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It was different back then... there was a war somewhere far away in a place called Vietnam. Rockets were being sent to the moon, and a small boy was growing up in the back streets of South London...
The street was full of dilapidated houses that could best be summed up in one word; slums. Ageing, Victorian terraced with three levels. There were two rooms on the top, two in the middle and two at the bottom with a scullery at the back and an outside lavatory accessed by a short walk across a back yard. A solitary coal fire in the back room of the ground floor was the only means of heating and gas mantels served for lighting the rooms. Electricity had managed to make an appearance, but only as a single socket outlet, again in the back room of the ground floor.
Tom Stanton, a young seven (nearly eight) year old boy, called one of these houses home. Originally, the house where Tom lived had been home to three families. On the ground floor lived Mr Flowers who was also the landlord. Mr Flowers rented out the two rooms in the middle of the house to whoever could afford it. Tom's mum and dad occupied the top two rooms and were in negotiations with Mr Flowers for occupancy of all four upper rooms as soon as the present occupier left.
Quite a few of these houses had been empty for some time and, in fact, were ready to be demolished. But to young Tom they were all castles that needed to be explored for secret passages, hidden treasures, ghosts and anything else his overactive imagination could concoct. These houses had become a magnet for all the local kids. The dangers were incomprehensible to a young and fertile mind and the threat of punishment from worried parents merely added to the mystery and desire to explore.
Naturally, Tom belonged to a gang. He was by no means the youngest of the group, but was way down the pecking order. His problem was that he felt he always knew best and got frustrated when the older kids ignored his suggestions and ideas. This sometimes led him to go off into his own little world and caused him to be the butt of harmless ridicule by some of the older kids. He would fight invisible dragons, challenge imaginary trolls to sword fights, battle through impenetrable forests to find the gold, or the treasure map or whatever he decided needed to be found. Until some other kid spoiled his fun, bringing him back to reality by letting all the others know that 'Tommy's gone off his rocker again'... and that was something else he needed to change. He was nearly eight years old. He wanted to be Tom, not 'Tommy'. Tommy sounded so babyish and being nearly eight should command some sort of respect. He realised that he would have to be careful when playing in his make believe world and had now made a conscious decision to keep things real.
But one thing in Tom's young life was already very real. And that was his passion for his football team. Not for him Spurs or Arsenal. You could keep your Chelseas, West Hams and your Man Utds, even with Georgie Best. His team was Millwall and he was fiercely proud of them. A game of football in the street would always override any other adventure. The older kids would sort the teams out and decide who was who, but Tom never listened to them. He would be Julians or Gilchrist, Cripps, Jacks or even Leslie if he had to be in goal. Weller, Possee, Dunphy, the list in Tom's mind catered for all positions. The other lads accepted and sort of respected Tom's decisions on which player he wanted to be, silently bowing to his knowledge of his chosen team, and left him to it. Yes, his team was Millwall and always would be.
His only ambition was to see his heroes in the flesh. He has often asked his dad to take him to the Den but always received the same response. 'When you're a bit older, Tommy.' Well, he was older now. Older than the last time he asked anyway, and as soon as his dad was home from work he was going to ask again. Today was Friday and school was over and all that filled his head was the thought of seeing the Lions play on Saturday. He was growing impatient, waiting for his father to come in.
His mother had already warned him to stop pestering her about when his dad would be home. So he waited in silence, a knot in his stomach and a lump in his throat. Deep down he knew that his request was likely to be met with the same, disappointing answer. But, he figured, you never know. He firmly believed that if you didn't ask, you didn't get, but it was with some trepidation that he arose from his chair when he heard the key turning in the lock of the front door. He scooted down the stairs only to be met by Mr Flowers, the ageing landlord. The old man, who was nearing his ninetieth year, held up his walking stick and waved it at Tom.
'Hold yer 'orses, young'en,' he said, 'where yer rushin' orf to?'
'I fought yer were me Dad,' Tom said. The disappointment was all too obvious in his voice.
'Oh yer did, did yer?' replied Flowers. 'What yer in a hurry to see him for?' he enquired.
'Nuthin' much,' Tom answered, fighting back an urge to tell the old man to mind his own business. He had been warned before by his parents to respect Mr Flowers.
'Well, you was rushin' out like a banshee to see him for nuthin' then, weren't yer, you dopey little sod, you nearly 'ad me over on me arse,' the old man replied with a hint of a smile.
Tom caught this glimmer of a smile and reciprocated with a grin. 'I'm sorry, 'father Albert,' he said impishly. All the local kids called Albert Flowers 'father Albert'. It was short for grandfather and was term of endearment, really, and one that Albert accepted with a sense of pride.
'And so you should be, yer daft 'aperth,' Albert grinned. 'Now, yer gonna tell me what all the fuss is about then?'
'Well,' began Tom, 'I wanna ask me dad if he'll take us to see Millwall termorra. Yer see, 'father Albert, I ain't never bin to see 'em play and I was 'opin that he'd take me on Saturday.'
'I see,' said the old boy, who by now had began puffing away on his briar. 'D'yer want me to 'ave a word with yer dad?'
'Wouldya?' exclaimed Tom, 'I fink he'd lissen to you 'father Albert.'
Albert gave a knowing smile and nodded in agreement. 'That's settled then,' he said, 'I'll talk to 'im as soon as he gets home, but fer gawds sake let 'im 'ave 'is dinner first, alright?'
'Alright,' smiled Tom, 'and fanks again 'father Albert.'
'That's alright, son,' Albert said, giving Tom a wink, 'us Lions should stick tergether, shouldn't we?'
Tom beamed back at the old man. He never realised before that he was living with a fellow supporter. A thousand questions began flying through his mind but he couldn't get anything out of his mouth. All he could muster was another thank you as he went back up the stairs to his own part of the house.
It took what seemed like an eternity for his father to come home; Tom busied himself with looking at programmes his father had collected over the years. Not many to be truthful, but enough for a young boy to enjoy reading over and over again. Looking at names from the past and the present, trying to picture these giants among men striding out in resplendent kits, ready to take on all comers. He loved it all. He must get to see the real thing soon or he would just explode.
His father finally came home and Tom kept his word to Albert and let his dad finish his dinner before broaching the subject. Trying his best to be subtle, Tom piped up, 'Dad, did you see 'father Albert, when yer came in?'
'No, boy, why d'ya ask?'
'Oh, I dunno,' Tom lied, 'I fought he wanted a word wiv yer, that's all.'
'A word with me?' replied his father, raising an eyebrow, 'now why would Albert want a word with me, Tommy?'
'Aww Dad, don't call me Tommy, I ain't a baby anymore, can't yer call me Tom?'
'I'll call yer somethin' in a minute,' his father laughed, 'now, you tell me what's goin' on with Albert, you ain't bin cheeky to 'im, 'ave yer?'
'No, Dad, 'onest injun, I never give 'father Albert any cheek, do I Mum?' Tom looked enquiringly at his mum, who was busy clearing up the dinner plates.
'Don't bring me into it,' she said, 'all I know is, you an' Albert were as fick as thieves earlier on, weren't yer?'
'Aw mum!' cried Tom, 'we was only chattin,' you make it sound like we was plannin' somfin'.'
'What yer bin planning then Tom?' his father said, warming to the game and watching his son trying to wriggle off the hook.
'We ain't bin plannin' nuffin', Dad, Mum just meant we bin talkin' that's all.'
'So, what hav' yer bin talkin' about then?'
'Erm... I... I... erm... oh, yer know this an' that.' Tom felt his face reddening.
'Not the other, then?' said his dad, winking to his wife.
'A?' said Tom, totally confused.
'Never mind,' grinned his dad, 'so yer reckon Albert wants a word with me then, do yer?'
'Er... yeah, I fink he does,' Tom was relieved that the conversation was back on track.
'Well, I'd better pop down and find out what it's all about then.'
Tom waited for his father's return, hoping that Albert would persuade him that Tom was ready to attend his first ever match at the Den. Minutes turned to hours and before long his mum was shepherding him off to bed, with no sign of his father's return.
'Come on my boy, off to bed wiv yer.' His mother could see the disappointment in his face. 'Come on Tommy... Tom,' she quickly corrected herself, 'yer know when yer farver gets with Albert they 'ave a few beers and start talking about the war and what 'ave yer.' She smiled at her little boy, 'they'll be at it fer hours yet.'
'I know, mum,' said Tom, acceptance in his voice, 'it's just that, I wanted to ask Dad if he'd take me to see Millwall termorra, that's all.'
'Millwall? Are they at 'ome then?' she asked.
'Yeah,' Tom replied, his face lit up at the thought, 'they're playing Derby County.'
'Oh,' said Mum, 'is that good, then?'
Tom looked at his mum with all the knowledge of his age and shook his head disapprovingly, 'Mum, you don't understand, I don't care who we are playin', I only want to watch Millwall play.'
'Oh right,' she said, shaking her head back at Tom, mimicking his action, 'well you'll 'ave to wait 'til the mornin' now, wont yer.'
Tom pursed his lips, thought of a reply and decided that he'd better keep his trap shut and get to his bed.
'And don't forget to 'ave a wee in the bucket on the landin' before you say yer prayers,' his mother called after him.
The need for a galvanised bucket was essential considering that the lavatory was downstairs out through the scullery, into the backyard and over to the far side, and all this without the aid of an electric light.
Tom dutifully emptied the 'piss bucket' every morning without fail. He was happy with this arrangement. He was fully aware of the alternative of not having the bucket available. He was scared of the dark (although he wouldn't admit it), and the thought of having to visit the outside lavatory in the middle of the night didn't bear thinking about.
So, after his visit to the bucket, he climbed into his bed and tried to sleep. He was listening for his father's return and hoping that he would pop his head round the door and confirm that he would be taking Tom to Millwall.
But sleep came first and before he knew it he was being woke by his mum, telling him that his cereal was on the table waiting for him. He got up; rubbing the sleep from his eyes and did his duty with the bucket. He returned to find his dad waiting for him. He looked at his father with an expectance that bordered on pitiful.
'I spoke to Albert last night, Tom,' his father said in a non-committal sort of way.
'Uh uh,' said Tom, his mind racing, pleading, please let me go, please let me go, please let me...
'And he told me that you reckon you're old enough to come down the Den wiv me.'
Tom stared at his feet, avoiding eye contact through fear of giving the wrong impression.
'And I guess it is about time I took yer...'
Tom couldn't speak, he couldn't breathe. The excitement he felt was beyond anything he'd ever felt in his young life. He was going to see MILLWALL! He was finally going to see his heroes play, to see the ground, to see the other fans; it was finally going to happen.
He leapt into his father's arms, hugging him tightly, kissing his face, 'Thank you thank you thank you thank you!'
'All right, all right, calm yerself down, boy, you'll 'ave a bloody seizure in a minute,' his dad laughed.
'You look after 'im, Bill, I mean it,' said Tom's mother, with a look of apprehension on her face. 'He can easily get lost down there, y'know.'
'I know, Lil, don't start worrying, fer gawd's sake, we ain't left the street yet, 'ave we?' he chided her.
'When we leavin' Dad?' asked Tom, his face now full of urgency.
'In a couple of hours, Tom,' his father replied, 'I want to nip down the Lane first.'
The Lane. East Lane market, a hub of noise and activity that never ceased to amaze Tom. They actually lived two streets away from the Lane and Tom had grown up with it being part and parcel of his life. He knew it like the back of his hand.
'Wot yer getting' from the Lane, Dad?'
'I'm poppin' into Peter's to 'ave a short back and sides. You could do wiv an 'aircut as well.'
Tom frowned. He didn't want a haircut. He wanted to grow his hair like the Beatles (not the Rollin' Stones!). But he didn't want to upset the applecart. He would accept anything as long as his visit to the Den was not in jeopardy.
'He ain't 'avin his 'air cut,' Lil yelled out from the back room, 'we can't afford it, not wiv you takin 'im to the football.'
Tom's world suddenly threatened to collapse around him, what was more important to his parents? A haircut or going to the Den? He closed his eyes and waited for the answer to break forth from his father's lips...
'Alright, woman, he can 'ave his 'aircut next week.'
Tom almost cheered out loud, but he kept his delight to himself and nodded his acceptance in what he considered a grown up fashion. He didn't see the look exchanged between his mum and dad. They both knew full well that Tom would be lifted over the turnstiles, like all the other kids and it wouldn't cost the family anything. It was just a little wind up to keep Tom on his toes.
'I'll come for a walk wiv yer, Dad,' Tom said.
'Alright, boy,' smiled his father, 'you can 'ave a sarsaparilla while yer waitin', if yer like.'
Tom was trying hard to act casual, but it all got too much for him.
'I'd love a sarsaparilla, can I 'ave an 'ot one? Can I get it meself from the stall? Do you want one? Can I stand at the stall an' drink it? Do you want yours brought into Peter's?'
'Whoa there Tom, one fing at a time!' said his dad, enjoying the excitement emanating from his young son.
'You 'ave your drink at the stall an' I'll get me 'aircut. If you finish before me you can meet me in the barber's, alright?'
'All right, Dad,' agreed Tom with far too much enthusiasm.
'Just you be careful, the both of yer,' Tom's mother called out, as the two set off down the stairs. Father and son exchanged a knowing glance and carried on going. As they passed by Albert's rooms he poked his head round the door.
'Off to the match then, fellers?' he asked in his most amiable fashion.
'Yeah,' grinned Tom, 'me dad's getting' his 'aircut first then we're off to see the Lions!'
'You lucky sods,' the old fellow said, tipping Bill a crafty wink, 'I don't suppose you could get me a programme, could yer?'
'Can we Dad?' asked Tom.
'Of course we can, we'll drop it off when we get back,' said Bill, and with that the two of them marched off up the street, heading for the Lane, young Tom telling anyone who would listen that he and his dad were going to see Millwall play.
After haircuts and hot drinks the two of them set off for some pie and mash in Arment's down the Walworth Road. After they had scoffed down the pie, mash and liquor, they began the journey to Millwall. They were travelling in style. Tom was very proud of the new, light blue company car that his dad had been given. There were only five cars down the whole of the street and Bill Stanton's was the newest. Tom had memorised the name and registration number of the vehicle and would gladly tell anyone who asked that the car was a Vauxhall Viva SMP 598F. He felt like Lord Muck as they drove out into the Walworth Road. He was sitting in the front, another first for him, and he could barely take it all in.
'How far is it to the ground, Dad?'
'Not far, Tom, not far,' his father replied. 'Now, don't go gettin' all excited, will yer? I don't want you frowin' up in me new motor, do I?'
'I ain't gonna frow up, Dad!' Tom grinned, 'I was just arskin' how far to the ground!'
'I'm just pullin' yer leg, son,' his father smiled.
He turned left into Albany Road and headed towards the Old Kent Road. Tom's eyes were everywhere. He had never travelled this far away from home except for a summer holiday down the coast. He saw a factory with "R Whites" painted on the wall.
'Is that the lemonade R Whites, Dad?' he enquired.
'It's the very same, Tom, now, you don't want lemonade do yer? You'll be fit to burst,' his father scolded.
'Nah, it's just that I never knew we lived so close to a lemonade factory, that's all.'
Bill smiled. He looked at his son and realised that the boy was growing up fast. He made a mental note to include the lad in more of his world. This was a good place to start. Down the Den, watching the Lions, just like his dad had done with him.
As they turned right into the Old Kent Road Tom had the Thomas à Beckett pointed out to him.
'A lot of boxers use that pub Tom. They use the upstairs for trainin'. I'll bring you up here soon to see a few of 'em and maybe get an autograph or two, what d'ya reckon?'
'Famous boxers?' Tom asked, his eyes widening at the thought.
'Of course they're famous, you daft bugger, why would you want autographs of ordinary ones?'
'Oh, yeah... right... 'course not... does 'Enery Cooper go there?'
''Enery Cooper, Jack Bodell, Billy Walker, they all get in there, I 'eard that Buchanon is due to visit there with 'is new title belt on show,' his dad pontificated. 'Even that loud mouthed yank has paid a visit, you know... Cassius Clay.'
'I 'ate 'im,' snarled Tom; ''Enery beat him once, didn't he?'
'No son, he's beat Cooper twice now. But I reckon 'Enery was robbed against 'im in the first fight.'
'I remember now, Dad, 'Enery flattened 'im, didn't he?'
'Yeah, he knocked 'im on 'is arse and then the bell went. Those that saw it reckon Clay's lot ripped 'is glove so that they could give their man a breather,' he went on, 'and the rest is 'istory.'
Tom gave a nod of approval. He looked out and saw what looked like huge drums.
'Blimey, Dad,' he exclaimed, 'what are they?'
'You watch yer language!' his dad admonished, 'that's the gas works. They're full of gas, them drums.'
His curiosity satisfied, he watched the view change as they turned into Ilderton Road. When his dad remarked that they were almost there his heart missed a beat. He looked all around for evidence; he couldn't really make head or tail of where the ground might be. He drew a breath as they drove under a railway arch. His father stopped the car. Tom saw a man approach the car dressed in a long, white coat. He watched his dad give the man some coins and take a ticket.
'That's the car parking sorted out, son,' his dad smiled, 'now onto the ground.'
They drove along what seemed to Tom to be a huge wasteland, and then he saw it. It had to be the ground. The Den. At long last he could see it. He just pointed and looked to his dad for confirmation. His father chuckled and gently guided Tom's arm away from the speedway stadium to the football ground.
'That's the Den, Tom, home to the famous Lions,' his dad said, with more than a hint of pride.
Tom just stared with open mouth and nodding acceptance. The Den. Millwall Football Club. He could hardly believe that he was finally here. He told himself that he would remember every detail, every bit of this experience. It was a milestone in his short life that had seemed so far away, but not anymore. This was it. He was going into the Lion's Den and he was bursting with pure joy and excitement. He knew that none of his mates had ever gone to a real, live match (except for Terry Johnson, who claimed to have been to see England play at Wembley, but that didn't count as far as Tom was concerned).
He reached for his dad's hand as they walked from the car and was happy to be led the way. They walked down some steep (for Tom) steps and turned right towards the ground. They passed under another bridge and there they were, at the turnstiles. The gates to paradise for Tom. He looked through and caught a glimpse of the pitch. It looked so green, so fresh, so inviting. The smell of the turf was wafting all around him and it was an unfamiliar aroma. There wasn't much in the way of grass in Tom's part of Walworth and it was a rare sight and smell for him.
He felt two strong hands grip him beneath his armpits and suddenly he was in the air. He looked over his shoulder to confirm that it was his dad handling him and gave a quizzical look.
'Eyes front, Tom,' his dad chuckled and before he knew what was happening, he was on the inside. His dad paid a few coins to the man in the booth and the clank-clank of the mechanism allowed him to follow after Tom, then they made the short walk into the ground itself.
''Ere y'go, boy, go an' buy a programme from that bloke over there,' his dad gave Tom one and sixpence, 'there's enough there for two so get Albert one as well.'
Tom walked up to the programme seller and asked for two. The man barely took any notice of Tom but swiftly took the money from his hand and quickly replaced the coins with two programmes. Tom stared at the magazines all the way back to his dad, looking at the front cover; the blue and white diagonal pattern with the Millwall crest in the middle. He'd seen this before, but always second hand. This was brand new and he was the first to see it. He passed Albert's copy to his dad and opened his own one. He stared at a black and white photo of Dennis Burnett in action and then looked at the team page. They were all there, Weller, Possee, Jacks, Neil & Conlon up front; Jones, Kitchener and Burnett were the halfbacks. Gilchrist and Cripps at the back with Leslie in goal. He could barely contain his excitement as they walked into the main part of the stadium.
Tom couldn't take his eyes from the pitch. It looked massive. He saw the goalposts and net and was in total awe. Black and white photographs that had been his only view of this footballing cathedral did not convey the same vision that now occupied the sight of this (nearly) eight-year-old boy. They walked up the terraces and took a position on one of the floodlight bases. Tom's dad told him to sit on the edge and not to move. He explained that there would be a fair size crowd and he would have a perfect view from this vantage point. Tom nodded dutifully and continued his gaze over the panorama set before him.
Along the right hand side were the "stands" as his dad called them, rows of wooden seats all the way along with a standing area at the front and totally covered in. Maybe, he pondered, that's why they are called "stands" because you can stand at the front if you got fed up with sitting at the back. He made a mental note to ask his dad if his assumption was right. To his left was a huge expanse of terracing with a covered section in the middle and to the rear.
To Tom this area seemed absolutely enormous. He couldn't imagine how many people it would take to fill it. His gaze took him to the opposite end and he realised that it was almost a mirror image of the end he was at. He was totally absorbed in his delectation and didn't hear his dad talking to him.
'Are you listening to me, Tom?' his father asked in exasperation, 'I have just given you the run down on what to do if we get split up, and you ain't heard a bleedin' word, 'ave yer?'
Tom shook his head sheepishly and waited for the instructions to be repeated.
'All yer need to remember is if we get split up, wait by the turnstiles where we come in and I'll find yer, don't go off lookin' for me, all right?'
'Yeah, o.k. Dad, I understand,' he gave his dad his most serious expression to ensure that his father's instructions had been fully committed to memory.
The ground began to fill up quite quickly and a couple of older lads had taken their places on the floodlight next to Tom. Tom eyed them speculatively. He liked the rosettes the taller of the two had pinned to his coat. They looked very smart. They consisted of blue and white ribbons and a golden lion in the middle with "Millwall F.C." across bottom in black.
The other lad had a large blue and white rattle that made an ear aching din whenever he swirled it around. But to Tom, it was fantastic. He smiled at the boys and gave them a nod of recognition from one fan to another, and the nod was reciprocated. He wanted to strike up a conversation with the two lads but he didn't want to let on that this was his first game. He didn't want to appear to be naïve in this marvellous new world. He finally plucked up courage and leapt straight in at the deep end. 'Who's yer favourite player at the moment?' he asked to neither one in particular.
'Well,' began the taller of the two, 'at the moment I fink that Dunphy is playin' some of the best football of 'is career, 'ow about you, Charlie?'
'Yeah,' agreed his mate, 'Dunphy's playin' well, but I like Weller an' Possee, they make a great partnership.'
Tom was spellbound. These boys were talking about his heroes in the same way that he did. It was just too much for him. He blurted out an agreement with both of the other lads opinions but never put forward his own. He just wanted to hear these two talking about his team. He had never really held a conversation before about Millwall with anyone other than his dad and it was all new to him.
The three lads chatted away for a while as the ground continued to fill.
'D'you know any Millwall songs?' Charlie asked Tom.
'Err... I know one that me dad taught me,' replied Tom, hoping that these two new found friends wouldn't ask him to sing.
'Go on then, Tom,' encouraged Paul, tapping his rosettes, let's 'ear it for the Lions.'
'Erm... I can't really sing,' said Tom, feeling his face blush with embarrassment.
Paul laughed and clapped Tom on the back, 'We don't expect yer to sound like Elvis! Just give us a burst of what you got.'
'All right I speak it for yer?' countered Tom.
'Go on then, Englebert,' smiled Charlie, 'give us a listen and we'll tell yer if we know it.'
"Play up Millwall, can't play football,
Oh yes they can, they beat West Ham,
What was the score?
Who scored the four?
'That's not bad,' said Paul, 'I don't know who Dillimore is but tell me it again, I ain't heard that one before.'
So Tom repeated it line by line until the other two knew the song. Tom's dad heard the familiar song and told the lads it was an old playground song from when he was a lad round the Elephant. Dillimore was a legendary forward for Millwall in the Twenties and the song was sung to the tune of the Pompey Chimes of Portsmouth. This meant nothing to the three boys but they nodded in agreement and turned to survey the pitch and prepare for the entrance of their idols.
Before long an expectant buzz was circulating around the ground. The noise was building to a crescendo and then, as if by magic, the teams appeared at the far end away to Tom's right, and a deafening roar went up. Tom was spellbound. He stared, open-mouthed as his heroes came trotting on to the pitch wearing their immaculate blue and white kits. He looked at his two new mates and they were busy cheering their heads off, he grinned and joined in the cheering. This was it. This was what he had waited for for so long. He was at the Den, home of Millwall, his team, his Lions. It was then that his fate was sealed. He may not have been aware of it, but he would be a Millwall supporter for the rest of his life. Through thick and thin, ups and downs he would always be a Millwall supporter.
The game was over; Tom and his dad were heading home. It had all happened far too quickly for Tom, he wanted it to last forever. But he had a warm feeling inside of him and he knew that his dad would be bringing him to the next game. He wasn't too upset with the 1-1 result. He was just so happy to have been a part of it.
When they got home the familiar smell of kippers wafted into his nostrils. His mum and dad always had kippers on Saturdays and this Saturday was no exception. The small television set with its grainy black and white pictures was the centre of attention and everything seemed normal. But to Tom it wasn't normal. This day was a special day. A day that he would remember for the rest of his life. This was the day that the Lions became real to him. More real than any newspaper report or match day programme could ever be. Tom was now a fully-fledged Millwall supporter and no one could ever take that away from him.
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