Millwall passed a test on the pitch against Bournemouth in the FA Cup with flying colours on Saturday, January 7 only to face a battle off it with Lewisham Council. The issue? The compulsory purchase of land around The Den to be decided at a meeting set for Wednesday, January 11.
The club had come out fighting, publicly saying that if the council approved these CPO’s then they might be forced to move out of London and to Kent.
Although this could be just a threat (a year or two ago I would have said there was no chance of this happening) it is now a possibility, albeit a fairly unlikely one.
Our club has a proud history in London.
Being founded on the Isle Of Dogs by workers in JT Morton’s factory back in 1885, we eventually moved south of the Thames in 1910. We then moved to our current ground in 1993.
We pride ourselves on being a working class club, a club with character. All our grounds have been intimidating for opposition players and visiting supporters.
The current ground might not be as intimidating as the original Den but it still creates more atmosphere than most, particularly when we host a big match.
To lose all this history by moving to Kent would risk losing what makes us different from other clubs.
True, a lot of our supporters have moved away from south and east London but moving to Kent is not the answer.
At least people can travel into London by train from where they now live.
Many of these supporters would have worse journeys to any new ground in Kent and such a prospect throws the future of the club into question as many supporters would stop attending home matches regularly.
This is even before we think about where we would get the money to develop a new ground.
Lewisham Council should be backing the club as we have backed them and their community for many, many years. They should not be choosing an offshore company ahead of the Lions.
Imagine taking the club out of the community and what hole that would leave in many people’s lives.
Beating Bournemouth 3-0 in the FA Cup third round was a special result.
We got stuck into them from the off, not allowing them time on the ball until we had taken a 2-0 lead and could then back off as we had something to then defend.
Even though Bournemouth had made 11 changes from the team that had drawn 3-3 with Arsenal in the previous match, the team named still cost many millions to assemble and the wages they are on dwarf those of our squad.
But the passion that Millwall supporters created in our central London home transferred to the performance of our team.
That result should have sent a message to Lewisham Council about what they could be losing forever.
The fourth round draw saw us drawn at home against another Premier League side, Watford.
The Hornets like Bournemouth are another team that at times in the last 20 years could easily have been deemed a smaller club than us.
But being in the Premier League now with the huge television deal being shared around the 20 clubs like pigs at a trough means they are on a different level.
Let’s hope the FA Cup acts as a leveller.
This Saturday we make the short trip to The Valley to again take on our south-east London rivals Charlton. More than pride is at stake as we look to keep the pressure on the teams above us in the table.
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