December.
I honestly don’t know what he said, or what he did, but Millwall took umbrage with Zigic. He was coming in for some horrendous treatment from the home side, but it wasn’t going unnoticed by the ref. We’d taken the lead from a Curtis Davis header. Whilst we were trying to get our collective breaths back, Lowery was sent off for doing something off the ball to Zigic. 1:0 up and a player up. the Millwall mob to our left, weren’t happy, it would get worse for them, but not until the second half. The second half, or more to point, the last half hour and a bit, was great if you were an away fan watching it, not so good if you were a home fan. On 57, Alan Dunne decided to clean Ziggy out with a tackle from behind. Another straight red. The mob to our left were going rabid. It got worse for them virtually straight away, we got our second through Marlon King, who ‘milked it’. The more animated they got, the more we antagonized them. On the hour mark, the protagonist of the proceedings exited stage left to be replaced by Rooney. Adam Rooney, not the fat Scouse one. To wind up the home support even more, Ziggy had his name sung by every single one of the away support there. With tired legs amongst the remaining home side and the inevitable space being exploited by Blues, it was only expected that there was more goals. Chris Burke got the third with just over a quarter of an hour left, then with the game entering the final 10 minutes, a double strike in two minutes made it 4 and 5. Rooney and King with his second. It was rounded off by a ridiculously young Nathan Redmond. 6:0 to Blues. All I had to do now, as missiles rained down onto the pitch from the mob to our left, was get back into town in the same one piece, I’d managed to get in the ground with.
They kept us in after the game. That’s almost standard now. What I didn’t know then, that going by train or official club coach to Millwall was much easier and safer than going by car and parking near the ground, or going by tube. I was on the tube. As we waited patiently for the exit gate I needed to go out from to be opened, I looked around at my fellow Bluenoses. The vast majority were either getting the train, or the coach. There was around 20 fans going out of the gate I was. Of that 20 odd, there were 5 ish who looked like they could handle themselves, me included. The odds didn’t look good, especially with what had transpired during the game. Eventually, we were released. The Ol Bill were strategically placed to allow us away. The clientele of the pub that was made infamous in the playoff riot, were doing their best meerkat impressions, as we walked a few yards away. Although ecstatic at the result, we weren’t in too much of a party mood. Survival was more important. The band of 20 dwindled as they went in search of their vehicles, all of us expecting some kind of ambush. The further I walked away, the calmer I felt. The only trouble was, I hadn’t a clue where I was or where I was going. I was desperately trying to spot some indication that would tell me, where I was exactly, and where in Hell I was going. All the time, hoping I wouldn’t give myself away by looking lost. The last thing I was going to do was ask someone. I finally saw a road sign that actually indicated I was going in the right direction. Sometimes, just by being on your own, makes you inconspicuous. Even when you don’t know where you’re going, you’ve got to look like you do. I walked passed a pub that had a small mob of Millwall outside. I tried to perfect the ‘Bermondsey Bounce’ as best I could, as I walked passed. Hearing threats of ‘Serving any Brammie cants ap’ they spotted. I tried to look angry and miserable. I kept walking until I spotted the very first pub I’d seen when I’d touched down at New Cross Gate. I was feeling brave now, even cocky. I decided to grab a pint before getting the tube back to Euston. Just as I took the first sip of my Timothy Taylor, Landlord, (My tastebuds were awakening) they showed the goals from the game. Nobody saw the grin on my face. It was an older crowd, they’d seen it all before. Murdering the referee was higher on the list than murdering Brummies. The rest of the journey home was uneventful. I was a happy soul.