My first Millwall game was on Saturday 17 December 1960, to many including me a lifetime ago. Some things I remember as if yesterday, some things I have until now never known.
Our three two victory over York City, after being two nil down, has been with me for over fifty years and probably led to a lifetime of following and loving the Lions. The Manager of Millwall at my first game was a Mr JR Smith and I humbly admit has never once come to mind or been part of any conversation I have ever entered into concerning Millwall.
JR Smith was Manager from 22 August 1959 until 28 January 1961. A duration of 1 year 5 months and six days. In that period he oversaw us in 79 games, winning 30, drawing 24 and losing 25. A winning percentage of nearly 38% for all those who now crave for this type of information having been bought up with Sky Sports and all their meaningless statistics, stolen from American sports broadcasters I hasten to add, who in my opinion have a higher regard for the stats than the action.
Now I mention the honorable J R Smith as I know nearly much about his managerial competence than I do about our current incumbent Mr
S M Lomas, other than that I know Lomas first name is Steve, that he did fairly well at St Johnstone, guiding them to a Europa League place and that God forbid he played and captained West Ham United.
Now if it wasn’t for the link with West Ham United I wonder what reaction his appointment would of had with the incredible loyal and passionate supporters of Millwall. His appointment in some quarters to say the least has not gone down well. At this point I must admit I would of been as equally upset, as many fans in respect of Lomas’s arrival, if he had come from Crystal Palace, I’m old school in this and for me Palace have always been our arch rivals and the team I dislike with a passion. Everyone to there own I suppose.
Dislikes are often irrational, I for one do not like us signing players from Palace to the extent that it takes me months to come to terms with players signing for us from them who played for us previously. Darren Ward and Tony Craig come to mind.
But as those who have read my ramblings previously I digress quite a bit and I go back to the question would he have received such a reaction if had not been in East London with the Hamsters for eight years and 187 games? It is likely that the majority of fans would of been reasonably pleased, if not pleased at least prepared to give him a chance. Talk of returning season tickets and not going to games until he has moved on have been circulating and I am sure have some truth. it is not something I could do irrespective of how strong my view of his appointment are.
Like players and directors, managers will come and go. The fans, most of us anyway, stick with the team and the club for a lifetime. For us we take in equal measure the ups and downs of following our team.
The unpopular appointment of Steve Lomas got me thinking of how I have reacted over the years to a new manager. Kenny Jackett when his name came up last time round I though, at the time, was a poor choice and dare I say it a cheap option. How wrong I was proved. He brought stability to the club, got us out of the dreadful first division, gave us two play off finals at Wembley and an FA Cup semi final there last season. In addition for the last season and a half he has had us comfortably placed in the Championship, I know it was touch and go at the end, but we did survive for which I am truly grateful.
Kenny Jackett achieved all the above on a very limited budget, some very average players and average attendances of between eleven and twelve and a half thousand. On reflection an incredible feat when compared to the attendances and spending powers of many of our opponents.
Over the years we have had some terrible managers, Anderson, Nicholl, Lee, Tuttle, Spackman and Donachie, fortunately some were here for a relatively short period. Can Lomas be any worse than these? Time will tell.
Bonds too came from across the water and although not a hugely popular choice never came close to the feeling generated by Lomas’s arrival. His eight months in charge was eight months to long in my opinion, but not because of his links with West ham but that he just wasn’t up to the role.
It fairness we have had unpopular managers who did well for us, George Petchey, John Docherty and Mark McGhee, even with promotion sides took more than their fair share of stick and outright abuse from the faithful.
Wise with a fairly hefty budget, for us anyway, got us to an FA Cup final and two games in Europe but certainly had his critics as did George Graham and Bruce Rioch and at the end of his tenure Mick McCarthy..
Jago wanted to change our image out of all recognition and craved to have us playing under the name of Bermondsey United or whatever and his allowing of us to be part of a Panorama programme on football hooliganism put the club back years and arguably the reputation of the club has never recovered from it, even if it is often claimed we have tried harder than most to eradicate bad behaviour and racism and whatever else they can pin on football or society for that matter.
But amongst all the dross we’ve had some good uns, Benny Fenton, Ron and Billy Gray and of course Steve Claridge the only manager to have never lost a game under his stewardship. Alright we never played a game with him in the hot seat, but a stats a stat.
We may look back in the months ahead wishing for the return of Kenny Jackett but I for one hope we don’t. How wonderful would it be for Steve Lomas to put together an attractive, and successful team that we could not only be proud of but get right behind, where coming to the Den was like the old days, unpleasant and bloody difficult to get a result.
Football of course is all about opinions, one of the many things that makes the game great and so appealing to millions off fans the world over. Different views amongst fans and heated debate is common place and healthy. Who would argue that there is nothing better than a football discussion over a beer or two?
Millwall fans don’t sit on their hands and accept club decisions lightly and without comment. Never have and never will. Every Millwall fan has a right to voice his opinion and there is nothing wrong with an opinion that Lomas is the wrong choice, for whatever reason.
I’m looking forward to the new season and it will be interesting to see, as always, how things pan out and in particular how our new manager is received by the majority of our fans. A good start will help him immensely. It won’t be easy for him and I believe our help and support will be beneficial both to him and the team. A few new signing with a goal scorer a priority will help.
So purely for Millwall and all its fans I wish only success for Mr S M Lomas and hope that one day we will all look back on his appointment with justifiable pleasure and pride. John Berylson got it right with Kenny Jackett and did well to hold onto him for six years. He might just have got it right again. I truly hope so.
A cup win at the Boleyn next season would also be most welcomed, too much to hope for ……. no.