Ground: The Den, Millwall F.C.
Competition: Sky Bet Championship 2014/15
Result: Millwall 0-0 Fulham
Pie: Chicken Balti
Comments: Five years ago Fulham were visiting the like of Juventus’ Stadio Olimpico di Torino and Shakhtar Donetsk’s Dombass Arena in the Europa Cup. Fast forward to the present day, and it’s a Championship slog at the den of iniquity that is Millwall F.C. Sure it wasn’t a glamorous away tie at a European heavyweight, but a trip to a Millwall had its own bleary eyed 1980s romanticism surrounding it. And the promise of getting your head kicked in by a pair of size 13 Doc Martens.
The raucous train journey from London Bridge coupled with a designated away fan route to the ground, gave the impression trouble was lurking in the form of skinheads tooled up with ‘Millwall Bricks’ fashioned from their leftover copies of Heat Magazine, TV Weekly and the Beano. Avoiding any trouble, the Fulham rabble siphoned into the ground like a heard of paranoid gazelle fearing a big bad baldy waiting to wallop them. Being the infamous Den I expected little more from the concessions stand than a wheeler dealer selling cans of Special Brew, jellied eel and boxes of rusty nails in a shady corner. Surprisingly, Millwall had a swish Pie Kitchen shop that I’d only ever seen the likes of before at White Hart Lane. It wasn’t prawn sandwiches, but neither was it exactly rough and ready like the Millwall image projects.
I picked up a nancy boy Balti that, unlike Millwall’s supposed reputation, was soft, fluffy and an all round delight of a pastry. The pie’s inflated top had more puff and colour than Billy Bremner’s tangerine perm, and the added bonus of a fancy sprinkling of seeds on top. Structurally the oval shaped snack was a architectural marvel that would have made Frank Lloyd Wright proud. Straddling that fine line between teeth shatteringly hard and pathetically porous, a fault that means most of the juice dribbles down your Persil white home shirt, this pie was perfectly proportioned to eat mess free in your hand. No Forks needed here.
The filling was decidedly mid table. Adequately tasty without ever posing any revelations within its mouthfuls, sort of like Alan Shearer’s punditry. If anything, the chicken could have been nourished with a juicier sauce as to avoid sticking to the roof of your mouth. Nobody enjoys that.
A nice pie, a decent ground and great atmosphere among the gluttons for punishment in the Fulham away end was ruined by a game of football that would have been lacking in quality at Under 7 level. Neither relegation threatened team could muster any decent opportunities and the game lulled into an abysmal 0-0. Kit Symon’s magic touch may be fading fast, but Bryan Ruiz’s certainly isn’t. The game’s best moment came when he plucked one of the many hoofed passes out of the sky before flicking it majestically over a Millwall player’s bemused head. A moment of class far too good for the dross Fulham are currently curling out.