Russian revolution on hold

COMMENTARY

It was to have been a Russian revolution in London SE16, the day Millwall would lob a Molotov cocktail through the corporate windows of the Premiership. In the event it was a damp squib, though scarcely of the flammable variety.

Grafting two of Spartak Moscow's finest, Vassily Kulkov and Sergei Yuran, on to a faltering First Division team seemed a sound proposition. There is, after all, a saying, as old as the Urals, that good players speak the same language.

If that is true, we must deduce two things from Port Vale's 2-1 win at the New Den. The first is that Millwall have too few good players; the second that the language in question is not Anglo-Russian.

The last time Kulkov and Yuran had appeared on an English pitch, at Blackburn in September, they made telling contributions to the first of Spartak's six successive victories in the Champions League. Kulkov was the midfield clearing house through whom everything was channelled in a build-up based on technique and mobility. Yuran scored the only goal.

On this occasion, the Spartak Two found the big boot on the other foot. Bereft of confidence after a 10-match run without a win, the hosts were out-passed and outfought by a Vale side who had lost their previous away fixture 5-1 at Ipswich. Millwall were reduced to pumping aimless high balls forward, yet seldom troubled a defence only Juninho or Georgi Kinkladze would consider tall.

Kulkov has 45 caps and has been likened to Franco Baresi. The great Italian would not have been amused by the comparison on Saturday. Kulkov looked seriously short of match-fitness, having scarcely kicked a ball in earnest since Spartak reached the quarter-finals of the European Cup.

Yuran, a veteran of 29 internationals, at least avoided the indignity of being substituted like his compatriot. A target man in the English mould, he is known as "The Tank". Until he becomes sharper, "The Tractor" might be more apposite. He has the bulk, but tended to chug around rather than power through Vale's barricades.

Nevertheless, it is too soon to dismiss Millwall's double loan signing as a failure. Mick McCarthy, their manager, admitted the newcomers found it all "fairly quick and a bit surprising", though that can be resolved on the training ground. Communication should also be less of a problem once they are more aware of the capabilities (or otherwise) of their colleagues.

And as they try to come to terms with the culture shock, Kulkov and Yuran have each other for comradeship. So many of the best foreign imports have been two together - Muhren and Thijssen, Ardiles and Villa, Popescu and Dumitrescu (OK, but two out of three isn't bad) - that it is tempting to wonder whether Stan Flashman brokered the deals.

Those players all wanted to build careers in this country; Kulkov and Yuran are here as a financial expedient. In that respect, their arrival is reminiscent of Alan Simonsen's bizarre move to neighbouring Charlton from Barcelona more than a decade ago. One suspects it may be similarly short-lived.

In terms of reviving interest, however, McCarthy's coup had the desired effect. The crowd of more than 14,000, Millwall's best this season, was almost double the previous gate. Kick-off had to be delayed because of the clamour outside - shades of Moscow Dynamo's visit to the capital half a century ago - and The Lion Roars fanzine had even incorporated a hammer and sickle into its masthead.

But will the part-time fans be back? The sense of expectation merely compounded the anticlimax, especially during an opening half-hour which Vale turned into the football equivalent of a single-party state. Bottom of the table when Millwall led it as recently as last month, the Potteries team are becoming experts at stealing the show when cast as the supporting act.

In mid-December they won at Wolves for the first match of Mark McGhee's reign. "We spoilt their party and we've done it again," Vale's long-serving manager John Rudge beamed. "There are some away games where you pinch a result, but this wasn't one of them. No disrespect to the Russians, who need time to settle in, but I didn't see a great deal of them."

Two players of whom Millwall saw more than would have liked were Vale's Jon McCarthy and Steve Guppy. They exposed the full-backs, Ricky Newman and the highly rated Ben Thatcher, to the extent that Martin Foyle ought to have had a hat-trick by half-time. Here was one Thatcher who was for turning, for whom a single right-winger was one too many.

His tormentor, Jon McCarthy, crossed to create an early tap-in for Foyle. It was against the run of play when Alex Rae equalised after Paul Musselwhite fumbled under a heavy challenge from Yuran.

Vale regained the initiative when McCarthy's ball from the byline was converted by the outstanding Tony Naylor. Kulkov, having moved languidly to close down the pass, was promptly withdrawn. "I wish I'd done it five minutes earlier," Mick McCarthy sighed.

Millwall's free fall could not have been worse timed for the credibility of their manager, who was originally seen as Jack Charlton's natural successor with the Republic of Ireland. Ironically, what his team lack most is a battler in McCarthy's own image or that of Harry Cripps, who was laid to rest last week. Not so much the Russian bear, more the Millwall lion.

Goals: Foyle (6) 0-1; Rae (33) 1-1; Naylor (62) 1-2.

Millwall (4-4-2): Carter; Newman, Witter, Webber (Forbes, 79), Thatcher; Bowry, Kulkov (Taylor, 63), Rae (Lavin, 87), Van Blerk; Yuran, Malkin.

Port Vale (4-4-2): Musselwhite; Porter, Hill, D Glover, Tankard; McCarthy, Talbot, Bogie, Guppy; Foyle, Naylor. Substitutes not used: Walker, Mills, L Glover.

Referee: U Rennie (Sheffield).

Bookings: Milwall: Rae. Port Vale: Tankard, Hill.

Man of the match: Naylor. Attendance: 14,220.

News
The cartoon produced by Bruce MacKinnon for the Halifax Chronicle-Herald on Thursday, showing the bronze soldiers of the war memorial in Ottawa welcoming Corporal Cirillo into their midst
news
Voices
Funds raised from the sale of poppies help the members of the armed forces with financial difficulties
voicesLindsey German: The best way of protecting soldiers is to stop sending them into disastrous conflicts
Voices
Nigel Farage has backed DJ Mike Read's new Ukip song
voicesNigel Farage: Where is the Left’s outrage over the sexual abuse of girls in the North of England?
Property
One bedroom terraced house for sale, Richmond Avenue, Islington, London N1. On with Winkworths for £275,000.
property
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
The Edge and his wife, Morleigh Steinberg, at the Academy Awards in 2014
peopleGuitarist faces protests over plan to build mansions in Malibu
News
i100
News
peopleFox presenter gives her less than favourable view of women in politics
News
Mario Balotelli has been accused of 'threateningly' telling a woman to stop photographing his Ferrari
peoplePolice investigate claim Balotelli acted 'threateningly' towards a woman photographing his Ferrari
Arts and Entertainment
Paul Anderson plays Arthur Shelby in Peaky Blinders series two
tvReview: Arthur Shelby Jr seems to be losing his mind as his younger brother lets him run riot in London
Voices
Don’t try this at home: DIY has now fallen out of favour
voicesNick Harding, who never did know his awl from his elbow, is glad to see the back of it
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

SSRS Report Developer - Urgent Contract - London - £300pd

£300 Per Annum: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: SSRS Report Developer – 3 Mon...

KS1 Teacher

£95 - £150 per day: Randstad Education Birmingham: Key Stage 1 teacher require...

HR Business Partner - Essex - £39,000 plus benefits

£32000 - £39000 per annum + benefits + bonus: Ashdown Group: Generalist HR Man...

Trainee Recruitment Consultant

£18000 - £30000 per annum + uncapped: SThree: Do you feel like your sales role...

Day In a Page

Wilko Johnson, now the bad news: musician splits with manager after police investigate assault claims

Wilko Johnson, now the bad news

Former Dr Feelgood splits with manager after police investigate assault claims
Mark Udall: The Democrat Senator with a fight on his hands ahead of the US midterm elections

Mark Udall: The Democrat Senator with a fight on his hands

The Senator for Colorado is for gay rights, for abortion rights – and in the Republicans’ sights as they threaten to take control of the Senate next month
New discoveries show more contact between far-flung prehistoric humans than had been thought

New discoveries show more contact between far-flung prehistoric humans than had been thought

Evidence found of contact between Easter Islanders and South America
Cerys Matthews reveals how her uncle taped 150 interviews for a biography of Dylan Thomas

Cerys Matthews on Dylan Thomas

The singer reveals how her uncle taped 150 interviews for a biography of the famous Welsh poet
DIY is not fun and we've finally realised this as a nation

Homebase closures: 'DIY is not fun'

Homebase has announced the closure of one in four of its stores. Nick Harding, who never did know his awl from his elbow, is glad to see the back of DIY
The Battle of the Five Armies: Air New Zealand releases new Hobbit-inspired in-flight video

Air New Zealand's wizard in-flight video

The airline has released a new Hobbit-inspired clip dubbed "The most epic safety video ever made"
11 best sonic skincare brushes

11 best sonic skincare brushes

Forget the flannel - take skincare to the next level by using your favourite cleanser with a sonic facial brush
How could three tourists have been battered within an inch of their lives by a burglar in a plush London hotel?

A crime that reveals London's dark heart

How could three tourists have been battered within an inch of their lives by a burglar in a plush London hotel?
Meet 'Porridge' and 'Vampire': Chinese state TV is offering advice for citizens picking a Western moniker

Lost in translation: Western monikers

Chinese state TV is offering advice for citizens picking a Western moniker. Simon Usborne, who met a 'Porridge' and a 'Vampire' while in China, can see the problem
Handy hacks that make life easier: New book reveals how to rid your inbox of spam, protect your passwords and amplify your iPhone

Handy hacks that make life easier

New book reveals how to rid your email inbox of spam, protect your passwords and amplify your iPhone with a loo-roll
KidZania lets children try their hands at being a firefighter, doctor or factory worker for the day

KidZania: It's a small world

The new 'educational entertainment experience' in London's Shepherd's Bush will allow children to try out the jobs that are usually undertaken by adults, including firefighter, doctor or factory worker
Renée Zellweger's real crime has been to age in an industry that prizes women's youth over humanity

'Renée Zellweger's real crime was to age'

The actress's altered appearance raised eyebrows at Elle's Women in Hollywood awards on Monday
From Cinderella to The Jungle Book, Disney plans live-action remakes of animated classics

Disney plans live-action remakes of animated classics

From Cinderella to The Jungle Book, Patrick Grafton-Green wonders if they can ever recapture the old magic
Thousands of teenagers to visit battlefields of the First World War in new Government scheme

Pupils to visit First World War battlefields

A new Government scheme aims to bring the the horrors of the conflict to life over the next five years
The 10 best smartphone accessories

Make the most of your mobile: 10 best smartphone accessories

Try these add-ons for everything from secret charging to making sure you never lose your keys again