Whatever thin Cinderella story Millwall carried into today’s FA Cup semifinal became trite with the opening whistle, the beginning of a stretch of one-sided play that left Wigan up one a halftime.
It’s not that the Latics were convincing or mustered many threats. They just didn’t give up the ball. They were never really asked to. As they effortlessly played between midfield and defense, looking up at regular intervals to see if Millwall’s defense had slipped, the gap between a Premier League side and their Championship equivalent became evident.
Unless Wigan screwed up, they weren’t going to lose, and when Callum McManaman’s built on Sean Maloney’s opener, all that was left was the inevitable. Wigan was moving on to the FA Cup final with a 2-0 win, a result that brought out the worth in Millwall’s fans.
As the matches final minutes passed, announcers began describing in-fighting among the Lions’ supporter, behavior playing to a stereotype that seems unwilling to fade into anachronism.
From a Guardian scribe on site:
Sachin Nakrani had a decent overview of the Millwall problem yesterday, within which you’ll find:
It is impossible to ignore the negativity. This, after all, is a club that had to close their old stadium in Cold Blow Lane due to crowd disturbances as far back as the 1920s, and in practically every decade since their fans have been involved in controversies and flashpoints, none more infamous than the riot at Kenilworth Road 28 years ago that led to 47 injuries and 31 arrests.
In light of today’s events, the words of one prominent supporter seem paradoxical, a defense of fans’ current state one day before today’s embarrassment:
In any case Graeme Smale, secretary of the Millwall Supporters Club, insists these are isolated incidents. “We are not blameless but I remember seeing Clyde Best being abused by West Ham fans in the 70s, and rioting by fans at many other clubs, yet none of them have got Millwall’s reputation,” the 55-year-old says. “Our fans have given up on ever being given a fair chance and that is where the ‘nobody likes us’ chant comes from. It is a siege-mentality created by people who are angry and fed up.”
Today’s incident was unfortunate, particularly since it happened at Wembley. It’s important to add the caveat: This was likely a small portion of the support. Still, if Millwall supporters have a reputation for this, continuously play to that type, and yet it’s still allowed to happen, all those of us sitting on the outside can do is shrug our shoulders, shake our heads, and say “that’s Millwall.”
Oh, small footnote: Wigan have never won a major trophy, and now their in a final, and it’s an amazing achievement for a club that constantly fights for Premier League survival, and Cinderella lives. Yeah, all this deserved to be discussed, too.