When I talk to people about football, and the 'old days', the conversation invariably comes around to violence, or perceived violence, because, a lot of the time, it just never happened. Lots of running around, posturing, arm-waving and shouting, yes, but very little action on most occasions.
When it did though, it could get quite hairy. If you were lucky, you were with someone else when it went off, a few lads maybe, who would look out for you, so that nobody took an 'absolute pasting'.
If not though, you were in trouble. Especially if you were up against the Big Guns, one of the teams whose fans travelled with a bit of a reputation. Principal amongst these were Millwall, not a big team, but certainly one with a big reputation.
Hailing from the Bermondsey area of South London, the Lions of Millwall had as their motto: We Fear No Foe, Where E're We Go, although when the then-President of the FA, Lord Kinnaird presented a brass lion to the club before their first match at The Den on Saturday 22nd October 1910, it bore the frighteningly-intimidating inscription:
We Will Never Turn Our Backs To The Enemy, and this phrase, perhaps, more accurately than the motto, sums up the attitude of Millwall fans to their rivals. Certainly, in a brawling situation, anyway.
During the 1960s and 1970s, a new development came to the fore: the Millwall Brick.
The Brick was a useful football weapon, as, in times of public outcry over hooliganism, and of the police searches to try to put a stop to it, the Brick could be taken into a football ground in all innocence, unhindered by the police, and without fear of falling foul of the long arm of their Law.
For the Brick was not, in fact, a brick at all, but a NEWSPAPER.
The beauty of a Millwall Brick is in the way it is made. All that is needed is a broadsheet newspaper - a copy of The Guardian or The Times will do the job. The sheets of the newspaper are rolled-up lengthways, then folded to create a handle and a rounded head at the fold. The more newspaper sheets that are used, the harder the resultant 'brick' becomes.
Various adaptations to this design can be made.
"The newspaper sheets can first be wet with a liquid to add weight. The blunt end can be wrapped with a shoelace or leather. The ends can be taped together and a string attached to the handle, enabling the user to swing the brick, similar to a meteor hammer. A pencil, pen, or large nail can be driven from the first interior side near the middle perpendicularly through the first end so that that head of the nail rests against the first interior side. The nail may be secured in place by bringing the ends towards and adjacent to each other, effectively forming a crude nail bat."
My suggestion? Don't bother. The plain newspaper-folded brick is sufficient to club and injure any clown foolish enough to put his head in the way of it. Fancy adaptations are superfluous, and serve only for artistic impression.
Modern-day Millwall fans deny there is any link between their club and the tool. Indeed, many conveniently 'can't remember' the club's troubled hooligan past, or that fateful day on 13th March 1985, when Millwall travelled to Kenilworth Road, Luton, to play an FA Cup Quarter Final match.
Play had to be halted and the players herded off after 14 minutes when both sets of fans invaded the pitch to battle it out with each other. Play did resume, but so did the fighting after the game had ended, and 700 seats were ripped out and used as missiles, as police on horses struggled to regain control, and, of course, it was all captured by the TV cameras for posterity, and for Millwall fans with amnesia.
There were, according to eyewitnesses, many Millwall Bricks in evidence that night, as there were after that date, though the recent downturn in domestic football violence, has led to Brick-making becoming almost a forgotten art.
Don't let the art be completely forgotten. Go and get a newspaper, and fold it in the way described above. Tight folds is best, then bend it in half, and PRESTO! You are now the proud owner of a Millwall Brick, and are ready to go out and try it out on someone.
Better ask your parents if they've finished with the paper first though...