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  1. INTRODUCTION. So; the day after we should have been playing for three Championship points at The Den [that’s its present name although it was known as The New Den for some time after it opened in 1993], we find ourselves there competing with Millwall instead for a place in the F.A. Cup semi-finals. They aren’t a club which we’ve played that often over the years, either in the League or the F.A. Cup, and we’ve never met in the Football League Cup. If you needed reminding, Millwall fans have a particular reputation, to which their response seems to be summed up in the song, “No-one likes us; we don’t care!” That’s why I’ve combined the “How to get there” and the “Where to drink” sections of this preview. One Monday evening in October 1976, the BBC “Panorama” programme did a feature on football hooliganism, focussing on Millwall, the reputation of whose “F Troop” fans, including their hatred of West Ham United, was well-known, even back then. The programme included shots from their home game against us a couple of days previously. In those days, the grounds weren’t segregated and, that weekend, coincidentally, one of my pals and I were visiting his eldest brother and family who lived not far away. Millwall lost that game to a Bobby Svarc goal [just over half an hour into the game, if memory serves], but there was no way that anyone could have told that the three of us on the non-segregated terracing were Rovers fans until we were safely locked into his brother’s car and moving, back towards the brother’s home. As the coward I am , I’ve still not stopped being mocked for my phony South London accent that afternoon almost 36½ years ago! Their present ground was the first to be built in the aftermath of the Hillsborough disaster and “was designed with effective crowd management in mind [given Millwall's crowd problems at the Old Den], with the escape routes being short and direct.” [i quote Wikipedia!] HISTORY. F.A. Cup. As far as the F.A. Cup’s concerned, we’ve only met on two occasions, both in London: once at the [Old] Den in 1979/80; once at the present ground in 2001/02, when a sad old geezer like yours truly could “tick” another ground where he’s seen This Great Club Of Ours. We won both games: the Third Round tie in 1980 got us through to an away game at Anfield, which Liverpool won; while the reward for our Fourth Round win in 2002 was an away game at Middlesbrough, which they won. That doesn’t bode well if we win this tie; does it?! Millwall have a good record in the F.A. Cup in recent years; being losing Finalists to Manchester United in 2003/04 and getting to the 5th Round again last season. COMMON LINKS. The two names which immediately spring to mind in this context are Lucas Neill and Steven Reid, both of whom we signed from Millwall. We signed Neill, who’s now back in Australia playing for in the A-League for the same Sydney team as Brett Emerton, in 2001. He stayed with us for six years and, according to Wikipedia, he was well-regarded by us “largely due to his never-say-die, determined attitude.” However, the same source notes that, although “once a cult hero at Blackburn, [he] left under something of a storm and is now extremely unpopular amongst Blackburn fans.” Do the words, “one”, “greedy” and “b’stard” ring any bells?! He went on to play for West Ham and Everton, from where he went on to Galatasaray in Turkey. He then went on to play for two clubs in the United Arab Emirates [Al Jazira, and Al Wasl] before joining Sydney in the A-League last month. I began this Preview a couple of weeks ago and I’m grateful to John Leigh of BRANZ for the following comment on him: “Neill makes his debut for Sydney FC tomorrow [24th February] in Melbourne against the club he spurned - Melbourne Heart. So sorry; can't give much of snap update, other than to say he seems set to receive a mixed reaction; Sydney are a very ordinary team (even with Del Piero) and Emerton is a very ordinary player within that very ordinary team.” “Seems set to receive a mixed reaction”? Lucas Neill? Surely not! ;-) I checked the A-League website afterwards where I read the following: .” A couple of seasons later, we also signed Reidy from Millwall. He had a fairly short debut for us, being shown a red card 12 minutes after coming on as a substitute for Vratislav Gresko in a game at Bolton in 2003. He scored a cracking goal against Wigan Athletic, which won “Goal of the month” in December 2005 and his goal in a 1-0 win in our penultimate game of that season at Ewood against Chelsea clinched our place in the following season’s UEFA Cup. Unfortunately, he had a lot of injuries during his time with us; he missed most of the 2006/07 season with a back injury, then a cruciate ligament injury and missed most of 2008/09 season because of a knee injury. He then went on loan, first to Q.P.R., then to West Bromwich Albion, for whom he signed when they won promotion to the Premier League in 2010. OPPONENTS’ OPINION. As I don’t know any Millwall fans; and, as their equivalent Forums to this Message Board which I visited anonymously seem, erm, how can I put this, a bit “assertive”, I’ve decided to dispense with this section of the Preview. 1] HOW TO GET THERE; AND 2] WHERE TO DRINK [iF YOU MUST!]. 1] As noted above, Millwall fans don’t have the best reputation, which is why the Wikipedia page on “The Den” includes the following guidance, which I’ve augmented, for those fans making their own way to the game: The Den is served by the South Bermondsey railway station [trains every half hour from London Bridge station], which is a five-minute walk away from the ground. Away supporters have their own walkway link, which is available to them on match days. If unable to travel by train, it's recommended away supporters travel to the ground by official coach. There are no official car parking facilities for supporters. [My emphasis.] HOWEVER The game has now been re-scheduled to Sunday 10th March and, guess what? South Bermondsey station is closed next Sunday. [Good planning by the F.A. & Transport for London, eh?] http://www.rovers.co.uk/news/article/travel-warning-for-fa-cup-clash-682881.aspx is a link to the Rovers' website about alternative travel arrangements for those fans planning to travel from the Blackburn area. For those fans who live in that part of London, and feel confident enough to try this, there’s also a London bus route [ P 12] between Surrey Quays and Brockley Rise, stopping in Ilderton Road, a couple of minutes’ walk from the ground. There’s a frequent service from London Bridge to Surrey Quays station. 2] As ever in one of m1st previews, the following guidance on where to drink is extracted from www.footballguide.com Again, I’ve highlighted information which seems particularly relevant for the safety of our travelling fans. “There are not many pubs located near to the stadium and those should be avoided by away supporters. If travelling by train then it is probably best to grab a beer around London Bridge before moving onto the ground. I would advise keeping any colours covered, even when drinking in the London Bridge area. [Again, I’ve emphasised this bit.] There are bars at the back of the stands at the stadium, that serve alcohol as well as some decent food such as chicken and chips. “Chris Lynskey a visiting Scunthorpe United fan recommends; 'The Shipwright Arms on Tooley Street, near London Bridge. Come out of London Bridge tube station, turn right and its only 200yds down the road on your right hand side. A lovely little pub which also serves food. We left the pub at 2.15pm to go and catch the train to the stadium and made it comfortably for kick off'. “On the Borough High Street by London Bridge is the Barrow Boy & Banker, which is a Fullers pub and has the benefit of a large screen showing SKY Sports. Further down the High Street is the Borough Market, which on nearby Stoney Street is situated the legendary Market Porter pub. This pub is also a regular listing in the CAMRA Good Beer Guide and always has 9 real ales on tap. Mick Hubbard adds; 'Also on Borough High Street is the George Inn, which is owned and leased by the National Trust. It is an outstandingly beautiful building, and the pub itself retains its wooden flooring and wall panelling. It serves its own ‘George Ale’ which went down nicely'.” CURRENT FORM. Millwall were drawn at home for their first two Cup ties this season: they beat Knob End 1-0 in the Third Round before beating Aston Villa 2-1. That win led them to an away tie in their Fifth Round game, against the non-Leaguers of Luton Town, a game they won fairly comfortably, 3-0. I’m writing this before our game at Bolton and Millwall’s at home to Wolves both due to be played on Tuesday. Neither team is in what could be called “a rich vein of League form”. If you look at the last 10 League games, as shown on the BBC Sport website, they’ve only picked up 7 points out of the last 30, two fewer than us. It’s a similar gap in terms of the more commonly shown “Last 6 matches” table. Millwall have only collected 3 points from their last 6 League games, with a win at Middlesbrough a week last Saturday. Despite our recent League slump, we’ve 5 points [a win and two draws] from our last 6 games. The worrying thing for us, though, is that win was 6 games ago, at home to Ipswich. The two draws are also from among the earlier of those 6 games, making the current form difficult to analyse. SATURDAY’S GAME. All in all, this is a really difficult match to call. Two teams in the Championship mid-table and neither in the best of form. If we’d met in the Fourth Round when we seemed to be “flying”, I’d have tipped Rovers to win with much more confidence than I can on the morning after the Peterborough defeat. I certainly never want to see again the team which began that game; but we can’t play the team who began the second half because Campbell, Jones and Stewart are all Cup-tied. So, to kick the discussion off and with fingers firmly crossed, this is the team I’d have starting the game: Kean; Henley, Dann, Hanley, Rekik; Bentley, Lowe [reluctantly], A.N. Other [so long as it isn’t spelt “M u r p h y”], Pedersen; Nuno Gomes, Rhodes.
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