Tribal Football Rivalries – West Ham Vs Millwall

West Ham and Millwall are separated by under four miles and share one of England’s most bitter football rivalries.

The first meeting took place in 1897 in a friendly, although the first competitive fixture was won 2-1 by then Millwall Athletic in the FA Cup in December 1899. The two clubs were situated just under three miles apart, which signalled the beginning of their rivalry.

The two teams met in the Southern League regularly in the early 1900s and Millwall enjoyed a 12-match unbeaten streak. The Football League was reintroduced after World War I, with West Ham joining the Second Division in 1919 and Millwall entering the Third Division in 1920.

In 1906, West Ham player Len Jarvis threw Millwall’s Alf Dean into the advertising board in a heated and bitter battle. The supporters watching the game in the crowd were excited by this and violence became a regular occurrence. Violence intensified during the 1970s and 80s, due to the forming of both of the clubs hooligan firms.

West Ham’s Inter City firm and the Millwall Bushwackers clashed on various occasions during local derbies. After World War II, Millwall dropped as low as the Fourth Division, whereas West Ham have never played below the Second Division in their history.

This meant that the two local rivals didn’t play each other between November 1959 to September 1978. West Ham enjoyed success during Millwall’s downfall and won three FA Cups in 1964, 1975 and 1980.

Although they didn’t meet competitively during this period, a testimonial match was organised between West Ham and Millwall in 1972. The fixture was heavily surrounded by violence once again due to the rise in football hooliganism.

In 1976, a Millwall fan was killed after falling out of a train whilst fighting with a group of West Ham supporters. This led to a minority of hammers’ fans signing the chant, “West Ham boys, we’ve got brains, we throw Millwall off of trains.” Millwall brandished leaflets at their home matches in 1978, reading “a West Ham fan must die to avenge him.”

Millwall gained promotion to the First Division to join West Ham in the English top flight for the first time in 1988. The fixtures between both teams have had a heavy police presence due to the possibility of violence.

On Mother’s Day, Millwall beat West Ham 4-1 in their first derby at the New Dean in March 2004. A series of violent incidents took place and Millwall supporters labelled it the “Mother’s Day Massacre”.

The violence also spanned into International football when violence broke out in Canada Square when England’s game against Paraguay in the 2006 World Cup was being aired. 16 people sustained injuries and the Police were forced to shut the game down with 10 minutes of the game remaining.

They drew each other in the League Cup during the 2009/10 season and Police cut the number of away tickets from 3,000 to 1,500. This left Millwall supporters outraged and they vowed to cause violence during the match at Upton Park.

West Ham won the match 3-1 after extra-time and violence took place before, during and after the game. The home supporters invaded the pitch on a handful of occasions and a Millwall supporter was stabbed outside the stadium, fortunately he made a full recovery.

The lions were responsible for flying an aircraft over the DW Stadium during West Ham’s final game of the season against Wigan Athletic. The banner unveiled the message, “Avram Grant – Millwall Legend”. This was due to Grant’s failure to keep the hammers in the Premier League in the 2010/11 season.

Tribal History

Millwall were founded in 1885 by tinsmiths at JT Morton’s and were originally named Millwall Rovers Football Club. West Ham were founded ten years later as Thames Ironworks Football Club by Dave Taylor.

Dave Taylor was a foreman at the Thames Ironwork and Shipbuilding Company, which was the last major shipbuilding firm in London. The teams were only three miles apart and the players worked for opposing firms, which further developed the rivalry.

Thames Ironworks folded in July 1900 and West Ham United were formed to replace them in August. West Ham gave themselves the nickname the hammers, due to their ironwork heritage.

In 1927, the Royal Dock workers went on strike and the majority of the dock workers were West Ham United supporters. Although there is no evidence of these reports, Millwall supporting workers of the Isle of Dogs were reluctant to lend their support.

Millwall’s stadium the Old Den was bombed during World War II and West Ham, Crystal Palace and Charlton Athletic allowed them to play at their grounds for a short period. This was probably the only sign of unification in the history of the rivalry between Millwall and West Ham.

The clubs have moved a mile closer to each other, following West Ham’s move to the Olympic Stadium. The hammers are now under 3 miles closer to their local rivals due to their decision to leave Upton Park after calling it their home for 112 years.

West Ham Vs Millwall – Head-to-Head Record

Teams Wins Draws Goals
West Ham 34 27 140
Millwall 38 27 141

Millwall have the better head-to-head record over West Ham with four more wins and one more goal. However, West Ham have never fell below the Second Division in their history and Millwall have dropped as low as the Fourth Division in the past.

West Ham have won 3 FA Cups and finished runners-up twice, whereas Millwall have never won the FA Cup and only finished runners-up in 2004. The hammers currently play their football in the Premier League and Millwall compete in League One.



George Bennett

My name is George Bennett, I'm 19-years-old and I'm the founder and administrator for GB Articles Football Blog. I've been writing from the age of 12-years-old and decided to create my own blog to spread my passion for the beautiful game. The blog was created in May 2016 and I've began to assemble a talented group of writers since April 2017. I mainly cover the Premier League, although I also base some reports on the Italian Serie A, Spanish La Liga, German Bundesliga and more!

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