To Hull and Back...
Once again the press took great delight in dragging the name of Millwall Football Club through the gutter and the old news reel footage of the riot at Luton Town in 1985 was dusted down and aired once more alongside footage taken on mobile phones in Hull. The radio phone-alls were swamped with calls from irate Tiger fans telling the world and his wife that we should be banned and that we've taken football back to the Stone Ages and messageboards were hit with the self-same, self-righteous busy bodies demanding explanations for the behaviour of a few while at the same time denying that their own supporters were involved. And of course, to round it all off, Hull City chairman Paul Duffen got his fifteen minutes of fame demanding compensation.
Much of the above was a knee-jerk reaction to events. However, the truth will out and it's rather ironic that the claims of those Hull City fans were involved in the initial invasion of the Millwall Mad Messageboard have been somewhat undermined by the second wave of attack. Let's get things straight, no one is trying denying there was crowd trouble at the match. No one is saying that Millwall fans were not involved. However, as is usually the case in such matters, the people of Hull - from Humberside Police to Hull City Football Club and to the fans themselves - were hardly innocent parties in all this.
Apparently Hull City is a family club populated by face-painting, replica shirt-wearing angels who have never entertained the notion of football violence. The board are all for promoting family values and consider themselves to be a well-run club. The police were prepared for any trouble, seemingly cancelling all leave and getting the SAS in for specialise training the day before the game, because nothing like this ever happens on Humberside. Because Hull have undergone a Premiership Facelift where nothing bad ever happens and everything smells of roses, even Nicky Barmby's farts.
Of course, those that travelled tell a different story. Herded like cattle, held back like criminals, denied basic amenities and denied basic facilities. And that was before the game started. Having made the journey up north, many Lions fans were surprised to find the kiosks shut with no food or drink available to supporters. Which rather begs the question that if bottle were thrown by Millwall supporters, where exactly did they get them from?
Well it's obvious, isn't it? They all entered with bags of bottles, intent on trouble like Duffen suggested. They couldn't possibly have been thrown by people in the Hull end, could they? Not those squeaky clean angels. And surely the away fans should deserve credit for managing to conceal said bags when they were searched outside the ground (note to thick Northerners: I am being sarcastic). The Tigers Chairman's belief that clubs have "long since eradicated (hooliganism) from their culture" was obviously not a reference to his own fans, then.
Duffen also pointed out that it was "already clear that a significant contingent of the travelling Millwall supporters arrived at the match with the single intention of causing maximum disruption" and many Hull fans supported him on the messageboards, asking why Millwall hadn't done more to prevent known-trouble makers from travelling. They obviously failed to realise that the club only sell away tickets to Season Ticket Holders and Members, a policy that - although unpopular - has seemingly worked since being introduced after May 2nd, 2002. However, this policy was undermined on the day by - guess who? - Hull City, who decided to sell tickets on the door to anyone and everyone. (Not that we're trying to excuse those who caused trouble, but if you singularly fail to recognise another club's ticketing policy you shouldn't be allowed to go pointing the finger after trouble occurs.) Millwall seemingly didn't sell these fans tickets, Hull did, and now they want compensation for their own mistakes and flying in the face of The Lions' advice.
And then was the matter of crowd control. Fans were not properly segregated. In a stadium that was not full more could have been done to separate the two sets of supporters other than a couple of stewards, who lets face it, are about as useful as a chocolate fireguard. It is the home team that are responsible for crowd control, not the away side, and any failings should fall on their shoulders, especially when policing a team with a known reputation.
If anything the comments of everyone in Hull are incredulous. They have paid lip-service to Millwall's hooligan past and made enough noise to make sure everyone noticed. But isn't it the case that those that are really to blame always vocally point the finger at some one else in order to try and shift that blame? Okay, Millwall fans aren't innocent, and yes, those that did cause trouble should pay the consequences but at the same time it is unacceptable to lay complete blame at The Lion's door.
Hull City would have you believe they are completely innocent but their incompetence in staging this game was partly to blame for the trouble. Tigers fans would have you believe they could do no wrong but the fact remains that several Hull City fans were arrested for causing trouble and eye-witnesses have given evidence that bottles and coins were thrown from the home end. The Media would have you believe we're the only ones that ever get up to no good, but they would say that, we sell newspapers and fill column inches - unlike the two other clubs who experienced serious crowd trouble in the FA Cup on Saturday.
Don't be fooled by the hype. We're not a throw-back to some Stone Age era of Neolithic man. We're no different to any other club in the country when it comes to the make-up of our crowd. We have our trouble makers but then so does every other club. But that doesn't mean you can treat us like something on the bottom of your shoe. You cannot herd people around like Humberside police did, you cannot deny paying customers basics like food and drink like Hull City Football Club did and you cannot throw things and expect to get away with it, kids in the home end. Because at the end of the day if you hit a beehive with a shitty stick, you're going to get stung and when that happens you've only got yourselves to blame.