Millwall's manager, Kenny Jackett, has admitted that he does not know whether they will ever be able to stop the lunatic fringe who besmirched the club's name again during the FA Cup semi-final defeat by Wigan on Saturday. Having had time to study the television and newspaper pictures of fighting in a Millwall section of Wembley, Jackett was mortified by the setback to efforts at improving the south London club's reputation.
"Time will tell whether we'll ever do it; it's a tough call, isn't it?" he said. "I've been here for a number of years and I'm very proud of the way everybody's worked at the club behind the scenes."
Those club officials were still bewildered yesterday as to why supporters should apparently have been fighting among themselves, no evidence having been found that fans of other London clubs had been involved in the ugly scenes, from which there were 11 arrests. On fans' forums and message boards, blame was attached to non-regulars and "glory hunters", many of them the worse for drink or drugs.
"Had some drunken yob push my 12-year-old because he wasn't singing," one regular supporter wrote. "I'm finished with the club." He left the ground immediately but others who saw women and children becoming caught up in the trouble may have decided to exact retribution themselves, so spreading the fighting.
It was also pointed out that, as with the two Scottish Cup semi-finals and yesterday's Tyne-Wear derby, a lunchtime kick-off would have been more sensible; and that the Football Association's official Twitter account was boasting about how much alcohol would be sold at Wembley at the weekend: "75k pints and 50k bottles of @budweiser". The FA has started its own investigation, as have the Metropolitan Police, who were criticised for arriving on the scene too slowly; stewards are told not to interfere once violence breaks out.
Millwall's captain, Danny Shittu, had been as unaware of the trouble as his manager but said later: "At this club you do five things right and one thing wrong and it sets us all the way back again. I knew the Canary Wharf area when it was the Isle of Dogs; I lived in that area for a long time so I know there is a stereotype about Millwall supporters. Even today when I tell people I play for Millwall, some of them say 'Ohhh…'. I'm trying to promote that it's not that kind of club. But when this sort of thing happens it makes it so much harder."
Jackett has enough on his plate lifting a team who returned to their dressing room as beaten Cup semi-finalists to discover they were only three points above the Championship relegation zone. They are at home to third-placed Watford tomorrow night and then visit Huddersfield, the team immediately below them, on Saturday.
Wigan are in a statistically worse position in the Premier League, three points below the safety line after Sunderland won yesterday, but their recent form is better and was maintained in a game they thoroughly deserved to win to reach their first FA Cup final. Yesterday they were already back in training for away games at Manchester City on Wednesday and West Ham three days later. Their manager Roberto Martinez maintains that the Cup run has helped build confidence in his squad.
Wigan's attacking players were outstanding and Martinez had particular praise for Callum McManaman, a pariah a month ago after his wild tackle on Newcastle's Massadio Haïdara. "He is such an easy footballer," Martinez said. "Give him a football and he is the happiest boy on earth. At such a young age, for us he has been a very important player this season. I am glad at least he has been able to show what Callum McManaman is."
That is the problem that Millwall, for all the best efforts of some good people, face again today.
- More about:
- Wigan Athletic