Resilience, this word singularly sums up the character of the club and its fans. The tough faces, the tough games. The failures in life, the failures in football. They just keep on going. Much like their ancestors, waiting to see if they would get a days work, the long trudge home after failing to do so. The optimism to come back the next day. Habits die hard. The Lions keep plugging, Charlton are tight and compact, the ball zips, the fans sing now and then. The Den lights up with roars of “handball!”, Charlton captain Solly gets sent off and a penalty is given. Gregory takes the penalty and! Oh wait, it’s saved…
An anti-climax, Charlton regroup, bring on a sub and get through to half-time. In the second half they look even more secure. All football fans appreciate skills and tricks, but not all accept them from their team. Millwall fans are not expectant; just put the effort in and don't make mistakes. Collective sighs are so expressive in football grounds, they exhibit so many emotional points simultaneously. One such sigh was let out over the ground when Charlton scored. Frustration lead to embarrassment when on 67 minutes Charlton’s Diarra flicks in a cross to make it 0-1.
Like most others, this club is a family; its lower division status allows more access for the fans but still more than most, it holds to its members a kinship. The players intermingle with the fans, driving up to park outside the ground, designer wash bags in tow. The stalwarts can be found outside, at points where they always stand to discuss the malaise that Millwall is in. Their kinship is one built on a hatred of others, be it Leeds, West Ham or today Charlton. Millwall fans don't excel in their fervour until they have prey in their sights.
It’s a shame; potential wasted always is. Like that family member that could’ve been so much if only they applied themselves and realised what they could achieve. Millwall always has had potential. Possessing a fierce and global reputation that was far larger than their successes and fandom. The docks have long since disappeared into housing and shopping centres, but the spirit of the dockers still lives on within their beloved football club. Speaking to a lifelong Millwall fan outside the ground, he spoke of the generations of his family that had supported this club, the dockers they had been and the lives they had led.
Resilient, the chants of “Milllllllllllll!” ring out randomly amongst the supporters, more in defiance, like the barks of a cornered dog. Into the last 15 minutes it’s becoming desperate, the game is harder, tackles become less precise, the play more emotional. But Millwall haven’t lost to Charlton for 19 years and there is a reason for that. Millwall lives for rivalry. They don’t give up, they always hold out a chink of optimism when they shouldn’t. Substitute Gueye brings Millwall back level with a nice left foot strike on the 79th minute. The Lions smell blood and in the 87th minute they score the winner through Hooiveld. The crowd go ballistic, the obscenities fly, “You’ll never beat Millwall” is chanted. The final whistle rings and Status Quo’s ‘Rocking all over the world’ has everyone jumping, arms up in the air.
The Charlton fans certainly don’t like them, and neither does anyone else, really. But they don’t care; they are Millwall, super Millwall, Millwall from The Den. They trudge home today content; relegation is coming, but for today, these dockers got to taste the winning life. Long after the end, on the A2, Millwall fans congregate outside the Marquis of Grandby, pints in hand. The Charlton fans drive by in their coaches. One fan cannot stop himself, he runs after the bus kicking the door and swearing at the fans, red, bare-chested and full of venom. You could have been mistaken that Millwall had lost. Eventually, he throws his pint at the coach and then makes his way back to the pub for some more; some habits die hard.