Tag Archives: millwall

The Road to Millwall (5)

, or, collapse of once-stout QPR

So how do we get to Millwall from central London for an evening kick-off match?

Its easy and quick. The Millwall ground is the nearest professional stadium to the City of London – only about two miles away, just a tad closer than Arsenal, and there are plenty of buses and tubes going sort-of in the right direction. Away supporters get advised to go by train from London Bridge to South Bermondsey, so we will avoid both statios for that very reason!

We start by a well-known building in the lively dead centre of London and wait for a Number 1 bus

As all London transport geeks know, the oldest bus route in London – and therefore almost certainly the oldest bus rout in the world – is the number 12, from Oxford Circus to Camberwell. It is the direct descendent of the first motor bus route run by Tilling’s back in 190-something, and that itself was a descendent of probably the first horse bus route. Though some argue for the 9, and there are a few running-dogs and revisionists and who hold out for the 24. Splitters! (And why does everybody on a southbound 24 in Goodge street in the evening look so sad or hassled?)

So why is the number 1 the number 1? It’s not a particularly important route, nor a very long distance one. OK, the 12 was adopted into the London Transport numbering scheme a few years after it started, as it was being run by a private company who didn’t yet use numbers – but what gave the Lewisham to Willesden route precendence over the numbers 2 to 9 – all of which still exist, and have at least some of their route in common with what they were doing a century ago.

Its just one of those mysteries.

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Its hard to take photos on this journey because its dark. Though we get occasional chances – like this photo of Waterloo Station. We could get off the bus here and go down those escalators you can see in the picture to try to get to Bermondsey or Surrey Docks by tube. But we won;t, because the Number One takes us almost all the way.

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That’s about it for the view. Also I’ve already put lots of pictures taken from buses online – some linked to in this post on the Dark Streets of London

So I came back the next day in daylight & will post those pictures soon.

Other than that, nothing of interest until the first siting of police activity just where the bus is about to turn right from Southwark Park Road to Galleywall Road. One of the other unfailing signs of the imminence of Millwall, an extrem number of railway bridges, is also in evidence. There was one just beside us as we turned by the police car (I was taking photos the other way of course) and there is anoither one at the bottom of Galleywall Road, just before you turn into Ilderton road. Which is as dingy a spot as you will find in inner London.

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From the footballing point of view Tuesday evening was rather good. QPR seemed to be playing for a draw, and didn;t look as if they were seriously trying to score. Millwall’s defence was better than theirs and their offence was at least more enthusiastic and committed. When Millwall managed to score QPR appeared to realise they could in fact lose, at get demoralised quite quitely. Or so it looked from our end. Millwall made all the running in the second half , attacking at every opportunity – a tactivc that failed agains ‘Boro (though it was exciting to watch, drew against Forest, beat QPR, and triumphed at Burnley. If they manage to keep up the improvement against Cardiff they are going to win five nil :)

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The Road to Millwall (4)

Or:

Somewhere Over The Railway

Also Known As:

Funny sort of recession, innit?

I’ve often been able to spot previous economic “downturns” because the amount of construction going on around me goes down. It was especially obvious in the brief blip in the late 1980s/early 1990s – the number of tower cranes visible from the window of my office fell from over 100 to 30 in a few weeks and then went down almost to zero.

Doesn’t seem to have happened this time. As you can see from these pictures, that’s not where we are at these days at all. Not where I live, anyway. Its swamped with construction projects. As we can see from these pictures of yet another way to get to the Millwall ground – this time by walking across Deptford Park and along Surrey Canal Road. Take a look at some of the smaller pictures – cranes and construction in almost all of them.

We start by going round the corner to Jerrard Street. Our view is blocked by this huge construction site:

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But we take our stand by a smaller one:

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Straight ahead we can see a railway arch (surprise, surprise, the first of many) and, Somewhere Over The Railway. more construction going on

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Our mission today (should we choose to accept it) takes us on a 47 bus along Brookmill Road and into Deptford Church Street.

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They even let buses into pubs nowadays:

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I like the look of London in the rain. The sky is the the right colour for the buildings. And the more spectacular of the new buildings know that and (literally) reflect it – they gave up trying to look Mediterranean or Manhattanish, and settled for shiny, wet, and yellowish-grey.

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Then left at the bottom of Church Street and up Evelyn Street. You get off just after the fire station, by the canal bridge, (not that there is any canal any more) and turn left and walk into the park. You can see the power station in the distance.

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We’ve not got away from either construction or railways though. We need to dogleg left into Surrey Canal Road (people younger than me can still remember when it was a canal) through one of the nastiest junctions in London. For cyclists, anyway. Three roads approach the same spot (four if you count a sort of slipway into a lorry park beside the railway) and all are blind – two of them have bends, two have sudden slopes, two go through railway bridges – so each road has at least two reasons why you can;t see what’s coming.

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Now we are on familiar territory – yet more railway bridges:

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And the power station – we must be near!

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Under one more bridge then turn into this inviting driveway and the stadium is in front of us.

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Past the place where you can just about see the Big Screen from outside the ground – you can tell it by the heap of empty beer cans and fag ends and the strategically placed old mattresses and dead fridges for kids to stand on

And now we can draw nil-nil with Nottingham Forest.

But its OK, because I’m posting these with a huge lag so I already know that it gets better next week….

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The Road to Millwall (3)

“Footpath Diversion. Footpath Closed: The footpath between Silwood Street and Surrey Canal Road is closed while we improve your railway”

Things have changed a lot in only two weeks. Now, if you want to walk from Surrey Docks station through to the football ground by the route I described in my previous post, you see this sign:

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Quel horreur! (or whatever they say in France).

And there is a fence across the first arch I walked under in my previous post:

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So lets try following the route in that helpful map. First turn right along this street:

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And walk along until we get to the helpful sign that says “Stadium”:

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(That photo and the next two mysteriosly miss out the police van parked right by the turning – either the Met have discovered the Klingon Cloaking Device, of I for some reason omitted to photograph the coppers resting in the van about three metres from where I was standing)

So turn left and you see this – one of Deptford’s few one-track-roads-with-passing-places. There are three or four round here, including the famous Cold Blow Lane. If the car drivers are in a good mood they honk their horns before turning the tight corners.

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If you go through and turn back you can see the new estate and the invisible police van:

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Go through that bridge and guess what – you come to another one. Is this begining to sound familiar?

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We’re very near the ground now, as we can tell by the power station:

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But this is Bolina Road, so instead of putting us out right between the power station and the ground it wanders beneath the arse end of South Bermondsey Station then wraps itself around the back of the stadium to come out near the main entrance – something like fifteen minutes walk instead of five.

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The next bridge has a rather spectacular pile of mossy concrete blocks:

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And after a tight S-bend, another bridge, this one with some broken car parts

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And then another bend and one last bridge:

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The police here don’t seem to have turned on their Klingon Cloaking Devices. Well, not all of them, I counted somewhere between forty and fifty vehicles, many of them vans or minibuses with real sleeping policemen in them. At least two hundred police, possibly quite a lot more. Also dogs and horses. I stronly suspect that the Met – or maybe even other police forces – rotates units through Millwall duty to give them practice at crowd control. Sorry, student protestors, its all our fault that the cops are so good at kettling these days. They learned on us.

We’re almost there now, here’s one of the police horse boxes near the main entrance to the ground:

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And here we are again, back in Sunny Deptford (we were briefly in Bermondsey back there) and the salubrious smoking lounge:

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And just to prove it, here are some of London’s Finest – along with some of the Metropolitan Police who had been called onto the pitch by the referee to assist the linesman in his duties:

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You might notice a lot of footballers standing around and rather obviously not playing football.

As things turned out they called in a few more police and a large number of stewards before they felst able to restart the match:

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And believe it or not after that it was actually a good game. Genuinely exciting.

Don’t ask about the score though.

The Road to Millwall (2)

OK, this is how to get to wonderful Millwall in Sunny Deptford. Or was, until last week, when they closed the path under the railway.

We’ll start in Lewisham, waiting in the rain for a 21 bus to come:

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From to New Cross Gate Station to get on a shiny bendy East London Line train:

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The train journney is only about three minutes, and goes straight past the ground here:

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Get off at Surrey Docks Station:

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Turn left, cross the road, and walk past these nice flats:

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And go into this estate here:

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And between the new flats and the railway (trust me, this is a lot more salubrious now than it was ten or fifteen years ago)

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And that brings you to the first of the railqway arches you have to pass through – this is the bit of the walk that has just been closed so this is the last time we’ll get to see the strategically-placed blocks of concrete or the lovely broken barbed wire of the “Danger Keep Off Japanese Knotweed” signs.
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Past the big fans on the power station that look like the business end of a Saturn Five and howl in the dark:

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Through here:

And here:

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Under one more railway – we’re almost there now!

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Down this path:

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And there you are, right by the Cold Blow Lane turnstiles. If you look carefully you can see the half time smoking area in the car park. That must be just about the apex of British sporting society. What have Henley or Wimbledon or Royal Ascot or Cheltenham or Goodwood got to match the sight of the smoking pen at the Den, out in the rain between the power station and the DHL warehouses?

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And just to show it is really there, here is the game from two weeks ago. We won – Lisbie scored in the 90th minute. Jolly good show, eh chaps!

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The Road to Millwall (1)

The nice people from Network Rail and London Transport have closed off some of the paths under the many railway lines that separate the Den from the rest of the world. Apparently because they want to knock down some bridges and build new railways.

So, in the spirit of documenting the rapidly changing face of South East London (sounds like bollocks when you put it like that, doesn’t it?), I thought I’d post some pictures showing how to get to Millwall football ground. More later. But first we’ll kick off with this nice shot of the main entrance from Zampa Road:

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Those ten thousand people you can’t quite see because the stadium lights are too bright for the cheap camera are making a very large amount of noise.

Not exactly the prettiest sports venue in the country, is it?

Though, unless you are a serious fan of post-industrial urban desolation and brutalist architecture (which I suppose I am), this is almost certainly the least grotty direction to approach the stadium from. And possibly the least intimidating for visiting fans, apart from the penned-off approach from South Bermondsey Station (of which more in a few weeks probably)

It can only go downhill from here…

Well that was fun. And very loud, My ears hurt a little at the end and I was slightly deafened by the noise, and its not often that that happens just from people shouting.

So my first season regularly going to Millwall matches turns out to have been an almost perfect season. It could have been a Roy of the Rovers story. They started crap, had loads of players injured, suddenly got better about six weeks into the season (in fact at exactly the moment I walked in late to the first game I attended – they scored one more or less as I sat down and another withn ten minutes), powered up the table with hardly a defeat in three months, trouncing both Leeds (their biggest arivals in that League) and Charlton (their nearest neighbours in south-east London) kicking both of them out of the promotion spots, then faltered right at the end with a stupid loss to fall back to one point outside the top two, nearly clawed they way back in in an amazing last Saturday of the season – five different teams were up for promotion on the same day, qnd the actual result not clear till the last minutes of the matches. And then a clean sheet in the playoffs that were a lot more interesting than only three goals in three games would imply. And victory in the final coming from a goal scored by the captain… you wouldn’t script it.

They say the worst thing that can happen to a gambler is to win on their first visit to a casino because they keep on coming back. I still haven’t seen them lose. It can only go downhill from here…

Some pictures of the crowd celebrating – but not of the actual match because every time I began to take one during the play something happened so I had to stop taking the picture and pay attention… so no good pictures.

So fans behaving slightly badly before the match:

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Heavies on the pitch looking slightly scared of us during the award ceremony:

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The empty far end:

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And the happy crowd struggling up the steps into the tube station. Which must be one of the worst laid out I’ve ever seen.

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That’s the way to do it!

Next stop, Wembley.

Millwall find the secret of victory at last – put eleven hundred men on the field!

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(The thin yellow line in the distance is a hundred or so police being very protective of the Huddersfield fans. though in the end they weren’t needed – it was all a rather jolly affair)

And a few other recent pictures:

Getting home from the Swindon match wasn’t that easy:

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And what we found when we got back:

Keep watching the skies!

And last but not least a Really Serious tin tab in Finchley shows the rest of us up:

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Who needs East Enders?

Overheard in the garden of a pub

“Do you remember when P was running G pub and that bloke was murdered upstairs and she tried to kill herself?

[Phone rings] [Some conversation] “What nick’s he in? I’ll go and see him…

Different bloke a few minutes later in same pub: “My brother just got made a life peer…”

Who needs East Enders?

Distant suburbs with names starting in H

To Bedfont Lakes for a work meeting, or sales pitch. Second time I’ve been in the Heathrow area in a few weeks – I popped over to have a drink in the bar at the end of Eastercon (as usual I couldn’t go to the con myself as its one of the busy times of year at church) That was train to Feltham, then local bus to the north side of the airport, today train to Feltham and little local bus to Bedfont.

Architecturally its still the 1960s out there in the outer western reaches of London where where placenames start with “H”. If not the 1930s. As always in buildings 30 or 40 years out of date looks more dated than 300 or 400, and the Heathrow area looks very dated. OK, know a lot of the hotels and offices are newer than that but they don;t look it. Compared with the buildings you see in Inner London these look dull and unimaginitive. Air travel was once a thrill and airports were once stage-sets for the party of the future, but now they look boring. Inner London. even the parts of it full of Gearogoan or Victorian retrofits, looks much more futuristic

The most interesting buildings you can see from the Heathrow Perimeter Road are in fact the older ones that look left over from the 1940s or 50s or even before. Rows of sheds with unlikely looking corporate logos advertising some small company you have never heard of that is in to import/export, or oil exploration, or even “aviation” whatever exactly that means nowadays. Its as if the old between-the-wars civil aviation culture of small engineering firms, dodgy dealers, and mechanics tinkering with This and That that I vaguely remember in the backdrop of old films and TV programmes has somehow managed to survive in the gutters and beneath the onramps of the corporate monocultures that replaced them.

In a similar way the little 1920s bungalows in the suburbs round about, squeezed between rows of 1970s officed or 1990s blocks flats, some retrofitted into newer larger “properties”, others still looking like small sheds with fake beams and tarmac sheeting rooves (but all I suspect double glazed) are more interesting than the EMEA HQs and cheap business hotels.

The whole place is caught in a sort of fast-moving limbo. Its not the network of semi-rural suburbs it once was, before the War and the motorways and above all Heathrow Airport turned it over, although it is full of survivals of that era. But its not quite the American-style low-rise decentralised suburban landscape it could have been – there is just too much naff 1950s and 1960s municipal Englishness about, a whiff of the the Council Estate, the H-Block, the Nissen Hut and the Scout Hut. The overlaid palimpsest of the 1950s, a hint of Durrington. Yes, if Woodingdean was thirty times the size, flat instead of hilly, and had a major international airport inside it, and was nowhere near the sea, it might look like this. Maybe that’s why it feels like the early 1960s to me because the buildings (nothing else, just the buildings) remind me of where I spent my own early 1960s. And it hasn’t gone forward to the kind of post-modern high-tech complexity that it might one day become.

From a literary-architectural point of view the Heathrow area left John Betjemen behind, bypassed JG Ballard (though he chased after it and nearly caught it) and hasn’t yet arrived at Ken MacLeod.

Not too many photos from the Con I’m afraid. It was dark most of the time I was there.near_heathrow_8178

I do have a few of the hotel bar though. Like most cheap/mid-price hotels, whether in suburban sheds with legoland trimmings (as this one was) or in old buildings in town it seemed to have that tedious interior design that’s a sort of mixture of fake vaguely 18th century English wood-panelled massiveness and late 19th century French frippery. Flock wallpaper and cut glass, the direct descendent of the Gin Palace without the over-the-topness. Both unimaginitive and deracinated.

But the room the bar was in was much better! A sort of truncated atrium dominated by a vast garden water-feature with pastic glow-in-the-dark fish on sticks. And big Buddhist pots in piles of pebbles. OK jsut as ersatz and off-the-shelf but at least its different and most importantly it was a pleasant and easy space to be in – though I guess a lot of that was due to the lightly-arched glass roof that meant the whole room was adequateley and indireclty lit by natural light right up almost to sunset. Follow th link for more (though not better) pictures: easterc0n_8170

The visit to Bedfont Lakes produced even fewer photos. I’ll have to go back one day when I’m not working. Its a nightmare to navigate, no rationality to anything and no signage. Took us longer to find the building we were looking for once there than it did to get there from Feltham Station over a mile away. Everything assumes you are coming by car. What I should have done is follow the car road in and walk straight in ignoring the barrier that said “No Pedestrian Access”, which was how I got out. As it was I ended up getting to the Cisco building by going round the back of one of the IBM buildings and past the lake. Which was pleasant. I’m sure there is another way in on foot – I can even guess where it might be – but its not signed.

These places are too planned, too centrally controlled, and have too few children visiting them. A council estate laid out like that (and the word ones are) would soon be crossed by “paths of desire” taking you everywhere you need to go. That doesn’t seem to happen here.

So to Staines, just because I’ve never been there before. Much the same applies to Ashford and Staines as to the places begin with H. Except that the river is of course wonderful. Staines looks a bit sad, its not what it once was. Of course in an absolute sense it and its inhabitants are much more prosperous than ever before. But in a relative sense, over against London or the countryside round about, I get the impression that it was at its peak in the late 19th century. Its full of places that look as if the used to be small shops run by locals and are now rotting.

It would have been as small but prosperous market town, connected to the rest of the world by river, canal, and railway, with enough industry (Lino a speciality I think) to provide work for the locals and the nucleus of an industrial proletariat and skilled workforce. Near enough to London to commute to work, but too far to do your regular shopping there. There woud have been libraries and churches and social clubs and a full range of shops and services on the High Street. On Saturdays and Sundays Londoners might come up for a spot of boating or a walk by the river and a pint of local beer in the Swan. (All of which are still available to them and I can tell you walk and the beer are very pleasant) An HG Wells or Jerome K Jerome sort of place. staines_8201

Destroyed as a viable and distinct economic community by the Great War, the motorways, Heathrow Airport and shopping malls. Its still there, it still has some lovely houses, its probably very convenient (if expensive) if you have a car and you work bear Waterloo Station, but its not quite a Place of its own. It has become a node in the broken network of outer suburbia. At least its a lot prettier than Bromley, Dartford, or Romford.

And Ali G exists. There really are young Asian men in baggy trousers and hoods talking rap. Well there were some at the end of Platform One at the station. Or are they consciously living up to the stereotype? Maybe they are Londoners taking a day trip to Staines to act like Ali G? The trainers and hoodies as real or as fake as the blazers and Oxford bags and straw boaters that other young men wore on days out to the same station a century ago?

Why do the outer reaches of West London always smell bad?

The Towers of South-East London

They talk of Trebizond, of Perugia, of Samarkand and Tashkent, of Minas Tirith and Hastur, of the walls of Babylon and lost Midgard, of the minarets of Istanbul. But the True Home of Towers of Power is South East London!

A few months ago I revealed to a trembling world that Saurons Tower is being rebuilt at the Elephant in this post: <a href=http://ken.wibsite.com/2009/10/05/the-tower-of-the-lidless-eye-rises-anew/>The Tower of the Lidless Eye rises anew!</a> (Follow the link for pictures IF YOU DARE!!!!!)

Since then the infection has been spreading.  Yesterday I saw it from the trains of Waterloo, approaching Clapham Junction. And its baleful, miasmic influence gets into South East London too.  Look at this picture taken at Millwall Football Ground in February:

<a href=”http://www.flickr.com/photos/nephrops/4464980275/” title=”millwall_v_hartlepool_7971 by nephropsnorvegicus, on Flickr”><img src=”http://farm5.static.flickr.com/4042/4464980275_bf151b87db_m.jpg” width=”240″ height=”180″ alt=”millwall_v_hartlepool_7971″ /></a>

Ignore for a moment the almost complete invisibility of the Hartlepool fans. There are rational, scientific explanations for that, Select the link and expand the picture to its fill size.  In the triangle of light in the centre left between the empty North Stand and the full West one you can clearly see the friendly and comforting tower of Southwark Cathedral, guarding us, as always for so many centuries, from the darkness that tries to cross over the bridge from its heartland on the other bank.  All who have been watching Doctor Who will know how often that brave little Cathedral has saved the world from the squamous (and indeed rugose) entities which gibber in the darkness beyond.

Yet three weeks later this picture was taken from pretty much the same angle:
<a href=”http://www.flickr.com/photos/nephrops/4527687617/” title=”mfc_IMG_0013 by nephropsnorvegicus, on Flickr”><img src=”http://farm5.static.flickr.com/4035/4527687617_48373378d2_m.jpg” width=”240″ height=”180″ alt=”mfc_IMG_0013″ /></a> There are rather more away fans in this picture (<a href=http://ken.wibsite.com/2010/03/22/millwall-and-charlton-part-one/> not that it did Charlton much good</a>) but where is Southwark Cathedral? The cathedral tower has gone! What weird deformation of space-time continuum has removed it from sight?

Things get worse. Follow the link to Flickr of this picture of the same view taken in April:
<a href=”http://www.flickr.com/photos/nephrops/4528325754/” title=”mfc_IMG_0027 by nephropsnorvegicus, on Flickr”><img src=”http://farm5.static.flickr.com/4045/4528325754_3fd9147fbd_m.jpg” width=”240″ height=”180″ alt=”mfc_IMG_0027″ /></a> (The opposition may have been Yeovil or some such side – as usual the stewards outnumber the vistors -  Millwall must be the friendliest ground in the country, every away supporter gets a personal police escort) But this blog is not about football!  Expand, I say, the picture and look carefully. <strong>THE CATHEDRAL HAS BEEN REPLACED BY SAURONS TOWER!!!!!</strong> What dark wizardry from the dawn of time is this?

But all is not yet lost. South London fights back! What is this strange yellow object rising above the fields and meadows of Deptord? <a href=”http://www.flickr.com/photos/nephrops/4526643446/” title=”stjohns_view_8162 by nephropsnorvegicus, on Flickr”><img src=”http://farm5.static.flickr.com/4067/4526643446_9913253e3e_m.jpg” width=”240″ height=”180″ alt=”stjohns_view_8162″ /></a>

Why! It is another tower!
<a href=”http://www.flickr.com/photos/nephrops/4526011481/” title=”brookmilrd_8157 by nephropsnorvegicus, on Flickr”><img src=”http://farm5.static.flickr.com/4018/4526011481_f43bce94b0_m.jpg” width=”180″ height=”240″ alt=”brookmilrd_8157″ /></a>

Surging into the sky over the babbling waters of the bonny brook the Ravensbourne:<a href=”http://www.flickr.com/photos/nephrops/4526634784/” title=”ravensbourne_ur_8138 by nephropsnorvegicus, on Flickr”><img src=”http://farm5.static.flickr.com/4061/4526634784_55e2db3bee.jpg” width=”375″ height=”500″ alt=”ravensbourne_ur_8138″ /></a>

Will it be enough to contain the Dark Power? Maybe – it shall noit be alone in the struggle, bereft of comrades. Look!  Here is a picture of St John’s Waterloo, taken from the bus-stop.  Select the largest size and look v ery, very, closely  and you will see that, in the distance, just in front of the 243 bus, A NEW TOWER RISES!!!!!! <a href=”http://www.flickr.com/photos/nephrops/4465773516/” title=”waterloo_8019 by nephropsnorvegicus, on Flickr”><img src=”http://farm5.static.flickr.com/4063/4465773516_142f30314f.jpg” width=”500″ height=”375″ alt=”waterloo_8019″ /></a>

Here it is from closer:<a href=”http://www.flickr.com/photos/nephrops/4526018131/” title=”shard_8179 by nephropsnorvegicus, on Flickr”><img src=”http://farm5.static.flickr.com/4019/4526018131_9f95b9dd89_m.jpg” width=”240″ height=”180″ alt=”shard_8179″ /></a>

Millwall and Charlton, What Happens Next?

That previous post (itself rehash of something I wrote somewhere else) is really just put here as a backdrop to my rather fanciful late-season predictions for League One. Which are based on fifty years studied ignorance of football, about four years of watching the odd Millwall match on TV and one season of watching them at home, and a lot of eavesdropping on late-night pub gossip. So if you make any bets based on these forecasts, you are an idiot.

I wrote these last week (before the very nice clutch of draws on Saturday 20th), but want to get them online before the Leeds Millwall match tonight. Which I fully expect Millwall to win. OK, maybe draw if they are lucky. Millwall always beat Leeds? Don’t we?

Automatic promotions: Norwich will continue to storm ahead and might well end up with over 100 points. The second place will be closely contested by Leeds, Colchester and Millwall, all in the high 80s. On current form my guess would be Leeds, but if Millwall can beat them at Elland Road tonight that might just dent their confidence enough. Colchester probably have the easiest set of late-season fixtures of the possible promotees. See previous post for why not Charlton. I think Swindon let in too many goals at home for them to be optimistic.

Play-off places: two of Leeds, Colchester and Millwall; then probably Huddersfield & Swindon in the low 80s. I don’t think Charlton can sustain their place up there with the form they have been showing, and there is an outside chance of MK Dons catching Huddersfield or maybe just possibly even Southampton (who are a clearly better team – probably better than any other in that league except Norwich and just possibly Leeds)

Promotion Play-offs: From what I’ve seen this season I’m pretty sure Millwall have a good chance of handling any or all of Leeds, Huddersfield, and Charlton. So if Millwall are in the play-offs its an even bet between them and Colchester, or just maybe Swindon. If Millwall go up automatically, then the money for the play-off place has to go on Leeds, Though in the unlikely event that Southampton can force their way thirteen points up the table in ten games, they would probably be good enough to beat anyone.

Relegation: Hartlepool, Wycombe, Tranmere, and Stockport. Southend and Exeter are seriously at risk but seem to have more going for them on the pitch than Tranmere, especially in away games. Brighton and Orient are safe now, and I think Brentford and Gillingham probably are too. Dunno about Oldham. Though the teams are so close together any of the bottom half of the table could still go down if they hit a bad patch, even Wallsall or Yeovil.

So bottom line: Norwich, Leeds, and Millwall to go up.

As for who they find when they get there, it looks very possible that Our Friends in the South, AKA Crystal Palace might be playing in Charlton next season after all, alongside Plymouth and Peterborough. But, of they don’t, Portsmouth is coming down into the Championship from the Premier League and there is a good chance that West Ham will be with them. Portsmouth, West Ham, Cardiff, Leeds and Palace all being in the same league as Millwall gets close to the FA’s worst crowd-control nightmare, so maybe Something Will Be Done. Some older and more paranoid Wall fans are convinced that we haven’t been allowed to be promoted in past years.

Then when Southampton, Brighton, and Charlton come up in 2011 we can rename it the South Eastern Happy Fans Football League. Or maybe the Palace? Palace? WTF is Palace? league.

Millwall and Charlton, part one.

Its unlike me to talk about football here – well, its unlike me to talk about any sport at all anywhere at all really. But this is a blog about places in general and south-east London in particular, and the two professional football teams with pretensions to be the local team for south-east London are in the running for promotion from League One to what I still think of as the Third Division to the Second – that is from League One to the Championship.

And that is a matter of some local importance. And I think Millwall will probably make it, and Charlton probably won’t.

Why such a low opinion of Charlton? Well, I was at the Millwall-Charlton match on the 13th March. I saw all ninety minutes. Charlton turned up as well, but the left about half an hour before full-time.

It was as they say a game of two halves. Or rather a two-thirds and a one-third. The first half was really boring. Both teams were playing for safety. Millwall got a goal just before half time, but it was lucky, and (for the home crowd) not enough. Charlton had the better of a rather dull play. Millwall supporters were slagging off their own team.

At half time I went out for a fag and spent the first ten minutes of the second half downstairs chatting to a bloke who works at our place and drinking overpriced lager while watching the rather boring game on the internal TV. Then I had a piss (the bogs are full of smokers) and went back into the stand – which took about ten minutes as the rather odd local interpretation of “all seater stadium” and “all ticket match” meant that there were some hundreds more spectators than seats and we were jostling for good spots on the stairs (I never got to sit down at all – I was standing on the steps just behind the Charlton goal – I and a couple of others got knocked over by rejoicing fans at one point).

Millwall substituted Neil Harris on, as they usually do in the second half. And the local crowd got behind their team, as they usually do when Harris comes on. And, right in front of my eyes, Charlton fell apart. They fell out of their collective pram. Maybe it was the psychological effect of playing in front of the loudest crowd in the league. They walked backwards off the end of the pier. They collapsed. Harris set up Hackett who tried for a goal and it bounced in off a Charlton player. They were stunned and didn’t know what to do. Within two minutes Morison (who the Millwall fans had been screaming stuff I wouldn’t want to repeat at in the first half) scored another goal (from the angle I was looking at it I thought the goalie saved it but it went over). From then on it was all downhill for Charlton. Some of their players were visibly shaking. It was almost sad. As if they were saying “how can they do this to us????”. A once good football team – only half an hour earlier a good football team – blundered around like amateurs. It was like seeing an old geriatric person going senile. A sad shell of their former self. Morison scored again less than five minutes later and from then on Charlton made no plays at all, no serious attempt to score, and the best they could muster was few egregious fouls that the ref let them get away with. They had lost the plot.

Seriously, it could easily have been five or six nil. By the end Millwall fans were singing “Let them score, let them score, let them score” out of pity – and “There’s only One Christian Daaaaailly” out of some other emotion. But Charlton never really had a hope.

Honestly, that isn’t an exaggeration. I have no idea what happened to them but they basically stopped trying to win. Christian Dailly – who has the own goal to his name though it probably wasn’t really his fault – looked as if he was crying and spent the last few minutes of the game (after his own foul Jonathan Obika led to a Millwall free kick that could have made it five-nil) apparently injured but not getting substituted, he sat out some of it over the side line. What I didn’t know at the some, being a clueless newbie at these things, is that Dailly was the West Ham player who scored an own goal for Millwall at the Mother’s Day Massacre exactly six years ago. So his career total of Millwall goals is larger than many of the players who actually play for Millwall. No wonder he was upset, it must be like a curse. A couple of other Charlton players seemed almost as shellshocked. They were a trainwreck.

Don’t just take my word for it – the official Charlton website says “in the closing stages Charlton capitulated tamely” and “The Valley boss said his side were simply not good enough in the second half after they surrendered meekly in the closing quarter of the game.” and “”Defensively our composure and possession in the second half went out of the window.”

Both the BBC and the Sky Sports websites report the Charlton shots on target as zero. Maybe if you put your hand into the lion’s den around Mother’s Day you should expect to get bitten.

Some-one made a nice video and put it on YouTube:

Nuts, it won’t post on the blog.   Well, until I can make it work you will just have to take my word that that is  that’s just what it sounds like :)

Out of the mouths of babes and sucklings…

…comes stuff I don’t want to repeat on a family-friendly website. Or it does if the kids in question are Millwall fans at the Cold Blow Lane end during a match.

Football is not a big part of my life, as everyone who knows me knows. (*) But people watch football in pubs. And I spend a lot of times in pubs. So I am often around people watching football. And it gives you something to talk about, it is a way of relating to the people around you. And as the people around me tend to be Millwall supporters I thought I would go and take a look.

So yesterday I went to the New Den to watch Millwall trash Huddersfield 3-1 (And that last Huddersfield goal ws a fluke. They were outclassed. There were at least three Millwall forwards better than anyone Huddersfield could put on the pitch, and one of them was supposedly playing as a defender. Neil Harris could have been in a different league from Huddersfield. I doubt if Leeds will go quite that smoothly though…)

I have to confess that I would have been nervous about going to the Den. That I almost was nervous. The place has a reputation. And I don’t go to football matches I didn’t really know how to go to football matches. How do you get in? Where do you buy a ticket? Can you just buy a ticket? What do you wear? What do you do when you get there? What if they think I’m from Huddersfield? Does anyone check on which team you really support?

I was late because I had something to do in Lewisham so I took a 47 bus, and there were traffic jams all whe way from the High Street to Evelyn Street so it might have been quicker to walk. Instead of going all the way up to Surrey Docks on the bus I got off at Deptford Park and walked along the Surrey Canal Road, and was heartened to see that I wasn’t the only latecomer, there were a dosen or so others all walking purposefully along the same way.

The stadium is next to one of the few remaining industrial areas in inner London, stuffed into an angle between the mainline railway out of London Bridge towards New Cross Gate and another local line that goes to Peckham via South Bermondsey. Its got four more or less identical stands, one on each side of the pitch, simple plain concrete structures that looks about as cheap and functional as a stadium could be.

Well, its easy to get in, if not cheap. You walk up and buy a ticket. And no-one checks that you are real or not or minds what you are wearing. Its mostly T-shirts, jeans and trainers. There were even a couple of blokes wearing sandals. A few adults but a lot of kids were in team colours. The crowd segregation is (at least for a low-profile game like this one) more or less voluntary. There is nothing other than common sense stopping a stray away fan from buying a ticket for the local end.

and the game had already just started when I bought my ticket, so by the time I found my way to a seat it was nearly ten minutes in. And the first thing that happened was two Millwall goals in about two minutes. Which is probably as bad a start as you can get – like a gambler who wins on their first visit to a casino. Maybe I’ll spend years expecting always to win.

Do the crowd deserve their reputation? Maybe they do. Its mostly male, though there were a few women. And mostly white. There are a few black fans as well – nowhere near as high a proportion as in the area round (which is one of the centres of population for Africans in London) but some. Including some young kids apparently on their own. There were a lot more children than I had thought there might be, though that might have been because of where I was sitting. As it was my first time I decided to sit down at the front, behind the goal – which is where the little kids tend to be, which is why I got to hear what they were saying. It seems the older supporters tend to like being higher up so they get a better view of the whole game.

As the game went on more and more of the children drifted to the front, and many of them were hanging arounds in the space between the seats and the pitch. Which is full of signs telling you to remain in your seat and never stand up and certainly not to go near the pitch. Apparently if you do you will be licked out of the ground and arrested and put on a database and not allowed to watch football again anywhere for ever, sent into internal exile in Scunthorpe, and your maiden aunts will be sold into slavery. Or something like that. It seems that these rules don’t apply to children in practice, and by end of the first half there were about fifty kids with bottles of coke and packets of crisps standing in the space in front of the seats. Some of them could hardly have been more than two years old. I wonder how seriously the club takes the “no standing” rule for children when they emply someone to dress up in a lion costume and wander round the pitch entertaining them?

There was a lot of shouting from our end (I couldn’t hear anything coming back the other way even when Huddersfield scored, but there were only a few hundred of them – and about thirty police guarding them) Millwall songs and chants tend not to be that tricksy or clever, and at the end when it was clear that the game was won it was nothing but the word “Mill” chanted on one note for some minutes, people dropping out to take a breath and others joining in so the chant kept up.

A lot of the shouting was obscene. Once the fans had a reputation for racism, but I heard none of that. But then we had more black players than they did. Unless you count “Your mother’s Welsh!” which doesn’t seem that insulting to me. I suppose “You dirty northern bastard!”, chanted after every foul, or supposed foul, from the other side is sort of regionalist of not racist, but its not said with much conviction. And Brighton fans used to yell it at any team, even Reading, which probably confused them. One player on the ground who looked like he might be injured got “Let him die, he’s only a northerner!” Which probably didn’t affect him much – I think he’s from Luton. But in the second half when they changed ends and the Huddersfield goal was right in the centre of the Millwall fans one or two of them did look a bit put out by the crowd.

Yes, a lot of it was sexist. Commenting on the sex or sexuality of the opposition players seems to be the staple insult. And the most popular four-letter word begins with C, not F. I’m not sure what “You’re a woman and so is your bird!” was meant to mean though.

Sometimes the insults were just confusing. What on earth is “fraggle!” meant to mean? Have I missed something?

And they start them young. The kids at the front were as rude (and mostly as unimaginative) as the adults. I’d be surprised if Daniel Drinkwater was very upset by a kid about five years younger than him shouting “Drink Lucozade!” every time he got near the line. And “Crawl back under the stone you came from!” sounds more odd than scary when the boy yelling it looks about eight at the most.

But the oddest Millwall supporter’s comment of the day was back at the local when West Ham were being beaten by Liverpool on the TV (and presumably on the pitch as well but all I saw was the TV). “What I can’t understand is how when the bloody Luftwaffe were bombing the East End every night they managed to miss Upton Park. Were they bribed?”

And at the ends of the match, most of the Millwall supporters seemed to walk home. There was certainly a long crocodile of people all the way down Ilderton Road to Old Kent Road, with smaller groups walking off at each side-street and estate we passed. Millwall is, I think, genuinely a local team with few if any supporters from more than a mile or two from the ground. I wonder how many other proffessional football teams that is true of?

(*) Saying “football is not a big part of my life” is putting it mildly. In fact I used to hate football. We were made to play it at school, which turned me off it for decades. School sport is in a way a form of child abuse or it is in a boy’s school anyway. It involves a kind of ritual pubic humiliation that you would never see in any academic subject, forcing the weaker or less skillful students to tray again and again and again to do things they are incapable of doing and punishing or mocking them when they fail. It is all too often institutionalised bullying. Part of its function was to separate off a minority of boys and mark them as suitable targets for scorn, which is a powerful way of boosting social solidarity among the majority. Bullying reinforces the social system in a hierarchical institution like a school. I don’t know if the teachers knew that that is what they were doing. I hope they didn’t. But it is what they were doing.

But, a lot later, I got over it. Partly through watching World Cup matches with some mates, partly through having a great time in a pub when Millwall got to the FA Cup Final. I suppose that was the day I made my peace with football. Not that football noticed.

The micro-ethno-geography of football.

Well, I went to the pub on Thursday when the Millwall/Leeds match was on. Support your local team and all that. (Though what support they get from me drinking a few pints I don’t know)

But what really is the local team? My mate Dave insists it ought to be Charlton. But then he was from Woolwich or some such place.

All the pubs round our way are Millwall if they are anything at all (not that that many pubs are open at all any more) And I think that local kids at the schools my daughter went to tended to be Millwall, if they supported any South or East London team. And I see far more Millwall than Charlton insignia in the local council estates. You don’t have to go very far to see more Charlton – just the other side of Lewisham High Street – but our exact location is more Millwall.

Just going by who turns up to drink in our local pubs when the footy is on TV, at a rough guess I’d say Arsenal actually gets the largest barstool following. Especially from black people (something I only noticed quite recently, I must be slow on the uptake) ManU and Chelsea are closely behind them. Though practically any Premiership game will draw a few viewers in.

Nerdish as it sounds, I actually have been counting the “extra” people in the pub when there is football on. For the recent Euro semi-finals, the Arsenal/ManU games got about 50 extra in when they were on Sky and about 30 on ITV. Chelsea/Barca was about 35 and 12. The management actually charged entry to the pub on a couple of those nights. Though of course those games sort of rate as internationals and so get more attention. For ordinary Premier League games both the ManU/Wigan and Newcastle/Middlesbrough matches got in about a dozen. They didn’t charge for the Millwall matches though!

Millwall aren’t on the telly that often of course, and when they are it tends to be one-off big games, so its not strictly comparable. The few matches that get shown on the TV in the pub tend to attract a big following though – the largest crowd I ever saw there was the day Millwall was in the FA cup final. Much, much, larger than the last couple of year’s finals.

But of the London sides that aren’t anywhere near the top of the Premiership, Millwall is clearly the most popular locally. Some support for Charlton, but not as much. Palace are all but off the radar – they seem to attract about as much comment as Fulham and QPR.

Maybe someone should produce a map of local and ethnic affiliations to London football clubs.

Are there actually Fulham neighbourhoods and Chelsea neighbourhoods? Or are they all mixed up together? Do they tend to split by class or race?

How far out into Essex does West Ham go? All the way to the coast I suspect, but I don’t know.

Is there still anyone in South West London who counts MK Dons as a local team? And is the hole in South-West London left by the defection of Wimbledon filled by Chelsea? Or Palace? Somehow I suspect it isn’t Brentford.

And who on earth supports Brentford anyway?.

And who is your local team if you live in Brixton? Certainly not Millwall – they fizzle out somewhere about Camberwell Green. Again I suspect Chelsea or just possibly Palace, but I’m not at all sure and am more then willing to be informed.

And while we’re at it, going south of London where is the cut-off line between Crystal Palace (Palace? Palace?) and Brighton? Or is it all Chelsea in posh Surrey? (For those few who support a local team at all I mean)

And is Hammersmith locally Fulham/Chelsea (as I would expect) or QPR (as a taxi driver from Shepherd’s Bush implied the other day? Though he also claimed that the reason West Ham have hammers on their badge is because they used to be connected with an ironworks which sounded totally spurious to me but seems to be true)

And are there or have there ever been any teams in London whose support is anti-Protestant or anti-Catholic (as you find in Scotland, and used to just a little bit in Liverpool and even Manchester)

How much truth is there in the stereotype that racist East Enders are more likely to support West Ham, but anti-racist ones either Arsenal or Spurs? (As famously portrayed by Warren Mitchell, the lefty Jewish Spurs supporter playing Alf Garnett as a Hammers man)

And if you are a posh Hampstead socialite, what is your local team? I suspect Arsenal somehow, even if QPR is closer. Bet it isn’t Barnet.

This is all valuable anthropological and ethnographic information! It should be documented somewhere!

Like the real Millwall chant, which seems to consist of some of them howling “Mill” as loud as they can, drawing the vowel out for maybe ten seconds, and others singing “wall” (a syllable which contains no consonants in a South London accent) at the same time (maybe they start together but they end in different places) so the combined noise is roughly a completely wordless “eeeeeeeerrrrrrrrrrrr” (or “uuuuuuuuuuuuuhhhhhhhhhhh” for rhotic Scots and Americans) Though how they thought anyone could hear them in Leeds is beyond me. But it was bloody loud where we were.

And incidentally is, I think, a deliberate playing-up to the media stereotype – portrayed as inarticulate thickos they have a laugh by acting the part. Why bother with words in your chant when no-one listens what you are saying anyway? The thing is a stance, a pose, an attitude. Not particularly a pleasant one to be honest, but a slightly different one from that affected by supporters of some other teams.

And Millwall are going to Wembley!

Bed leg city

Overheard in a pub:

“Journalists aren’t like us. They all live in a fantasy land. And TV is a fantasy land”

“Especially when Queen’s Park Rangers are on match of the Day”

“QPR? QPR are all about Stan Bowles”

“Tell me about it!”

“I just bloody did!”

In the aftermath of the Millwall/Leeds match last Saturday. Which was a Big Deal at our local pub. The place exploded when Millwall scored – it was almost enough to make me a fan. Looking forward to the second leg on Thursday. We are promised pie & mash.

Millwall fans, of course, aren’t like they used to be. As the small Millwall fan in the blue shirt explained to us while he was describing how he spent two months in Armley jail in Leeds for assaulting a police officer (“I should have got more”). But apparently they are all diamonds up there and the looked after him even though he was the only Londoner in the nick, and so got called “Cockney”. Unlike Durham jail, “bed leg city”, where he feared for both his life and his honour. Not that he put it that way.

I’m not any kind of a football fan of course. Though I more or less made my peace with football a few years back when Millwall was in the FA cup – it was a fun day.

I used to hate football when I was a boy. I was bad at it, skinny and asthmatic and slow, and we were forced to play at school whether we liked it or not. From my point of view sport was what games get turned into when they become compulsory. Secondary school was worse than primary

Sport on TV – which is not really sport at all of course, because its just something you watch, not something they make you do – is more fun if you care who wins. Just as horse racing is more fun if you have a bet on. So if I’m in the pub watching football perhaps I ought to have a horse in the race

So if I was a football fan, which would my team be? You can’t just pick one, you need to care. It would be pointless just looking around for a team that seems to be winning a lot and deciding to be a fan. Though that seems to be what some people do, with all these Manchester United and Chelsea fans you find around the place. Pointless. There needs to be some local connection.

Well, I’m from Brighton, and I live in an area that supports Millwall, and I have some distant family connections with Newcastle supporters, so that gives me three candidate teams. How are they doing?

I took look a few weeks back and it seemed that Brighton and Newcastle were almost certain to get relegated from their leagues. And I didn’t want that to happen. I did care, a little. Especially about Brighton. Not that I really care very much for the football team, but I do care, very much, for the city. I want the team to stay up for the same reason I want the new stadium at Falmer to be built. Its my home town.

And mysteriously, all of a sudden, they started winning. And now they are completely safe from relegation this year. So a result already!

And then I watched Saturday’s Millwall/Leeds match in the pub, and realised that I did in fact want them to win. And was genuinely excited when they did. And am looking forward to the replay (at Leeds – a lot harder job to win there). And, on Monday, feeling in an odd mood after a very frustrating school governor’s meeting (Our little school has been on the national news, and not in a good way) i popped into the pub and saw Newcastle thrash Middlesbrough 3:1. I was thrilled. 3:1! A sort of local Derby (though not as big as a Sunderland match would be) and both in the relegation zone so if there was a draw it was likely that both would go down. And now Newcastle is in with a chance!

So there we go. Maybe not one but three horses in the race. And possibly in different races as well, if Millwall go up (which is at least possible) and Newcastle stay up (which is now almost likely). So three bloody good results so far.

The only trouble is, that’s probably as good as it gets…