Two Millwall fans tell us their thoughts ahead of the game at Vale Park on Tuesday…
Thanks to REP for posing the questions
About the fans…
BOB ASPREY – This is my 50th season! My first match was during our unbeaten run of 59 home games which was a new record at the time. My Dad wasn’t interested in football and I started going to the old Den with my school mates and the die was cast. The club is celebrating the 50th anniversary by playing in striped shirts similar to our mid-sixties strip. While we are not big on wearing replica shirts or the other 21st century football paraphernalia, the striped shirts seem popular with young and old alike. However, we’ll probably play in our yellow strip on Tuesday, which was designed by the winner of a competition for supporters.
JAMIE HOWLETT – I was taken to my first game in 1988 I think. I had periods of attending every game and not going much at all (life happens) but I’ve been a season ticket holder again for the past four years now.
About the opposition…
How do you expect your team to do this season?
The Sun put as down as favourites for winning the league! It shows what they know about the third division…
BOB ASPREY – Whilst we had a terrible end to last season, when we failed to turn up at the play-off final, our form towards the end of the season was otherwise excellent. Consequently our expectations are high this season and the Sun put as down as favourites for winning the league! It shows what they know about the third division. We made a good start with the momentum from last season, but we were thrashed at Peterborough and we haven’t been quite the same since. The last three performances have been awful and we have now drifted to 8th, below your lot. Hopefully we can get back to automatic winning form, but more likely we’ll end up somewhere like 5th. How about a play off semi-final at Vale Park?
JAMIE HOWLETT – Automatic promotion is a goal and should be a reality – last season a wee bit more consistency and seeing out games when ahead would have seen us above the play offs. Our recent form has dropped but I don’t think it’s anything to panic about. We’re top six definitely, but we should be challenging the top two.
What are your thoughts on the manager and his signings?
When all is fine it’s great, but when things aren’t working there isn’t a lot there to pick from…
BOB ASPREY – Neil Harris is young, a Lions legend, and has had a successful start to his career in management. However, no-one is exempt from criticism and he is not short of advice when we look very one-dimensional, which tends to be when we are losing!
He has restored a lot of pride in the team, and indeed the supporters, a lot of which had disappeared in the Ian Holloway relegation era. Most of the signings were done early on, and on a one-out, one-in basis. We have no loans.
We have a very small squad and with nothing else available until January we are not well equipped to deal with injuries in key positions. We have, however, a decent crop of youngsters now, some of whom are ready, or nearly ready, to step up.
Lee Gregory scored 27 goals last season, including three against Vale, but he has been injured and hasn’t started since 20th August. We are hoping that he will be back and firing by Tuesday. Aiden O’Brien has deputised and scored four, but it is Steve Morison who has been player of the season for us so far.
JAMIE HOWLETT – Neil Harris is getting better as a manager all the time, and still figuring things out as he goes. Sometimes it seems like he hasn’t got a back-up plan but I think that’s also a consequence of him going with a thin squad and utilising academy players (we have 23 players in the squad right now and 10 of them are under the age of 23). When all is fine it’s great, but when things aren’t working there isn’t a lot there to pick from.
He filled the necessary spots early on. David Worrall has been a pretty constant sight on the wide right and has chipped in with goals and assists. Shaun Hutchinson was a good pick-up but has barely played due to injury, and with fans turning on captain Tony Craig in defence, he is needed back fit. Greg Wylde has made sporadic appearances on the left wing but has been very disappointing and Calum Butcher has only made a couple of appearances since his signing in the transfer window He could still be the box to box midfielder we need.
Your thoughts on the board?
BOB ASPREY – There is a bit of a hiatus here at the moment regarding the proposed regeneration of the area around the Den. Former sponsors Lewisham Council have taken an anti-Millwall stance and have started the process of compulsorily purchasing some of the land currently leased to Millwall FC and Millwall Community Trust around the Den. This is despite Millwall submitting their own plans to develop these areas. So, the supporters are currently backing the board in our battle against our own local authority through the website www.DefendOurDen.com. This is currently dominating off-field activities at the Den. You can’t beat a bit of adversity to bring people together.
JAMIE HOWLETT – They’ve backed the manager in picking up players and offloading those who he didn’t want around. Some fans will never like the board due to perceived heavy-handedness of stewarding (arresting a man in front of his son for nicking a match ball, for example) but they do a lot of things well. Off the field is dominated by the Defend Our Den campaign. Millwall wish to develop a few parcels of land in the scheme to help generate profits for the club and safeguard the future (we lose millions a year), but the Council triggered compulsory purchase orders on them, rejecting the club’s plans. But that has been rejected and sent back to the Council as they haven’t made a compelling case, so we’re still in limbo and hopeful that we can have a slice of what will be a major regeneration of the area.
[OVF Editor note – As football fans we are all part of one family. OVF backs Millwalls’s Defend Our Den campaign as we feel the council do not have the club’s best interests at heart. We have signed the petition at the Defend Our Den website and urge other Vale fans to do so through this link]
A score prediction and predicted away following?
BOB ASPREY – Looks like a tricky away trip this one. We haven’t kept a clean sheet (apart from the Checkatrade Trophy) since August 9th, so Port Vale 2 (Jones 2) Millwall 1 (O’Brien). The turnout will be much the same as last season probably, me plus another two hundred and something.
JAMIE HOWLETT – A draw wouldn’t be terrible if we win against Rochdale and stop this short skid we’ve been on. I’d envisage goals so 1-1 or 2-2. I would love a win as ever with Gregory, if he’s fit, as a favourite to get on the scoresheet. For a Tuesday night I would expect the usual 200 or so.
About the Vale…
Where do you think Vale will finish?
BOB ASPREY – Blimey, how do you tell? There have been so many changes at Vale Park you can’t know if you’re coming or going. You don’t have any players left who I know, although I think you’ve a kid from Brum [OVF editor – Alex Jones] who’s scoring the goals. You’ve made a very good start but your lack of Football League (I nearly said EFL) experience may count against you. So you will be 8th.
JAMIE HOWLETT – I haven’t a clue sorry!
A guide for Vale fans…
Can you tell us something about your side we may not know?
BOB ASPREY – We had the largest number of supporters of any one club at a Wembley final – which was 48,000 for the AWS Trophy Final v Wigan in 1999. We beat Bournemouth in a penalty shoot-out on the way to Wembley in 1999. This was the last time we won one, losing all six we’ve had since. We have played West Ham 99 times, winning 38 and losing 34. We haven’t won the World Cup though.
JAMIE HOWLETT – Though our merchandise is selling better than ever, if you look at the away end you’ll hardly see a replica shirt, unlike most teams. For “new” grounds or big matches we can travel in impressive numbers – 1,500 all the way to Shrewsbury last season, 2,000 to MK Dons recently. Considering the average home attendance is around 9,000 that’s a good turnout.
Despite the image we do a lot of work in the local community, in schools and for charity, regularly raising large sums of money for good causes. We look after our own.