Fan on the Board Reports - 2014

August

Well the season is now upon us, I’ve been to most of the friendlies and there has been some good football and lovely weather. Ollie has added to the squad and there is a calm excitement around the club, it’s all very positive and Ollie’s positive nature is touching all areas. Last close season we saw a lot of signings who we thought were going to do it for us, this season we have the benefit of the last 8 games unbeaten, manager who has a proven track record, new players who the manager has targeted in prior months, a fan base who sticks by the team through thick and thin and a very supportive board and chairman, it all adds up to potentially a winning force

Euro ferries - As you all know Millwall have a new sponsor in Euro ferries, on the face of it, it looks a good deal, with Euro ferries offering to help with coaches for fans who live a little way out, this idea has been tried before but never got off the floor, hopefully with Euro ferries backing it may have some success.

There has been a few bits of negative press about Euro ferries and their commitment, all I can say is they have entered into a contractual agreement with the club, with any deal due diligence was carried out, as of today nothing in that contract has been broken. The club do take seriously who they have sponsoring them. This was shown by the board’s decision to reject a pay day loan company, my input on behalf of fans was to vote to reject it as well.

There was a problem regards the memorial garden that was brought to my attention, once it was known the problem was resolved and now a member of the MSC has agreed to assist in keeping it tidy along with the club. I was told the garden had been in a bit of a mess for 4 weeks. It’s important if thing are noticed like this to bring them up straight away. It only took 24 hours for it to be sorted out in the end.

There was very derogatory statement put out on by Paul Goodman who runs a website called Conservative Home, the title of the article was ‘Hamas, the Millwall of the Middle East’. Obviously this is unacceptable, I got straight in touch with the author and demanded a public apology which came straight away.

There were major problems with the ticketing system when the Fulham tickets went on sale, it wasn’t the first time either. It appears that the moment we get a high profile game, the system goes into meltdown. The club assured fans this was a thing of the past prior to the tickets going on sale. The club have invested in an upgraded ticketing system that should cope with any other big games it will be fully functional before the season proper kicks off. Let’s hope they are right!

Fulham away, the West London police had discussions with Fulham regards moving the kick-off of the game to an earlier time, the club opposed this and made strong objections to the police, after careful consideration the police decided to leave the kick off at 3pm. Let’s hope when the club have similar discussions with the Yorkshire police regards ticket collection that the police decide to reverse the decision they have taken in the last few years, considering there has been no trouble at the fixture for many years all the decision does is hinders decent fans and makes things hard work for them. I know for a fact the club lobby the police strongly each year but have yet to get them to move.

As always the authorities will be all over us like a rash this season looking for the slightest misdemeanour, with big games against Leeds and Fulham as openers it’s important we don’t give them the ammunition they so crave. Leeds with all its history is a potential sell out, the ground will be heaving and a great atmosphere, let’s hope on the Sunday we are talking about the size of the victory not events off the pitch. The first two games could have a big impact on the rest of the season, it’s really frustrating that no other clubs have to walk the same behavioural tightrope we do!

I’ve had several discussions with Ollie over the start of the season and how important it is to get a good start both on and off the pitch, he is of the opinion if we can harness the passionate support in a positive way coming away with points and no issues it will be job done!

Ollie was so passionate at the fans forum about his dream of getting us to the premiership. He filled the room with his drive and passion and said that he has never worked at a club where he felt so wanted. His aim is to make a difference in all areas and this is evident in his approach. He is a real people person and I have been fortunate enough to speak to him on a number of occasions and his drive and passion is infectious. He is slowly getting us as fans, he loves the banter, passion and commitment we have to our club. Prior to meeting Ollie I had only ever seen him in TV interviews and a thought he was a bit of a jester, I was so wrong, he is probably the most emotionally aware person I have met in football during my tenure. For him, he obviously wants to get it right on the pitch but he wants to do it with decent players who give all for the fans, and he is adamant that they don’t strut around with an arrogance that we have sometimes seen in the past. He spoke about the Leeds game and the problems we have had in the past with the flags and songs regarding the 2 Leeds fans who died. He said he couldn’t understand how people could act that way when someone had lost their lives, especially as these people have parents or sons and daughters. Ollie was very vocal in stressing the point that we could be the ones who made a difference in trying to change things by rising above it , getting behind our team with passion and pride and not using such a tragic act to goad the opposition. I think the whole audience were shocked by the passion he showed about it, his own words ‘I wouldn’t want to be affiliated with anyone who behaves like that’. He realised that people that behave like that are not the loyal fans who follow us week in, week out but people that only attend the more contentious high profile games

I think the bottom line of what Ollie was trying to get over is, we all need to be mindful of unacceptable behaviour and the impact it has not just on our club but on other people and their perception of us.

If I complete this term as FOTB I would have been on the board for 11 years, during that time it’s been a really up and downs time with lots of highs and lows, every decision I have taken has always been fan driven and not Peter Garston driven. Even before the last election although I was unsure whether to stand, but at the time it was the right thing for fans that I stood and was re-elected to ensure the role continued.

I would like to thank everyone who have supported me both publicly and with the long phone calls at all hours to give me help with certain issues.

All I know the relationship between us the fans and the club has drastically improved since the role started, personally I believe the information available to fans is more than any other club. I also think we have reached the optimum in regards information interchange, which is frustrating but true.

February

We have two major issues at the moment that need which will need us, the fans, to get behind the club when the time comes as both the issues threaten our club in different ways.

Firstly the regeneration which has been going on for the eight years I have been on the board.

There have been times when it seemed it was dead in the water, and others when it looked like the club it would achieve its goal of getting the finances required to secure our future for many years.

All along, Lewisham Council have been afforded hospitality and support by the club in many council driven issues such as the recent Save Lewisham Hospital campaign. We, as fans, along with the club threw our weight behind the campaign and played a key role in helping keep Lewisham A&E open.

The council publicly and privately led all at Millwall to believe that we would be key in any redevelopment, but in recent months we have noticed the council distancing themselves from us and then the final blow was them indicating their support for Renewal without any explanation or much notice.

So now we are in a position where an external property developer could hold the key to our future, given to them by the council who claims it champions community.

The only positive to come out of this is the fact that once again when we are challenged by external forces the Chairman shows his resolve and commits himself to the future of our club.

I know John Berylson very well and one thing he will not do is shirk a challenge. He will fight our corner to make sure that Millwall Football Club continues to play football at The Den for years to come.

When called upon we will need to do whatever is required to fight for our club. I hope the people of the Save Lewisham Hospital campaign return our support if needed as well.

Once I know what is needed by the club to fight the developers, I will co-ordinate all fans via the MSC, Trust, Websites and Fanzines to ensure we are there to make our voices heard.

We do not roll over easily when it comes to our club.

Secondly, and more of a current threat is the missile throwing issue.

Against Sheffield Wednesday there were quite a few incidents of missile throwing, the main one being the bottle thrown onto the pitch from behind the South Stand goal.

Everyone at the club, including the manager, wants the The Den to be a place where our opponents are wary of coming to. We are renowned for our passion, but missile throwing isn’t passion. Ollie wants us to give him and the team all the passionate loud vocal support we can.

Missile throwing is wrong and only causes the club to have to spend valuable time and money trying to placate the authorities to ensure we don’t get huge fines or something worse.

At one point we had to put in CCTV to show to the FA we were taking action.

The money spent on the CCTV would have been better spent on replacing the big screen! (The big screen issue, by the way, is another being discussed at board level).

There were arrests for missile throwing against Sheff Wed, but rather than have arrests, fans need to channel their passion into getting behind the team rather than throwing missiles.

The annoying thing is we spend so much time talking about and dealing with a small minority, and the press only pick up on the minority!

This section below was originally written a few weeks back:

Once the decision was taken to remove Steve Lomas, the board knew it was imperative that the right manager was selected. The chairman agreed to smash the budget to get someone of quality who is experienced in this division.

There weren't that many around, and Ian Holloway was the first choice. Once it was decided, the chairman and board put every bit of effort into getting him.

Kenny Jackett had a big part to play as well, as Ollie and he are close friends and Ollie wanted to know about Millwall behind the scenes, warts and all. When he found that out, he still wanted to come!! So we owe Kenny, the chairman and the board a big vote of thanks for getting us Ollie. (If he had said no, only God knows what would have happened).

I've now met him twice and I must say I was blown away. My preconception of Ollie was that he was the man who gave funny interviews. But don't be fooled by his clowning about for the cameras, he is very articulate, knowledgeable, committed and most of all strong minded.

He shoots from the hip and tells it how it is and how it will be under his regime, with public statements like "if they don't get fit in time I will find players who are," and "if they've not signed a contract why haven't they, they either want to play for us or not. If they don't I will get players who do."

One thing of interest he said was about the young players. He said he wanted to get young players in and turn them into good Millwall players. Fans needed to support them and encourage them to do that and not get on their backs straight away. He explained these youngsters will need to be nurtured and the fans will have a hand in that, as a bad game can make or break young players.

Ollie loves us as fans. He spoke of many times when he was given grief and gave good banter back. He wants to instil that again, so The Den becomes a place other teams are scared to come, where they are shown the good natured passion a packed Den can produce.

Ollie has never blamed anyone for our position, for instance he has publicly mentioned the lack of fitness of some players, he could have done the politician's swipe and laid the blame firmly on the previous management team but he didn't.

As, in his words, these players have a responsibility to keep themselves fit to play, playing professional football in Ollie's eyes is a very privileged position and he believes players owe it to the fans to give their all for the shirt at all times.

Ollie was given a commitment by the chairman and board that he runs things his way. That is how it has been in the past at Millwall and will continue. At other clubs he has been at there has been heavy interference from above that has made his position as manager as untenable.

The board hasn't interfered before and that won't change under Ollie. Ollie has committed to us for two and a half years and I am pretty sure he won't fail in his task.

When I spoke with Ollie he asked if I could arrange a meeting with a group of fans, just a group of 10 or so. It will take a while to organise and I intend to get the fans from all different areas of the club, different age groups etc so it's a good mix of fans.

I will keep you informed. If you would like to be selected to attend, drop me a line.

On a personal note, thankyou for all your emails and texts during my latest spell in hospital. It really meant a lot and makes me realise why I do what I do and that I am blessed to be Millwall.

If anyone has any issues they wish to discuss, please drop me a line at petergarston@hotmail.com or via the club.


 

Millwall Supporters Club, c/o The Den, Zampa Road, London SE16 3LN  -  phone: 07895 022 325  -  email: info@millwallsupportersclub.co.uk

 


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