|The Original Super Den Idea
|In March 1979
Millwall Chairman Len Eppell announced that Millwall had agreed a £12
million deal with Asda to redevelop the Den and the adjoining derelict
site of the old New Cross stadium which was demolished in 1975.
The Den would become a 25,000 all seater stadium, all under cover
and parking for 750 cars. It would be part of a complex which would
include a Leisure Centre, Ice Rink, two Cinemas and a 42,000 square foot
Planning permission was granted in 1980, but by October
the project floundered due to problems
in the shape of complicated pattern of land ownership, the cost of
diverting a gas main (£400,000) and the deepening economic
In March 1981 Asda announced they had pulled out of the scheme.
New Chairman Alan Thorne a property developer by
profession tried to revive the deal with Asda in a few months
The Lions and the Miracle by
Colin Benson (Nov 79)
There is a breath of fresh air
sweeping through Cold Blow Lane these days, a new feeling of optimism,
an underlying belief that Millwall are on the verge of something big.
And it is not just the teams encouraging start to the season that has
given South East London fans a new lease of life.
Although the Den - sandwiched
in a corner of London's run-down dockland - does little to stimulate any
airs or graces of grander things to come, there is beneath the austere
surface of a decaying stadium, a homely atmosphere cloistering a
collection of people who love the club and understand its problems.
These men of vision have dreams of the 'Lions' performing in a modern
luxurious stadium, dreams that they are now on the way to fulfilling.
development project proposed for the club is being done in conjunction
with Associated Dairies who intend building Millwall an all seater
stadium that will have a capacity of between 25,000 to 30,000 people.
in the scheme will be a leisure Centre and a shopping arcade, which will
virtually mean that the complex will be in use all week.
“If we get that it will be
the miracle we need, not only to get up in the First Division, but to
make this blinking place a great club,” declares George Petchey.
The Millwall manager has done as much as anybody to
make this vision possible. A sincere professional with a deep sense of
loyalty, Mr. Petchey inherited a club cowering beneath the shadow of a
hefty bank overdraft. His remedy was to sell a lot of the older
established stars and concentrate on the clubs youth policy which was
initiated by his predecessor, Gordon Jago
This strategy turned up trumps. The young Lions won
the coveted F.A. Youth Cup last season and the Millwall boss says that
he has got ten players he could put in the first team. As it is five
members of that youth team have forced their way into the senior side
already, Chris Dibble, Tony Kinsella, David Mehmet, Kevin O'Callaghan
and Paul Roberts.
Now the need to improve the
clubs facilities is of paramount importance, and the quietly mannered
George Petchey highlights some of the frustrations he has to contend
with when he says, "This club has been in existence since 1885 and
we have not even got a training pitch.
You might laugh, but I find it
absolutely incredible. “I can go to a 4th division club in Denmark and
look around and wonder at their facilities. We played a club who had 86
members and attracted crowds of about 500. They have 16 pitches, at
least 5 squash courts, sauna baths, everything you can think of that
will help a football club to exist.”
you come back here to Millwall, probably one of the oldest established
clubs in the country, and we have not even got a practice area. All we
have got is what you can see, decrepit terraces that are falling down. I
would not think that anything has been done to the stadium since they
are supposed to be very professional, know all about the game, have the
best managers, the best coaches and the best league, yet you can go to
all but the top dozen clubs in the country and you will find that they
have not got the facilities.”
Petchey's heartfelt sentiments are I am sure the feelings of countless
managers all over the country. At least, at Millwall, it seems that
something is going to be done about it, and at an estimated cost of £10
million it seems a sound investment for the future.
|Lions enjoy this Thorne in
their pad: The man whose heart and money is in Millwall (Nov
Alan Thorne, the chairman of Millwall, is
about to spend nearly £1 million of his own money on the redevelopment
of The Den.
Mr. Thorne is obviously a very wealthy man,
but even very wealthy men are loath to commit such sums to a business as
precarious as football. I've long believed that the only way to make a
small fortune in football is to start with a large one.
Why then is Mr. Thorne devoting so much time
and money to a club that came close to extinction a year ago?
“You don’t do everything in life simply
for financial reward,” said Mr. Thorne, a life long fan who took
over at Millwall last March.
“Friends think I’m mad. As a kid I used to
go to Millwall every week. There's always something about the place,
something deep inside me...It's hard to explain. But I’ve always
wanted to do something for the club."
Thorne is a 54-year-old property-entrepreneur
whose family has been associated with Millwall since the club played at
the isle of Dogs in 1903.
Despite his wealth, he remains first and
foremost, a fan, whom one suspects would be just as happy on the terraces as observing boardroom
I was at The Den for a recent match when the
floodlights failed. The fans beneath the directors box looked up for an
explanation and he immediately joined in the banter with cracks like
"We've obviously forgotten to pay the electricity bill again
In fact, the one thing he has done most diligently since taking over
is pay the bills. Eight months ago the club had debts of nearly £500,000.
“I've cleared nearly all the debts," said Thorne. "The
creditors have been paid."
"The only amount outstanding is the disputed figure of £83,000
which Fulham claim we owe them for Chris Guthrie”.
"When we bought Sam Allardyce recently we
paid cash on the nail. It was £90,00,but I think more clubs should do
business that way."
Apart from his near £1 million contribution
towards two new stands at The Den, Thorne has also personally guaranteed
a bank overdraft up to £800,000 over three years. He is currently
arranging to increase that figure to £1 million.
He has told player-manager Peter Anderson
that his ambition is to get the club into Division One within five
years. Anderson no longer has to sell prayers to balance the books.
The benefits are obvious. The club is,
currently third in Division Three and my guess is that they will still
be there, challenging for promotion, in five months' time.
The redevelopment at The Den involving
Lewisham Council , and the Yorkshire based Associated Dairies, took root
before Thorne's reign as chairman began.
But it has been his vigor, ambition and
attention to detail that has seen the project develop from the planning
stage to the point where work is due to start next April-June.
As he had taken all the risks he felt,
understandably, that he should have a bigger shareholding.
“I had 51 percent of the shares and
negotiated with my fellow directors to increase my holding to 90 per
cent," he said.
"I took over the debts that had arisen
before my arrival. I felt that it wasn’t right that I had to find all
the money and take all the risks and have only 51 per cent of the
This means, of course, that in the future,
Thorne could offer shares to other businessmen if he wanted to
strengthen the existing board of directors. "I'm not saying I would
do that," he said. "It's just an option."
THORNE......the man who pays the bill
Quite frankly, Millwall's future looks rosier
than it has done for years. ASDA are building a surperstore, carpark and
roads, the council are contributing £800,000 towards a recreation
centre and Millwall are building two new stands.
"The recreation centre is going to be a
terrific amenity for the local community”, said Thorne.
“Millwall will be granted a lease on the
centre and it will be run by us. Our new West Stand will probably hold
3,000 seats and at the opposite end, we're going to have another
all-seat stand for 7,000. They should both be ready by the end of next
“I just want to we the club rise in
stature. My relations helped build the ground. I'm just bringing it up
“It's a very exciting time for the club and
the local area. The sickening thing will be if, at the end of the day,
we are still getting only 5000”.
In fact, Millwall's crowds this season
reflects the growing mood of optimism at the club.
They are nearly 50 percent up on the
corresponding period last season.
Millwall, the unfashionable club from
London's dockland, have never played in Division One. That may
sound an improbable dream-but it's one that the tenacious Mr. Thorne
could turn into reality.
|Super Den 1981: Statement
by Chairman Alan Thorne in Programme v Brentford 28th December 1981
Associated Diaries will also this time
commence construction of their new Asda Superstore together with an
extensive car park with spaces to accommodate 740 cars.
The recreation centre will be administered by
Millwall and its inclusion in the ground improvement scheme in this way
is the result of close co-operation between Lewisham Borough Council and
the Club's directors.
All these new facilities will be available for
the use of fans, sports enthusiasts and of course shoppers by the end of
the 1982/83 playing season.
The scheme should bring in much needed revenue
and help Peter Anderson in particular buy any extra players needed to
strengthen the team which hopefully by then will be in the Second
Division and have its sights set firmly on Division One.
I know many of you are concerned that you will
have to pay more money for the new seats and I would like to reassure
you here and now that this will not happen. If this appeal is successful
and we get a good response from our supporters.
I have made up my mind that with the
continuing increase in attendances there will be no increase for season
1982/83, but if we do increase charges these will be kept to a minimum.
We are one step
nearer to achieving our dreams of the 'New Den’. After many months of
protracted negotiations with Asda and the London borough of Lewisham, I
am now optimistic the project will actually start April/June 1982.
been reached in principle between all parties and contracts are now
being drawn up which hopefully will enable us to sign on the dotted line
All Lion’s fans have been kept in suspense since the
scheme was first announced more than three years ago and in fact at one
stage Asda even pulled out because of the current recession.
However, happily we are now back on course and
I believe that after so many disappointments the scheme will at last now
An immediate start will be made on the new
Recreation Centre/West Stand complex with accommodation for 4,100
spectators to be known as Phase One and this will be followed by the new
North Stand to be known as Phase Two, which will accommodate 7,600
spectators, all seated.
The North Stand will probably form the
administration offices of the club and provide modern changing and other
facilities for the players. At the special request of Lions supporters
the Cold Blow Lane end terracing will be retained.
The final scheme will reduce the capacity of
The Den to 22,000, but will give facilities for a new era at Millwall
Like you I am keeping my finger's crossed that
we achieve our own 'double' this season - promotion and a start made on
the ground development.
The latter incidentally will assume even
greater significance if we go up. The Den in its present state will not
meet the safety requirements laid down by the Football League for the
Second Division and this would certainly involve us in considerable
expense to bring it up to the necessary standards.
I promise in an earlier programme this season to keep you fully
informed on the scheme. I am confident that the next news I have will be
to tell you the actual date when the project starts.
II (Nov 83)
|Millwall chairman Alan Thorne
has disclosed a new bid to revive the club's Super-Den dream. The Lions
chief is locked in talks with Lewisham Council aimed at getting the
go-ahead for his all-new plans.
Thorne told me, "I have completely re-thought the original
scheme. The new ideas are now going through. the planning permission
stages" He added, "I hope to have agreement within the next
Proposals to re-build the Den were unveiled by former chairman Len
Eppel in 1979 and collapsed when backers Associated Dairies (ASDA)
pulled out two years later.
|Plans for the new look Den
• SPORTS CENTRE to be run by Millwall for the public;
• SHOPPING facilities housing a superstore and do-it-yourself
• PARKING for almost 700 cars.
The Ilderton Road end of the ground will also be re-built. Thorne
explained, "I have spoken to many supporters and most tell me they
prefer to stand behind the, goals."
"So the plan is to have terraces at that end, but they are
designed to take seats easily if demand changes."
|Thorne's first major hurdles
is getting the scheme approved by Lewisham's planning committees which
will discuss it on November 15 1983.
If Thorne gets the go ahead his next objective will be to persuade
a retail outfiyu#'t to come in on the scheme.
He is preparing a detailed survey on the commercial possibilities
of the area in an attempt to attract backers. A major stumbling block to
the old scheme was the presence of gas and electricity mains on the
Under the former concept these would have cost £750,000 to
re-route, but Thorne says he has devised a new approach which will
involve far less expense.