Family: Life, Death and Football - A Year on the Frontline with a Proper Club

Family: Life, Death and Football - A Year on the Frontline with a Proper Club

Michael Calvin

Language: English

Pages: 320

ISBN: 1906850267

Format: PDF / Kindle (mobi) / ePub

Award-winning sports writer Michael Calvin follows lower league UK soccer team Millwall FC through an emotional promotion season. There for the first day of training, he was on the substitutes’ bench at Wembley, 333 days later. In an environment which is less than glamorous, he vividly portrays players and management as family men, close to their roots.

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putting your fate in the hands of idiots. You’re hoping they are not mad enough to do you harm.’ During the initial invasion, when he was abused as ‘a fucking wanker’ and ‘Millwall scum’, he had been able to smell the alcohol on fans’ breath. Local pubs, and bars serving home fans at the ground, had remained open, despite warnings. In the circumstances, no one gave a thought to Kenny Jackett, the Millwall manager, who considered the scenes the worst he had witnessed in 32 years in football.

move him in and out, because of the build-up of games.’ Tony Burns added the rider that ‘his work rate is unbelievable. He knows himself really well.’ Richard Shaw agreed: ‘Neil knows he is going to have to step out for some games. That’s OK with him. He seems to know how to play at home, and what the crowd wants.’ Everyone nodded when Jackett summed up: ‘Some man, isn’t he?’ The pair have history. Harris was part of the fixtures and fittings Jackett inherited. His legend was woven into the

school at fifteen. The dockers were fierce, garrulous, Millwall to a man. He unloaded wood from barges owned by club director Bill Nelan, who named the fleet after Millwall players. The exception was one that chugged along bearing the legend Promotion. He rejected £4 a week to sign a professional contract at the club, in favour of the extra 35 shillings (that’s £1.75, kids) on offer on the Thames. His father, enraged, chased him out of the house. ‘That’s the only time he ever frightened me’,

and John Wooden. ‘We’ve got so much faith in Kenny’, he said. ‘He’s got full strategic control.’ Brunton Park is an architectural oddity. Millwall’s 200 fans were cloistered in the corner of the incomplete East Stand, which ran twenty yards past the end of the pitch, which could not be moved to compensate. They bounced around to keep warm, and struck up a chant of ‘It’s just like watching Milan’ when Morison scored with a sumptuous eighteen-yard chip, after Shaun Batt had headed on Forde’s

back”’, said Robinson. ‘It’s funny, but sometimes as a player, you get that feeling: “The fight will go out of these.”’ Sure enough, twelve minutes from time, Colchester succumbed to a self-inflicted wound. Substitute Shaun Batt, whose pace and unorthodox gait bewildered left back Marc Tierney, seized on an incisive Dunne throw, and volleyed it into the box. As it hit the head of Colchester substitute Danny Baath, Alexander screamed, ‘It’s in!’ His striker’s instinct had enabled him to read the

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