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Friday, 3 May, 2002, 12:27 GMT 13:27 UK
Millwall's millstone
Police attempt to control the crowd at Millwall
Police attempt to control the crowd at Millwall
BBC Sport Online examines the history and background to the history of hooliganism haunting Millwall.

Millwall fans first sang the symphony for a siege mentality that claims: "No one likes us - we don't care."

The sentiment remains half true, with chairman Theo Paphitis emphatically proving he does care about Millwall's image as football's premier home for hooliganism.

Paphitis has worked tirelessly in an attempt to transform Millwall's image from a club cursed by hooligans to a more homely image at The New Den.

It is, however, an image change that has lacked co-operation from a small hard core of Millwall fans who do not simply revel in notoriety, but encourage it at every turn.

The shameful - but sadly predictable - scenes of violence and wreckage at the conclusion of their First Division play-off defeat against Birmingham simply confirmed Millwall's image in the eyes of football.

Police attempt to control the crowd at Millwall
Police attempt to control the crowd at Millwall
And the great sadness is that Millwall's moronic minority has conspired to over-shadow a magnificent achievement by the club and the team in almost reaching the Premiership.

Paphitis rightly said: "Once again, the thuggish element which sees football as a cover for their violent tendencies has sullied the name of football and Millwall, and brought deep distress to our local community with whom we have close ties.

"We also wish to express our sympathy to those police officers and horses injured.

"We have worked tirelessly over the past several years to rid ourselves of the mindless minority."

Millwall are not alone in harbouring a hooligan minority, but it is the unrepentant nature of the mob that demands attention and contempt.

No-one likes the Millwall thugs - and the Millwall thugs do not care.

Paphitis has spoken out on countless occasions with threats of life bans and punishment, and has fought to move the club's profile on to more acceptable ground.

Millwall are seen outside London as the underdogs to the capital's Premiership giants, the put-upon poor relations tucked away in a working-class corner in the south-east of the city.

Millwall chairman Theo Paphitis has worked tirelessly
Millwall chairman Theo Paphitis has worked tirelessly
It is now almost ingrained in the culture of the mob that they can at least cling to their superiority as hooligans to challenge their more illustrious neighbours.

And even the admirable Paphitis must have despaired on occasions such as that in March 2000, when a gesture of goodwill to invite Kosovan refugees to The New Den was abandoned amid threats of violence.

Arguably the blackest day in Millwall's history came when their fans laid waste to Kenilworth Road at an FA Cup tie against Luton Town in March 1985, tearing out seats and rioting in one of their worst examples of football hooliganism.

They were at the centre of more problems three years later at another FA Cup tie against Arsenal at Highbury - and they have scarred football ever since.

In May 1994, chairman Reg Burr considered resigning after fighting marred a game at Derby, while in February 1995 mounted police charged fans after an FA Cup tie at Chelsea.

Eleven police officers were injured and 38 fans arrested.

Manchester City made the rare move of banning Millwall fans this season - and it may have been a decision based on past form.

In September 1998 a group of 300 fans pelted police in riot gear with bottles and chunks of rock after a match at The New Den.


Once again, the thuggish element which sees football as a cover for their violent tendencies has sullied the name of football and Millwall
Millwall chairman Theo Paphitis
In January the FA launched an investigation after a meat pie and two plastic bottles were hurled at assistant referee Phil Barston during a game, ironically, against Birmingham.

Again Paphitis led the fight against the hooligan element, saying: "We've got to stamp on this and stamp on it hard because it might be a meat pie today, but who knows tomorrow."

The FA began another inquiry a month later when referee's assistant Mike Russell was hit by a five-pence piece during the win against West Bromwch Albion at The New Den.

Again, it hardly falls into the category of the scenes after the Birmingham game, but cemented Millwall's image in the eyes of the football public.

And for Paphitis, it must leave him wondering whether he will ever see his club's supporters regarded as anything other than a scar on the game.

 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
Millwall president Reg Burr
"We will ban troublemakers for life"
Birmingham City chairman David Gold
"I'm saddened by it"
 VOTE RESULTS
Who will reach the Premiership?

Birmingham
 65.09% 

Norwich
 34.90% 

5697 Votes Cast

Results are indicative and may not reflect public opinion

Division One

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See also:

03 May 02 | Millwall
Links to more Millwall stories are at the foot of the page.


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