|Millwall 1 v 1 Queens Park Rangers|
Tuesday, 8th December 2020 Kick-off 19:45
Coming to a head - Preview
Tuesday, 8th Dec 2020 14:38 by Clive Whittingham
QPR, three defeats in a row, travel to Millwall, winless in eight, tonight, but unfortunately the football is a long way down the list of pre-match talking points.
Millwall (4-8-4, DDDDLL, 14th) v QPR (4-5-7, LDWLLL, 18th)
Mercantile Credit Trophy >>> Tuesday December 8, 2020 >>> Kick Off 19.45 >>> Weather – Cold, foggy >>> The New Den, Bermondsey
Ordinarily Millwall, winless in eight, and QPR, dire in a third straight defeat at the weekend, would probably welcome a distraction from the actual football ahead of their midweek meet at The New Den this evening. Not, however, like this.
An issue that Millwall, QPR and football in general have rather allowed themselves to sleepwalk into exploded at the weekend when a good chunk of the first 2,000 Lions supporters allowed back in the ground – by definition their most loyal, steadfast, season ticket holding fans – decided to use their first live football experience since February to boo, abuse and heckle their own players for ‘taking the knee’ in support of the Black Lives Matters movement. It demoralised their own side to such an extent they were beaten 1-0 by bottom of the table Derby, an eighth game without a win now for Gary Rowett’s men. The media coverage since has been wall to wall.
This has been coming. That it’s come first and loudest at Millwall will surprise no away fan who’s ever been there, stood in that cage being pelted by coins, seen the hand gestures being made either side of the upper tier towards people of colour among our number. But it happened too at Colchester at the weekend, and it will happen elsewhere. If it happens at Kiyan Prince Foundation Stadium on Saturday it will be a low point in the history of our club, but it wouldn’t surprise me as much as it really should.
It’s been coming because the question Les Ferdinand asked about it several months ago is still to answered. Great, about time, nice gesture, pleased to hear it, but now what? What are you actually going to do? Are we going to have a Rooney rule? Are we going to have proper, substantial, punitive punishments for nations, clubs, supporters and players who commit racist offences? Are we going to have programmes to bring more black coaches through? Nobody’s said. Nobody’s come up with anything. We kneel down, which looks great for the television cameras, and the Sky commentator gets to read whatever sickly, sweet, cringey, cliched, hackneyed line he’d prepared earlier in the day about it being so much more than this or that or the other, and on we go with a sport where the England captain gets a four game ban and a lifetime of lucrative employment as a coach despite calling somebody a “fucking black cunt”, and the Leeds goalkeeper walks straight back into the team as captain in a Black Lives Matters t-shirt after a ban for racially abusing a black Charlton player, and Bulgaria get fined the cost of a match programme for disrupting international games with monkey chants. Nothing changes, nothing is done, the kneeling goes on so the sport can feel better about itself, and people start to get irritated and feel they’re being hectored to.
It's been coming because as it has been allowed to drag on, so other causes and factions have latched on. Britain First, Tommy Robinson on one side, defund the police types on the other. A Black Lives Matters political party has been registered, with wider aims and ideals than the simple clue’s-in-the-name original title. There have been running battles with the police in central London during a global pandemic involving both the far right and the far left. The original aim and message from the footballers has been lost among all this bile. They’re sick of there still being incidents of bananas being thrown, or racist abuse hurled, at football games in 2020. They’re sick of the comments on their social media platforms filling up with vile racist language and insults. They’re sick of the monkey chants at England away games, and the pitiful punishments handed out. They’re sick of inaction over incidents such as that QPR’s U18s suffered on a tour of Spain last year. They’re sick of the different way The Daily Mail covers the story if a house is bought or a girl gets pregnant depending on if it’s Raheem Sterling or Phil Foden doing the buying or shagging. They’re sick of mediocre white men walking into one managerial role or coaching job after another, often after multiple failures, often playing football nobody wants to watch, while Chris Hughton, Darren Moore and Keith Curle stand alone as black managers among 91 Football League clubs. They’re sick of being ruled over by dinosaurs like Greg Clarke. That’s what they’re sick of. They’re not Marxists, they don’t want to end the white race, they don’t want to defund the police, they don’t want to tear down statues and deface monuments. But they’re booed as if they are regardless. Millwall’s Mahlon Romeo on Saturday’s events is a heartbreaking must read. Can anybody read that and think he deserves to be booed for taking a knee? Apparently so.
It’s been coming because that’s where we are, in this country and in the US. Everything is one thing or the other, this or that, black or white if you’ll excuse me that. You’re either Brexit or remain. You’re either Trump or AOC. You’re either Corbyn or you want to close all the hospitals and let poor people starve in the street. You’re right or you’re left. You’re in or you’re out. And once you’ve picked a side, it’s time to start entrenching. Once you’re on that side that side can do no wrong. Everything the other side does is evil, everything your side does is pure, and everything is to be framed in that context – every incident, every debate. There is to be no surrender, no giving up of ground, no admission of guilt, no apology, no resignation, no sacking. Nothing. In that climate it’s not possible to be a footballer kneeling because he’s a bit sick of scummy teenagers telling him to “go pick cotton” on his Instagram account, or tired of seeing team mates of different colours but similar ability afforded post-career opportunities that don’t present themselves in the same way. If you’re kneeling you’re a Marxist, you hate white people, you hate this country, you hate Winston Churchill, and you must be booed. People are either too dense to see an in between, or they just don’t care to bother.
Nuance is dead, and QPR have attempted to take a nuanced position regardless. They knelt, to begin with, and then they stopped, and when called on it by a multi-national, billion dollar broadcasting company without a single black face on its entire executive or management board, they turned round and rightly pointed out that while everybody else is kneeling and doing nothing, they’re employing more black coaches and execs than the rest of the EFL put together, have had more black managers in the last five years than most other clubs in this country have had in their history. Actions over words and gestures thank you very much indeed. They were right to do it. But by taking the position they have in this climate, they’ve allowed some of the groups outlined above to latch onto them as a cause célèbre. The Millwall Supporters Trust’s horribly cack-handed “we’re not being racist honest guv” statement at the weekend even mentioned Les Ferdinand’s comments earlier in the season. The people booing at that match are as far away from what Les Ferdinand thinks and believes about this as it's possible to be, but we left ourselves open to them latching onto us and now here they all are making themselves comfortable at our table and saying they align with us, just as we’ve got a live televised game at Millwall wouldn’t you just know it.
So now what? Millwall have perhaps been lucky that doors have been closed on football grounds, and that only 2,000 people were allowed in at the weekend, or this could have blown up on them a lot bigger and sooner. QPR, meanwhile, have been fortunate themselves that after an initial blast of highly unfair media coverage post Coventry away, nobody has really picked up on half the team kneeling while the other half does not. That Bright Osayi-Samuel is currently sulking around with a face like a smacked arse, refusing to join in goal celebrations, while the captain of the club is posting Trump voter fraud conspiracies on his social media. Perhaps unrelated, but I'm surprised some tabloid hack somewhere hasn't at least taken a swing at it. Well, neither can dodge it any longer. It’s lights camera action tonight. Oh to be the press officers on either side trying to sort this colossal mess out, with some weird fudge planned where the players are going to hold hands and wave a bit of a flag around rather than kneel, except the ones that are still going to kneel.
A horrible, bleak, messy end to a horrible, bleak, messy year. And for it all, still no plan. Still no action. Still nobody saying this is what needs to be done, and this is how we’re going to do it. If this week’s proved anything it’s that this is needed more urgently now than at perhaps any other point in the last 30 years.
Profoundly, profoundly depressing.
Team News: Mark Warburton must survey what few options he has available for change with the games coming, cliché klaxon, thick and fast, and Saturday’s tired effort at Huddersfield barely enough to fight our way out of a wet paper bag.
Millwall were without Scott Malone at the weekend for the defeat to Derby as he is on loan from the Rams, but he can return tonight with Tom Bradshaw also back in contention. Big summer signing Kenneth Zohore is a medium term absentee with Mason Bennett doubtful and Conor Mahoney out.
Referee: Another relatively new referee for a high profile Championship game – Australian A-League alum Jarred Gillett is in his second full season on the EFL list and in charge of QPR for the first time tonight. Referee.
Millwall: The Lions’ strong second half to last season under Gary Rowett and eye-catching summer transfer business marked them down as a good outside play-off bet this year. Indeed, they’ve only lost four games to this point, however two of those have come in the last week and with five consecutive draws prior to that they’re actually without a win in eight matches prior to kick off tonight. The injury to Kenneth Zohore hasn’t helped – Wall haven’t scored more than two goals in a league game all season, and have scored one goal or fewer in each of their last eight with five blanks. They’ve won only two of ten home games in all competitions this year, and one of those was against Cheltenham in the League Cup.
QPR: One win from nine away games in all competitions now for Rangers after the weekend loss at Huddersfield, and four defeats from the last five road games. They come into this one on a run of three consecutive league defeats. After keeping four clean sheets in the first ten games, the leaky defence is back with no shut-outs and 12 goals conceded in the last six. They’ve shipped two goals in each of the last four games. Rangers’ 2-1 win at this ground last year was there first in seven attempts since Simon Barker and Roy Wegerle scored at The Old Den in 1990.
Prediction: We’re indebted to The Art of Football for once again agreeing to sponsor our Prediction League and provide prizes. The squad is updated and you can get involved by lodging your prediction here or sample the merch from our sponsor’s QPR collection here. We were sadly spot on with our Bristol City call – today last season’s champion Mase offers us this…
“Things looked to be turning sour on the pitch at the weekend and we could really use a good performance, but most of all a result, this evening. After a strong start, Millwall and their merry bunch of *checks notes* 'anti-Marxists' have faltered in recent matches, and will no doubt see this as a good chance to get back on track. I hope Warburton will have the squad under no illusions that a repeat of Saturday would be unacceptable, and they respond well to that challenge. Hmm.”
Mase’s Prediction: Millwall 1-1 QPR. Scorer – Chris Willock
LFW’s Prediction: Millwall 0-0 QPR. No scorer.
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