The Champo keeps doing this to us, reminder after reminder after reminder that we have to play Millwall twice a season now. Starting with this game, which is literally against Millwall, at Millwall. Part of me would like to force Jesse Marsch to come back for this one to punish him for landing us in it, but then I remember he would have been absolutely insufferable if he’d been coaching us through it for real: ‘Y’know, I’ve heard a lot about the atmosphere, and I gotta be honest with you, bring it on, man (weird chuckle), bring it on (obtuse anecdote about college basketball)’.
A chaotic night at Elland Road that threatened to become another low in our post-Christmas slump on the way to promotion: 2-0 down at half-time without Kalvin Phillips or brand new signings Jean-Kevin Augustin and Ian Poveda, Leeds were booed off. They came back early for the second half and within twenty minutes the score was 3-2, thanks to one of those awesome spells when Leeds weren’t so much mounting waves of attacks as one long attack occasionally interrupted by goals. Two of them were from Pat Bamford, inspiring his infamous hands-on-ears ‘celebration’; Pablo Hernandez got the other, then the spotlight was back on Bamford doing a very appropriate but highly uncharacteristic hoolie dance in front of Millwall’s keeper. That helped prevent Millwall doing an unjust double over Leeds. They’d beaten us 2-1 in Bermondsey in October but only thanks to a red card incompetently given against Gaetano Berardi – later overturned on appeal – by James Linington, a ref Lee Bowyer had previously said “Shouldn’t be reffing” after watching him being intimidated by Steve Evans.
Their story since then
Well, we haven’t had to play them, so that’s good enough for me. It has been a close thing though. Their story, since Gary Rowett replaced Neil Harris as manager, has been about concerning underachievement, concerning from the point of view of anyone who finds the idea of Millwall achieving anything to be terrible. They nearly followed us up in our title season, finishing two points outside the play-offs, and they’ve been hovering around with their eyes on promotion ever since: 11th, then 9th, then 8th last season, a point away from the last play-off spot. Given last season’s play-off final was between Coventry City and victors Luton Town, the Championship seems to have become a division that is very hard to get out of, but also, absolutely anyone can get out of. Could even the Premier League spin Luton versus Millwall as a Super Sunday glamour tie? We’ve never been closer to finding out.
Their situation now
I could describe Millwall’s start to the season as reassuringly lousy if only they hadn’t won more games than us and weren’t above us in the table. They’re now without last season’s star loanees (I promise) Charlie Cresswell and Jamie Shackleton, but new striker Kevin Nisbet has already scored two since joining from Hibernian. Maybe they’ve finally found a centre-forward to replace Mathieu ‘le grand’ Smith. Otherwise, it’s largely the same bunch of scoundrels still trying to do the same things: Jake Cooper has over 300 appearances for them now, Shaun Hutchinson is still there, Murray Wallace, George Saville, Tom Bradshaw. They’re just going to finish 8th or 9th again aren’t they? Surely you’d get bored.
‘Lasogga, gerrin t’box you fat…’
— Phil (@leedsunited86) January 20, 2018
Becchio, obviously, didn’t need telling.
Better to forget
Pretty much all of it. Even those two memorable moments above came during defeats, the second a particularly painful play-off semi-final. Going back to 1985, our record at Millwall is W3 D2 L14, so there’s still a strong argument for just giving them the three points and saving ourselves the time and petrol. ⬢