I’ve never been a massive fan of Yasmin Alibhai-Brown. But when she ignorantly waded into the racism in football debate last year with her ill-informed article in the Independent newspaper dated 23rd October 2012 and wrote that Millwall fans “still behave like animals when they watch black players”, my liking of her waned even further. Not only were the comments unfounded but so too were they misdirected: it was a handful of overpaid, egotistical players who were being racist, not the fans.
It wasn’t only me who was incensed by this totally misguided article, but so too were Millwall Football Club, numerous supporters, as also a number of different equalities and anti-racism organisations. These included Lord Herman Ouseley, a lifelong Millwall supporter and founder and Chair of Kick it Out, the football equality organisation. Because of this, the Press Complaints Commission agreed to investigate the article further.
‘Big Kitch’ was a true legend at Millwall, an old school player who spent almost his entire career playing for one club. Unsurprisingly, he holds the record of being Millwall’s longest serving player, making 602 senior appearances for the club.
When I first started going to watch Millwall with my grandad in the 1970s, Big Kitch was still playing for the club. He was my grandad’s favourite player and having to listen to my grandad praise him week in, week out has left a wonderful legacy with me: a true Roy of the Rovers character, one of ‘us’, a man who gave everything for Millwall.
Yesterday the team wore black armbands in Big Kitch’s honour. Below is the tribute from the Millwall FC website:
Big Kitch, Gentle Giant, Mr Millwall to Lions fans or quite simply Barry, Dad and Grandad to his family – Barry Kitchener was quite simply a lovely, genuine human being whose sudden passing is as cruel as it is premature.
Back in January 2009, I posted on this blog about the MIllwall Football Club legend that is Neil Harris. At the time he had just scored his 112th goal for the club, making him the highest goalscorer in the club’s 125 year history. Yesterday it was announced that Neil had left Millwall to join Southend FC. So significant was this that ‘Neil Harris’ was actually ‘trending’ on Twitter.
Last night, Neil Harris became the highest goalscorer in Millwall’s history by scoring his 112th goal for the club. His 1st came on 19th September 1998 against Northampton Town. His 112th came on the 13th January 2009 against Crewe Alexandra. Without any irony, Neil Harris is a true football legend.
During his two spells at Millwall, Haris has experienced many ups and downs. In his first season, he scored an amazing 25 goals having joined the club from non-league Cambridge City, playing part time whilst holding down a full time job in a Japanese insurance company.
In his second season, he won the ‘Golden Boot’ as League One’s top goalscorer with 28 goals helping Millwall win the League at the same time.
In the same year, Harris was also diagnosed with testicular cancer. He fought against it having undergone intense treatment and surgery to return to the first team little more than a year later. In the process, he set up the Neil Harris Everyman Appeal.
This week I’ve…
…watched Millwall FC beat Bristol Rovers FC (3-2) from the press box at The New Den as a guest of the Club (for writing the piece in the programme about Ernie Allen, here)
…listened to (and watched) Jarvis Cocker at the Birmingham Carling Academy
…read The Guardian newspaper daily whilst off work sick
…laughed at running round the room with my arms tucked behind my back (stupid I agree – but it was funny…!!!)
…despaired at the destructive behaviour and hurt that families are easily and repeatedly capable of
…had hope about 2009 – in many ways, it can’t be any worse than 2008 (can it…???)
…been completely random about not being deep but definitely profoundly shallow (quoted from Jarvis Cocker)
I’m re-publishing this short piece that I wrote for Millwall Football Club as it was printed in the programme from yesterday’s 3-2 victory over Bristol Rovers FC. As invited guests to the match by the Millwall Press team (thanks Neil), we had a great day and enjoyed the match.
I can’t reminisce about Millwall’s first season in the top flight of English football without remembering one person: my grandad, Ernie Allen.