Unlike most new grounds that I've visited this season, this was one that I was wishing that I really didn’t have to go to. Millwall's reputation for violence is legendary, and unfortunately Wolves can hardly claim to have a good track record in this area either, as proved just two weeks prior to this game when we had played each other in the cup and there had been fighting throughout the city centre afterwards. There was however one thing that made me feel less apprehensive, and that had been our visit to Cardiff in the previous month, where fears of trouble had been unfounded with there being no incidents of note, so hoping that the day would end similar to that one after meeting with a friend we caught the train down to London going an unusual, (but considerably cheaper) route via Birmingham Snow Hill into London Marylebone.
We got down there with little problems, arriving in just before midday, and caught the tube towards London Bridge in a good mood. When we got to London Bridge we saw that our train was just about to leave, so started to run over to the platform, to get there just in time, although we soon wish we hadn't, when opening the first set of doors and seeing it being full of ‘less than savoury characters’! After nervously making our way onto the train and finding our seat we soon started moving towards Bermondsey, in what was a particularly unpleasant atmosphere. It seemed like we were the only Wolves fans on the train, although we were hoping that nobody else would realise that as it really did seem like there could have been trouble there and then if we were ‘found out’. Fortunately though the journey was short, and we were soon off, and able to distance ourselves from the crowd, keeping ourselves to ourselves, and our voices down.
The area around the ground wasn’t nice, and it really had a foreboding look about it, again making us feel nervous, but we were able to find our way to the ground without any incident. After arriving we went in the club shop, before going all around taking pictures. Beforehand I had wondered whether to bother, and even when there we were really watching our back, feeling pretty nervous about it, but we had arrived at about 12:45pm, so there were only children and families hanging around, waiting for the turnstiles to open and they didn’t cause us any trouble, so we got that done.
From the outside the ground is a bit odd really, on the one hand it does look nice, with all sides being of the same design and of a decent quality, but on the other hand being made predominately of grey metal and breeze blocks, it does give the ground a bit of a tin shed, McStadium feel about it, although that does fit into the surrounding area, where a ground with a nice exterior would stick out like a sore thumb, overall though, for the location it was quite good, and well designed.
After finishing taking the pictures, we went off back towards the shops near the station and bought some food, before heading back towards the ground. When we got back the police were getting the coaches in, and it seemed more like a military operation with there being several lines of officers and horses closing off the area, they wouldn't even let us past until they had finished getting people off, and there was quite a tense atmosphere. We got in though at about 2pm, and went up to find some seats.
The inside of the ground is particularly impressive, with all the stands being the same design, and although they are slightly small, they are good and well balanced. The end we were in was quite good, with the view being excellent, and there being plenty of leg/width room in the seats, also the facilities underneath the stand were good, so all in all very impressive, it doesn’t have that bland feel that it does from the outside, quite the opposite, with it being a good quality ground.
After taking some more pictures the game soon got started and straight from the off there was plenty of incident, with both teams attacking and creating plenty of chances. The referee, Mr. L. Probert also had a game to remember (or more likely forget!) when he shockingly gave Millwall a corner after ex-Wolves traitor Kevin Muscat hit a 40 yard shot that nearly caught Michael Oakes off guard before dropping over the bar, throughout the game he would make decisions like that, seemingly trying to appease the volatile home crowd who were doing their best to make an intimidating atmosphere. Despite all of this though we took a deserved half time lead when on 37 minutes Seyi George Olofinjana poked the ball home after good build up play by Kenny Miller. Millwall did have chances to level the scores, but we went into the break looking good for our lead.
The second half soon got underway, and it was the home side who looked the most lively, taking the game to us, and it was only an inspired Michael Oakes who kept us in the lead, making a series of great saves. Despite all of their possession and chances it took another baffling decision by the referee for them to pull level. On 77 minutes he gave them a penalty after Barry Hayles literally just fell over in the area, even the home fans couldn’t believe that they'd been given it, and so it was quite annoying when player-manager Dennis Wise converted it to give them the equaliser.
After the penalty it could have gone either way, with us having a great chance from a corner in injury time when Jody Craddock, unmarked fired a free header over the bar. It wasn’t all over at that though, and with virtually the last kick of the game, Seol, who had been on the receiving end of racist abuse from a large section of the Millwall ‘fans’ throughout the game, fired home from the edge of the area to give us a deserved win. Our fans went mental at that, as it seemed so deserved that, because of the abuse, Seol was the man to rub their faces in it. The referee soon blew the whistle, and despite feeling elated at the late winner, we were dreading leaving the ground and facing the full wrath of the Millwall fans, who probably couldn't have been any angrier with the way the game had finished!
During the game there had been quite a good, if intimidating atmosphere created by the Millwall fans, although it was sad that almost an entire block nearest to us in the East Stand spent the whole game looking at us instead of the pitch. They were also the ones who were shouting racist abuse at Seol, something quite shocking for the scale that it was being done on, you could perhaps half expect it from one or two idiots, but it really was a significant number, not even just shouting it randomly, but chanting things every time he touched the ball.
After making our way out from the seats we got down to the concourse to find that the police had locked the gates and wouldn't let anyone out. Given the way the game had finished no one was really bothered about it, and for the 15 or so minutes that we were kept in we watched the TVs that were positioned throughout the stand.
When they eventually did let us out, the police walked us all of the way back to the station up a fenced in walkway, and straight onto a train waiting at South Bermondsey, back to London Bridge. The whole policing operation was particularly well executed as we didn’t even see a Millwall fan going back all the way home, so that was quite reassuring. The journey back went well, and all in all it had been quite a good day.
Overall, despite the result, and the seeming lack of trouble it wasn’t a particularly pleasant trip. The club like to keep reminding everyone of the steps that they’ve taken to rid themselves of the troublemakers, but it seems like they still have a hell of a way to go, as its not the sort of place that you would want to take children or families, and it’s also far and away the most intimidating ground that I've personally been to, and that includes the likes of Cardiff, Stoke, Leeds, Birmingham, West Ham, etc. Prior to the game I did read a comment on another site that ‘Millwall is a trip to endure not to enjoy’ and I couldn’t really put it any better than that. If they could transplant the ground into different surroundings and with different fans, then it would probably be one of the better days out in the Championship, but as it is now, its one that you have to go to, not one you want to go to.
Page last updated 03/09/06
All material copyright © T.S. Rigby, 2007