Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Fighting to Spread Their Caring Gospel; Millwall Have Gone to Great Lengths to Rid Themselves of a Notorious Reputation. Although Some People Are Still Not Convinced, the Club Are Determined to Win over the Doubters

Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Fighting to Spread Their Caring Gospel; Millwall Have Gone to Great Lengths to Rid Themselves of a Notorious Reputation. Although Some People Are Still Not Convinced, the Club Are Determined to Win over the Doubters

Article excerpt

Byline: IAN CHADBAND

WHEN Millwall booked their FA Cup semi-final place to stand one game away from playing in Europe next season, one newspaper greeted the news with the words: "Be afraid. Be very afraid."

It was exactly the sort of thing that wearies them down at The Den. Yes, it was only more of the jokey throwaway stuff they've put up with for years but it seemed again purely designed to perpetuate the image of the club as footballing bogeymen.

Well, this was Millwall 2004. Afraid?

What of, exactly?

Theo Paphitis says he never goes looking for a fight but he'll scrap to stop anyone walking over him and his club, insisting: "I never defend the indefensible but I'll always defend us when we're wronged."

Which is often, according to the chairman. More than any other club in football.

"The image is changing slowly but then, every now and again, something happens to knock you back," he shrugged. This time, it was the accusations of crowd racism, which flared up after the Burnley games here.

Paphitis ended up trading verbal blows with Alistair Campbell no less.

They are still adamant at Millwall that the accusations were rubbish.

"We're the simple targets, the cheap headline," said Paphitis.

"There was hardly a word when it went of f bi g - t i me between Portsmouth and Southampton fans the other day. If that had happened here, it would have been covered like nuclear war breaking out."

Wearily, it's made many here ask again whether Millwall as a club can ever really win. They still don't make an apology for the "No one likes us, we don't care" anthem because they'd rather be a uniquely interesting club - one with edge, passion and ability to punch far above their weight - than a routinely dull one.

Yet Jim Webb, secretary of the supporters' club, insists: "People accusing us, all the snide remarks . . . it annoys me that we can't get rid of this reputation of ours. If you get to the point where you say, 'Why should I care about it?', then you lose the battle. You've got to keep banging the drum that the new Den's a good place to come."

This has been the week to preach that gospel. Millwall are in the FA Cup semis for the first time in 67 years. If they beat Sunderland on Sunday, they're in Europe. It's then possible they could face two matches in Cardiff 's Millennium Stadium - the FA Cup Final and the First Division playoff final - in a week.

Should this dream come to pass, they could represent a watershed for the club. Imagine Millwall versus Arsenal or Millwall versus West Ham in Cardiff ? If such occasions were accompanied by serious disorder, it could be back to square one. Cue the inevitable pictures of Luton 1985 and the 2002 mayhem surrounding Birmingham's visit.

Ken Chapman, the club's security and operations adviser who as a chief superintendent used to organise the policing at the old Den, says he is "relatively confident" that the invasion of Manchester by Millwall and Sunderland fans will pass off peacefully. …

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