fans and followed them down to the Den, where I went to the
nearest turnstile, handed over £15 and got a ticket for the Cold
Blow Lane stand.
Trouble was, the boys I was
supposed to be meeting up with were far away in Upper East. Phew.
A bit of rough's one thing, but even from that distance I could
see they were not my type.
They were not much interested in
me, either. All their attentions were concentrated on the small,
orderly contingent of Watford fans, neatly corralled over in the
North Stand. But no amount of raised finger-jabbing and screamed
abuse from the Millwall boys could provoke a response.
At last, though, the situation I
found myself in had a serious upside. I got to sit down and watch
a game of football with no frightening operatives with dangerously
low IQs for company. Instead I was surrounded by friendly Lions
(the kind that wear woolly hats and eat jellied eels), including a
bloke carrying a mascot in the form of his three-year-old
She, however, was clearly not
going to give in easily to the obvious disadvantages of being born
within the catchment area of the Den. Just before Steve Claridge
scored the only goal of the game she took refuge from the
potentially infectious joy around her by falling asleep, no doubt
hoping that, when she woke up, Daddy would tell her it was all
just a dream.
I should not be so harsh. The
football was not great but there were no "ugly" scenes.
The meat pies were used as weapons but only against the human
digestive system, and the next hour was nothing more than cold and
vaguely boring - not the first time I have experienced those two
things at a football match.
I felt no menace in the ground,
in fact quite the opposite. I felt a slightly corny sense of
community, something akin to how it must feel on the set of East
Enders. The knuckle-dragging thugs are, of course, a problem, and
Millwall do carry the tremendous burden of having Gary Bushell and
Danny Baker as their celebrity fans. But despite this, they are
thriving near the top of the First Division.
With the game all but over and
not a scuffle in sight I gambled on sneaking out early in search
of my car. The next day's Guardian brought bad news from some
goody- goody who had stayed right to the end. "Ugly mêlée
at Millwall," I read. So violence had broken out but, luckily
for me, between the players on the pitch, not the fans.
Rachel Cugnoni is editorial
director of Yellow Jersey Press