Tuesday, 30 December 2014

Following the Cherries to Millwall

I was really looking forward to the trip to Millwall this season. On the back of a good win at Fulham it was going to be a special day with so many Bournemouth fans due to make the journey. I set out a little later than usual as I only live some 20-25 miles away from the New Den and yet the route to the ground was far from simple.
On route to Millwall.
I guess I'll go left.
The first part of the journey included a train from Redhill to Purley which only took 10 minutes but then it was a short wait before catching another train to Tulse Hill. Then the London network rail maintenance works meant that I needed to catch a bus via, Dulwich, East Dulwich, Peckham, Queens Park and finally South Bermondsey.

I arrived fairly early at the ground having followed a few well placed signs that directed away supporters to the New Den. I thought I would see whether I could grab a quick word with a Millwall fan on a memorabilia stand who was selling hats, scarfs and badges to see if he would tell me about how he felt his team were playing. The thought of appearing on a video had him running for cover behind his programmes, so I had to see if I could find another more willing volunteer.

No interview but plenty of acknowledgement that
AFCB are a strong team from the local scarf seller.
Cold work standing selling programmes.
That led me towards two ladies selling match day programmes. They seemed friendly enough and having purchased my programme I asked if they would spare me a second to test my camera skills, but again I was turned down. This time the ladies were worried about their boss coming across seeing them on film when they should be selling programmes. Fair enough I thought, even though there were only about five people in the road leading up to the ground. I thought Millwall fans were noisy and always keen to talk about their team. I must have picked out the wrong ones to speak to.
Chips for £1.50 - not bad.
Everything is for sale here. The cash might come in handy in January.
The wise fans were in the cafe, in the warm, on the corner of the ground but I wanted to have a look in the club shop before getting some chips. The shop had massive sale signs all over it and it kind of made me think it never looks great to see a football club having for sale signs up everywhere. Still, inside the shop was well decked out with items and I particularly liked the mask of Ian Holloway. I imagined that if Bomb Fire Night had been around the corner after Millwall's recent run a few of those masks might have adorned one or two suited Guy Fawkes to go on the fire.
Get ahead with your very own Ollie mask!
Having seen the shop I walked towards the lane to the North stand for away fans that was still shut, so I carried on only to see AFCB media team members, Max Fitzgerald and Kelly Sommers, coming out of a car park towards the ground. They were full of smiles and looking forward to the match. I tried to spot any passing Millwall fans, but there were very few around at this point. Even the Community Centre where Millwall's younger supporters could have a kick about was still quiet.

The Millwall Community Centre.
I decided to take the long walk around the outside of the ground and around the industrial park to waste a bit of time. That led me in towards a temporary hospitality tent where lots of Millwall fans were enjoying a pint in the open air and watching the Spurs v Man Utd match. I stopped to have a chat with a steward before talking to a group of four Millwall fans who were less than confident about the prospect of their side taking on the Cherries. They were quick to point out that Millwall doesn't have any money and that they faced a relegation fight in 2015. "Fingers crossed we'll get a good striker in January," they said.
Outside beer tent.
 Climb on board the Double Decker. Budapest is a bit distant for an away game!
Main reception.
Moving on I found a big blue Millwall bus that was spreading the message to get more supporters to the ground. It was quite a nice idea to have an old London bus in club colours I thought. It was then that I met Jack and Jamie who I thought might be Millwall fans as one wore a blue top. They turned out to be Bournemouth fans, hiding their colours underneath their coats, but they were happy to give an interview on video.

Having walked past in the reception the number of people about was growing fast now and so I quickly eat my chips before making it to the North stand gate. Once through I had a good chat with the stewards who wondered why I had brought a radio with me? "Was it in case the game was rubbish?" they asked. I told them that watching AFCB is never dull or boring. They worryingly nodded and acknowledged that taking on the top of the league team might be a very difficult day for them.

TK is back.
I'll be trying to catch all the South African games with
Tokelo Rantie over the next few weeks.
There were plenty of seats to choose from in the Upper stand so I picked a spot just above the goal so I had an excellent view of everything. Last time I had visited the ground we were in the Lower Tier, but this was a much better view. While I started taking pictures of players for the blog I was delighted to see Tokelo Rantie warming up with the squad. I was less excited with the noise - supposedly music - blasting out from the ground's tannoy system that made it almost impossible to listen to a personal radio at less than deafening levels. Having been joined by Michael Dunne of All Departments and some of his relatives we got ready to watch the game.
Flags over the Dockers stand.
Cold Blow Lane fills up.
Floodlights on in the Barry Kitchener stand.
I found a good spot near an AFCB flag.
The teams are out.
The game soon became a procession of free kicks and with going close as Yann Kermorgant got his sights set on goal. The drama though came a bit unexpectedly after half an hour when Charlie Daniels was brought down for a penalty. Ian Holloway said the referee was 200 per cent wrong and that the foul was outside the penalty area, and that he was too eager to give the spot kick. When you are down the wrong end of the league these things do irritate and anger managers and fans. Still the referee makes the call and pointed to the spot. Yann Kermorgant made no mistakes from 12 yards and we were celebrating in the North stand's Upper Tier.

The second goal came before half time and it felt like the game was over as a contest. While Millwall had come back after half time at Dean Court a month ago, I could not see it happening again. The win for Bournemouth really underlined them as the number one team at the moment and the thrill of being top only gives the players more resolve to keep winning. I still view the situation as another two points required to get over the 50 point safety mark, but it is obvious to everyone that AFCB will take some stopping now if they are not to grab one of the two automatic promotion places and certainly a play-off spot at the very least.

Another three points towards the total.
There is an enjoyment factor about watching this Cherries team that is infectious. Even Millwall fans remarked to me that you follow a great team and what Eddie Howe has done is truly remarkable. The job still has to be finished though and while I set off home content with the win I could also imagine what it is like to be a fan at the other end of the table. A few defeats for the Cherries and pundits will be saying the bubble has burst. So I am just enjoying going from one game to another for the moment.

The journey home was not so great as I had to wait 35 minutes in the cold for a bus back to Tusle Hill and then it took another hour and a half to complete the trip back to Redhill in Surrey. I was home at 7.30 which was half an hour slower than when I drive back from a Bournemouth home game! Still, I had plenty of good memories from the day's events.

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