Wednesday 9 January 2008

'One Moment In Time'- Taming of the Lions (Jan 2008)


‘One Moment In Time’ is a nostalgic look back at events and occasions in City’s past that will no doubt resurrect many impassioned memories for most City fans. Written from my personal point of view, I am hoping that reliving these moments, whether they were good or bad, will prove to be an enjoyable read for all. This month…City’s infamous encounter with Millwall in 1999.


When City dropped down to the then-Second Division, it wasn't just the standard of football that had deteriorated. Pitch and referee standards were abysmal and the Blues encountered the nasty side of football- at the hands of Millwall. Yes, this memory isn't glorious or celebratory, but it will always stick with me for being one of the most hideous days ever at Maine Road. Let me set the scene...

December 28th 1998. Stoke City at Maine Road. It was the first time the two teams had met since that gloomy May relegation day. Both were challenging for promotion- and both were desperate for the three points. But Gareth Taylor and Paul Dickov's goals meant that the City from Manchester took victory, a result that lifted us to seventh in the league.

I remember walking out after the final whistle and seeing a barrier of riot police, armed with Alsatians and shields, separating the two sets of fans (between the Kippax and 'Gene Kelly' stand). It was the first time I had really seen the so-called ugly side of football before and I was dumbstruck but not scared, and if seeing that was a shock, things were about to get much worse- and not on the pitch.

It's never easy being a female football fan. By the time I was 16 I had educated myself about the rules and general knowledge of the beautiful game, and I didn't find it hard as I was learning first-hand about it every week. But something I was oblivious to was perhaps the most common activity to co-inside with football- hooliganism.

Although I wasn't scared at the Stoke match, I had been told about a team whose fans weren't into following their team for the football, it was purely for the violence. Millwall, a team from South-East London, were a club renowned for their violent and active hooligan element. At the time they were, and most people still think are, the most feared club off the pitch. Their firm in the 1980's, 'The Treatment', were rumoured to stand on the terraces wearing surgical headgear and allegedly used surgical equipment on rival fans. This was the team playing City next at Maine Road.

On the day, February 6th 1999, I was nervous. So was my brother Simon. The majority of the Manchester Metropolitan police force would turn out to meet the travelling 'fans' and, as we approached Maine Road, the helicopters circled overhead. It was like gladiators approaching the amphitheatre. A raging storm was brewing.

At the time I was naive and oblivious to the whole 'schedule' surrounding hooligans. Before their arrival at Maine Road, a large Millwall firm had turned up unexpectedly at Stockport and caused chaos there. Hundreds had made their way from Piccadilly station and, much like a savage, destructive tornado, vandalised and traumatised everything in their path.

As the game kicked off, it looked almost like an every-day match at City. No sign of trouble, despite the extra police presence. But you could feel the atmosphere. It wasn't an average 'come on, let's get behind the lads' atmosphere. It was a nervy, apprehensive, tense atmosphere. Everybody knew it was only a matter of time before the bubbling volcano erupted.

Simon and I were sat in Kippax Lower C, which was relatively far from the Millwall contingency, but with the chants getting more and more hostile I could literally smell the fear from the majority of fans. Then- showtime. Paul Dickov scored. That was the signal, almost a coded message to detonate the seething Millwall fans' vengeance. Things were about to get ugly.

At first it was more and more sinister chants. But then came the missiles. The air in the North Stand became a sea of objects: coins, bottles, programmes- anything that could be thrown and was nearby was launched between the rival fans. Seats were quickly ripped up and hurled. I couldn't believe what I was seeing. This was carnage. I was amazed, not at all scared, it was strangely a buzz just being in the stadium. If there had been no players on the pitch I doubt anybody would have noticed- all eyes were on the North Stand.

On the pitch, City was winning 3-0. Every goal infuriated Millwall further. By this time, the Millwall fans that were sat in the 'Gene Kelly' stand had now begun to climb over the metal fencing into the North Stand. The reality of the situation was dawning on me. Riot police began to pour in to attempt to calm the situation, but by this time it was too late. The helicopters returned as the thugs who had been arrested were led out of the ground. Announcements were being made constantly over the crackly P.A. system in a vain attempt to restore order, and as the final whistle sounded the rioting continued.

We were made to walk the entire way around the back of Maine Road, down all the narrow alleyways, in order to avoid any contact with stray Millwall fans. The majority had been locked inside Maine Road and City officials didn't want to take any chances. Despite a City win, the day had been completely overshadowed by events off the field. The real victory had been for the yobs.

Two words summed Millwall up that day- animals and scum. I recently read in a book how their fans regard City fans as being 'Liam Gallagher wannabes, a bunch of mindless muppets who all live in Stockport'. Since that day, I have fully educated myself on hooligans and their culture. Although what happened that day was clearly wrong, it really did intrigue me. It wasn't long before I encountered a much closer event with hooliganism, but that's another story...

Emily Brobyn xx

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