This Riot Stopped Me Quitting Den; Theo Paphitis Would Have Missed Sunday's FA Cup Semi-Final Had His Beloved Club Not Been Plunged into Turmoil

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Byline: LEO SPALL

IF THINGS had gone according to plan for Theo Paphitis he would have quit as Millwall chairman two years ago.

He would have missed out on an historic FA Cup semi-final and the prospect of European football and been concentrating on the bottom line of his underwear businesses and stationery stores.

It is true that Paphitis's lingerie companies La Senza and Contessa offer some provocative women's products and Ryman sells great envelopes.

But the self-made millionaire is delighted he stayed involved with his other great passion - a decision that has now paid spectacular dividends.

Paphitis said: "It is the dream of every chairman and supporter to get to the FA Cup Final and we're just one game away.

"There is the little incentive of Europe too and we are doing well in the league.

"I have always said I am only a temporary custodian but I have never enjoyed my football so much.

"The time to have gone was after the playoffs against Birmingham a couple of years ago and that was my intention.

"When I joined the club I said it would take five years to get the club back on its feet and become a force in Division One.

"We were in administration and in the Second Division wondering if we were going to get relegated.

"We had achieved what we wanted in the timescale but it was not possible to leave because of the problems after the playoffs. Millwall went through a nightmare and the club were back in trouble again and I could not walk away.

Everything had to change again."

Hooligans rioted when the club were knocked out of the playoffs at The Den and as well as injuring police and smashing up property they damaged the reputation Paphitis cared so much about.

In his first five years he worked hard to move Millwall away from the associations they had with violence and racism and felt he was getting somewhere.

He had not lined up a successor but a peaceful time in the playoffs would have paved the way for him to leave the club in a healthy position to a richer benefactor. …