London has many fashionable clubs, some of the biggest in the world. But if you want a more authentic football experience, with real football fans, look no further than Millwall. It’s a club with a no-nonsense, hard reputation and for many years visiting teams and fans used to dread the trip to South East London due to the intimidating atmosphere. It’s still a passionate place but these days, thanks to the hard work of many people at the club, it is far more family friendly and an afternoon match at Millwall is far more inviting.
Their ground, The Den, is located in a working class area of London just south of the River Thames. In the distance you can see the gleaming towers of Docklands, home to the world’s most powerful financial district where millionaire bankers trade billions of pounds, euros and dollars in currency. It is a stark contrast.
Millwall Football Club was founded in 1885, by a group of Scots working in the Isle of Dogs. In 1910, the club moved to New Cross and the then newly built arena The Den, which would become Millwall's home until 1993.
Millwall’s traditional fanbase comes from the era when London was the world’s busiest port, and they were originally known as The Dockers before taking the nickname The Lions. For decades those tough dock workers finished their Saturday shifts and headed straight to The Den for an afternoon on the terraces. They became famous for the ‘Millwall Roar’, with their partisan support creating a hostile atmosphere.
It led to the song that is still sung today:
»We are Millwall, Super Millwall,
We are Millwall, from The Den.
No-one likes us, no-one likes us,
no-one likes us, we do not care. "
Millwall in Division One
Millwall spent most of their early years in the lower leagues but in 1988 they finally reached Division One for the first time in their history. They started their first season in great style, leading the Football League in October after winning four and drawing two of their opening six games. The good form continued as the strike force of Teddy Sheringham and Tony Cascarino fired in the goals. They eventually slipped to tenth spot, and the following season they were relegated back to Division Two.
Off the field The Den was now in a terrible state, hooliganism persisted on the terraces and the club decided to build a new stadium. In 1993 they arrived at what was then called The New Den, a 20,000 all-seater stadium barely 400 metres from their old ground. They still play there today, with the ground now renamed The Den. It’s a smart stadium, with four distinct stands in a very British style, sandwiched between railway lines. Their former stadium was demolished and houses stand on the site.
Millwall reach the FA Cup Final
Millwall haven’t managed to reach the top division again, although they have reached the play-offs three times. However their fans have been treated to some great cup runs and a few giant-killing upsets along the way. In 2003 former Chelsea player Dennis Wise became player manager and in that season The Lions marched all the way to the FA Cup Final. It made them the first club from outside the top division to reach the final since QPR in 1982.
The final was played at the Millennium Stadium in Cardiff as Wembley was being rebuilt: Millwall were without a number of players due to injury and suspension and lost 3-0 to Manchester United. However, as United were already in the Champions League Millwall took their place in the UEFA Cup. They were drawn against Hungarian side Ferencvaros and although they drew the home leg, they lost 3-1 in Budapest.
In the 2016-2017 FA Cup Millwall knocked out three Premier League clubs – Bournemouth, Watford and Premier League champions Leicester City – on a run to the quarter finals. They reached the same stage two years later.
Millwall’s big rivalry is with East End side West Ham United, although the clubs have found themselves in different divisions over the past few decades. Their games are not for the faint-hearted! There are also rivalries with South London clubs Charlton Athletic and Crystal Palace.
If you visit The Den, you can also take the opportunity to take a guided tour of the arena. Contact Nickes.Com and we will help you with your football trip to London.