You may have heard that there was quite a good game of football at Upton Park last night.
Millwall allowed West Ham to play pretty football in their own half and then cleverly pressed us into playing chipped passes to a lone striker who battled manfully, with scant support from a pedestrian midfield, against two centre backs. When the opposition got the ball they broke swiftly and intelligently with forwards making angled runs into space to pull our defenders out of position so that midfielders could exploit the space they left behind. I thought Millwall were excellent last night and if they carry on playing like that they'll get out of League 1 at a canter.
I was disappointed with West Ham. It was the type of football Alan Cautioulsy had us playing. The type that led me to give up my season ticket at the end of the season before last because I refused to pay out another £900 to watch such crap. It was like going back in time.
And talking of going back in time, apart from a very decent football match there were some other incidents of note that took place last night.
I hate writing about incidents like these because just thinking about it is making my blood boil.. There have already been several statements along the lines of "the worst violence at a football match that I've ever seen". We should count ourselves fortunate that we have come through the era when fighting inside and outside of stadiums was a weekly occurrence in scores of towns and cities EVERY SINGLE WEEK. So ok, I will grant you that last night was the worst violence I have seen in a ground….. since the late 70's
So who was to blame ? West Ham Utd FC? Millwall FC? The police ?
Leaving aside the bigger debate about society's ills and inbred tribalism (a debate that should be held at parliamentary level) West Ham and the police must take a lot of the blame for not having enough presence inside the ground in the corner where the West Ham and Millwall fans were goading each other.
The goading started well before the kick off and it was blindingly obvious that if there was going to be trouble then that's where it would have started. When the first pitch invasion took place there were some police there but it seemed to me they were outnumbered by stewards. And the stewards - many of them very young men - were like rabbits caught in headlights and totally unprepared for the human wave of vitriol that surged over the barriers towards them.
Kenny Jacket has intimated that the Millwall fans were totally blameless because they sat where they were supposed to. I'm sure that had nothing to do with the heavy police cordon that penned them in and everything to do with the way the little lambs have been brought up by their parents. Yeah, bless their cotton socks because it's not as though they've ever caused trouble anywhere else is it ?
As I mentioned before, we have come a long, long way since the carnage of the 70s and much of that progress has been made because the police got more organised, infiltrated the gangs and CCTV cameras made it less easy for the hooligans to evade punishment even when they were in a mob.
So at the very least we can level a charge of gross complacency at West Ham and the police for underestimating the hatred between the two sets of fans. But they may claim mitigating circumstances because they had to deploy so many officers outside the ground that they just didn't have enough left over to take care of trouble inside the ground ? A steward I spoke to last night said there were fans marauding through the streets wearing Spurs shirts, Man Utd shirts and Chelsea shirts. A veritable feast of football "fans" eh ?
Answering my own question I'd say that the fans are to blame for instigating the violence and West Ham and the police are to blame for not anticipating the scale of it.
There will be investigations and they will inevitably lead to recriminations. And if we merely receive another hefty fine then the authorities will have bottled it big time once again because we will find the money, football clubs always do.
In my opinion the only punishment that will have any effect is to remove West Ham from the competition because until the fu**ing idiots that perpetrate these crimes realise that their beloved team will suffer as a result of their actions they will continue to act like fu**ing idiots.
Going forward I would also suggest that all future games between Millwall and West Ham are played behind closed doors.
Amidst all the tragic scenes that I witnessed last night there is one etched indelibly in my mind : At the final whistle, Jack Collison, a supremely talented 20 year old product of our own youth academy strode single-mindedly towards a place in the Bobby Moore stand where he obviously had some private memories and some private tributes to pay to the father he had lost just two days earlier. The poor kid had put in a sterling performance on the night and as he stood, supported on both sides by club officials, blotting his tears with his West Ham shirt he seemed oblivious to the final batch of f**king idiots who had run on the pitch.
A single, sad, brave and dignified figure who had just honoured the club and the shirt he wears with such pride …….surrounded by morons wearing the same shirt. It was so incongruous it was breathtaking.