‘Shhiiiiiiiii-EEEEEAAAARRRR-t!’ Someone nearby is so angered by what they’re watching that their shout ascends to an absurd, high-pitched tone you wouldn’t have thought Prince’s vocal cords were capable of producing. A few of us in the same block start laughing, but this doesn’t detract from just how bad – how embarrassingly bloody poor – Millwall look at the time.
It’s a bitterly cold night at the end of January and we’re 2-0 down at home to Watford. The attendance is already pretty low, and when Darius Henderson misses a penalty in stoppage time, the place becomes emptier than the Sutton branch of Laser Quest when Crystal Palace are playing.
THINGS can often seem greater than they actually are in retrospect, with certain aspects of football being no exception to this strange nostalgic process.
Yet as I sat in a modestly filled section of the Dockers lower and watched us lose to Watford while freezing my nuts off, I couldn’t help but feel vindicated in my misty-eyed view of last season’s home form.
Of course, our run of results at The Den during the 2010/11 campaign wasn’t without imperfection, and it would be sheer delusion to gloss over the significant matter of losing 6-1 to a visiting Watford side during it. But bad results, including that humiliating defeat in particular, felt like strange anomalies in an otherwise successful set of games. During the current season, though, losing at home has felt like a far more familiar burden, and one that reached a dismal low after the more recent clash against the Hornets.
I felt it was our worst home performance of the season, and quite possibly the most gutless I’ve seen since Kenny Jackett’s appointment in 2007. It quickly became clear to me that I was watching a group of players that lacked something inherent in what made our ground such a difficult place to come to for opposing teams in the past.
"Home form is crucial in achieving anything on merit in the long-term, and even Kenny Jackett’s more outspoken critics would admit this has been a key element of his philosophy over the last four years."
Terms like ‘passion’, ‘belief’ and ‘fight’ have been wrongly perceived as entirely compensating for a lack of quality in football, but it is a truth universally acknowledged that you simply have to want it more. Anyone who knows Millwall will recognise that they are also essential characteristics when it comes to – as Kenny Jackett himself would put it – bringing the crowd into play. To say that they were absent from the team’s showing that night would be an understatement – manifested in a less than flat atmosphere from the stands during the game.
Were things better against Derby last week? I suppose so. Perhaps it’s more accurate to say that we weren’t as bad as we were against Watford (which, in fairness, is about as redeeming as sending someone a ‘with deepest sympathy’ card after kicking their cat to death). Given that this was our fourth home game in the league without a win and the turgid nature of the affair, it has to go down as another of the season’s missed opportunities.
Results at Southampton and Brighton would suggest that we’re a far more positive outfit on our travels at the moment – something that few Millwall supporters would have anticipated a few months back. As encouraging as this may be, home form is crucial in achieving anything on merit in the long-term, and even Kenny Jackett’s more outspoken critics would admit this has been a key element of his philosophy over the last four years. A failure to re-discover it, however, could have serious consequences for both him and the club.