Punish the thugs, but don’t blame Millwall
PUNCHES, kicks, scuffles with truncheonwielding police. Terrified kids in floods of tears. Bloodstained, snarling faces. But this wasn’t some documentary on the eighties. This was Wembley in 2013. This was hooliganism, old style, resurrected by the dark art’s most infamous exponents.
“Who played the ball for Wigan’s second?” asked one colleague.“Who cares,” said another.“There’s only one story today.”
And that is the miserable truth of it. In the five minutes it took a bunch of muppets to set about each other, everything good about Millwall’s remarkable run to the FA Cup semi-final was shredded.
Far worse, Millwall’s “fans” lived up to a stereotype that, for many years now, has been unwarranted. All the community work, all the efforts to drum out trouble-makers, all the painstaking hours spent detoxing a poisonous reputation – all laid waste by a gaggle of morons in pictures beamed around the globe.
That those identified should face life bans is not in question. Personally, though, I think it would be extremely harsh to punish the club.
Millwall’s average gate is 10,459. At Wembley, they had over 30,000. That is one hell of an unknown quantity.
Of course, some may have been regulars using the perceived anonymity of a large crowd to unleash suppressed aggression. If so, more fool them.
However, I believe the vast majority of the 50 or so troublemakers were casuals who arrived with the express intention of having a fight. Is that really Millwall’s fault?
Some say yes. Millwall season ticket holders have their information stored on a database, a system that has all but eradicated hooliganism at the Den.
Yet they were allowed to buy additional tickets that could be passed on to anyone, with thousands more placed on general sale.
Is that irresponsible? Hardly. Sure, the Lions could have restricted sales to season ticket holders and members. But can you imagine what the FA would have said if Millwall had pitched up on national TV with just 10,000 fans? They’d have been mortified – which is why they publicly praised the club for selling so many. If Millwall are to blame for trying to fill Wembley, so is the FA.
What’s more, Millwall used exactly the same procedure for Wembley play-off finals in 2008 and 2009, both of which passed without incident.
There was nothing to suggest this would happen. Nor is it desirable or necessary to control people all of the time. This is not a police state. Sometimes THINK of Crystal Palace and you think of Wilfried twinkle-toed Zaha, the
winger with a £15m tag. But if you want price are sliding to know why Palace
headlong out of look beyond the play-
the mercurial offs, form to the Ivorian’s
rather more poor Owen Garvan. prosaic figure of
A wonderful technician foot, Garvan had a left
with a wand of a nine assists and
knee problem wrecked five goals befor the e year. his season
He it was who at the turn of picked found the gaps
the passes: the and With Iniesta to Zaha’s
him, Palace were Messi. Without two points
him, they have off second. last 18 won just five
games, and of the than haven’t scored seven hours in more
of football. Garvan has had
his detractors at Selhurst Park but
is showing in absentia just how
good he is. there just has to be an element of trust. Millwall put their trust in people by putting tickets on general sale. The FA did likewise playing the match at 5.15 in the afternoon. And true Lions fans put their trust in others not to tarnish a hard-earned reputation.
Ninety-nine times out of 100, it would be repaid. This time, it was not. The thugs who betrayed that trust are the only ones at fault. They are the ones who should bear the full brunt of any punishment. WE always knew that Portsmouth would lose ten points when they came out of administration.
Now the Football League have announced that the penalty will be imposed this season, not next. This begs the question: what is the sense in taking points from a club that has already been relegated?
In 2007, Leeds entered administration with relegation from the Championship almost assured, prompting a rule change to avoid such abuses of the system.
As a result, when Southampton went into administration late in April 2009, the authorities waited until the end of the season before imposing the sanction. Had Saints survived, the penalty would have been used to r elegate them. In the event, they went down under their own steam so ten points were docked the following year.
On the face of it, Pompey would appear to be an identical position. Yet both Leeds and Southampton deliberately tried to cheat the system. Many of the people who caused the pr oblems remained at the helm.
In Portsmouth, that is not the case. Those who racked up the debts – Alexandre Gaydamak, Sulaiman AlFahim, Ali al-Faraj – are long gone. Vladimir Antonov, the last bona fide owner, is fighting extradition to Lithuania.
Now, the people in charge ar e fans, the very people who have suf fered most. Where is the sense in punishing them, especially when you consider that this is the same administration for which they were docked ten points in 2011-12.
Nor have they tried to pull the wool over anyone’s eyes. Had things gone to plan, the Pompey Supporters Trust (PST) would have bought the club in November and gladly taken the hit.
Instead, they have been hampered at every turn by former owner Balraim Chainrai’s grasping efforts to claw back his cash. Chainrai was of fered £3m for Fratton Park months ago but pointlessly dragged the PST to court
it is little surprise that the Robins’ boss got the hump.
“It disappointed me and it made the players angry as well,” he fumed. “It was crass and totally unnecessary. I’m not too happy with the powers that be for allowing that.”
Still, it could have been worse. A few years ago I was at Kidderminster when a Burton Albion player fell theatrically to the floor
Clearly narked by his histrionics, the tannoy announcer waited until the physio ran onto the pitch, then – in a stroke of genius – proceeded to play the theme tune as “treatment” was given. The Burton bench were furious but the rest of us were in stitches. in a bid to get more.
Only at the very last, when he realised his game of brinkmanship had failed, did he cave in and accept the offer. It was pointless, costly and potentially destructive. And there was nothing PST could do about it.
Truth is, I would have liked to see Portsmouth bite the dust, just to pr ove that clubs cannot always overspend with impunity in the knowledge that another white knight is just r ound the corner.
But Pompey live. And now that they have real fans in charge with the best interests of the club at heart, it would serve nobody’s interests to hammer them again.
MISSING LINK: Owen Garvan of Crystal Palace
OWN GOAL: Police attempt to restore order