The A-Z of Millwall – U is for… UEFA Cup

Ferncvaros fans
Ferncvaros fans

Following neatly on from T in 'The A-Z of Millwall’, in which we took a look back at the FA Cup run of 2004, U leads us to later in the year and the Lions' UEFA Cup appearance.

Dennis Wise's men qualified for the 2004-05 tournament by virtue of making the FA Cup final, where they lost to 3-0 to Manchester United. Because the Red Devils had already gained entry into the Champions League, the spot in UEFA's secondary domestic competition went to the runners-up – in this case, Millwall.

The draw for the first round took place on Friday, August 28, 2004. The Lions were seeded, which was a big boost as it meant they would face a weaker opponent in their quest to make the group stages.

However, in the unseeded section, there lurked a giant. Twenty-seven times Hungarian champions, Ferencvaros, stood out like a sore thumb among the minnows from countries such as Ukraine, Russia and Albania. In what seemed like fate, Millwall and Ferencvaros were drawn together, with the Lions at home first – the toughest possible draw.

The first leg took place at The Den on Thursday, September 16, with the match shown live on Bravo (Whatever happened to them?). The home side lined up with Graham Stack in goal and a back four of Kevin Muscat, Matt Lawrence, Darren Ward and Josh Simpson. David Livermore, Marvin Elliott, Dennis Wise and Jody Morris made up Millwall's midfield, with loan signing Stefan Moore partnering Neil Harris up front.

Roared on by a passionate crowd under the lights in SE16, the Lions gave their all against the Hungarian giants and even took the lead, as Wise's free-kick found its way past the wall and into Lajos Szucs' net in the 66th minute. However, 12 minutes later, the visitors were level when Peter Lipcsei cancelled out Wise's strike with a free-kick of his own beating Stack.

The second leg took place in Budapest a fortnight later and despite a valiant attempt from the Lions, three goals in 14 first-half minutes from Ferencvaros put the tie to bed.

Wise chose to replace Moore with Paul Ifill up front in an otherwise unchanged side, but strikes from Denes Rosa, Sorin Botis and Robert Vagner ensured that the manager's away goal on the stroke of half-time was no more than a consolation.

Millwall had given it their all, but ran into a team with pedigree at the (second) highest level. The loss was made all the more disappointing when the group stage draw revealed that the Hungarians had not only been paired with sides such as Feyenoord and Schalke, but also with Scotland’s Hearts.

It was fun while it lasted, but what a shame that it didn't last for longer.

Mark Litchfield