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  • Writer's pictureBy Yann Tear

No one prints us, we don't care. Millwall not alone in seeking frugal path to glory

Millwall fans know a bargain when they see one. And recognise a gap in the market too.

The trouble is that the £1 unofficial programmes on sale near the cafe entrance to the Den are proving so popular that they soon sell out.

On Saturday, the visit of Leeds brought a bumper crowd and huge demand for the souvenir print-out on sale before kick-off. With three quarters of an hour to go before the players took the field, none more were to be found.

There are not many clubs that no longer print matchday programmes, but another one is Championship rivals Bristol City, who also decided a couple of seasons ago to ditch them - thus ending decades of tradition for fans whose number included those wanting a simple quick pre-match read and those wanting a keepsake for posterity.

The loss of such a symbolic feature of the matchday experience has not been without a mini outcry in Bristol as well as in south east London - but not enough to get the respective clubs to think again.

While the Lions now have their unofficial programme, so too do Bristol City fans, though theirs is a considerably more expensive version. At £4 a pop, Cidereds (Inset), as the publication is called, costs more than the official one used to.

Good though it looks, there did not seem to be a clamour for them on a rainy Tuesday night ahead of City's latest home game against Plymouth. Perhaps it was the cost. Or people simply already out of the habit of including a programme as part of their pre-match routine.

City fans did not seem to care, as they savoured a 4-1 win against their West Country rivals - a handsome return in a first meeting between the clubs for 14 years.

But then again, surely a fair few among a bumper crowd of 23,000 would not have minded making their way home with a souvenir of such a happy night when their young team outplayed one of last season's outstanding League One outfits.

Without one lurking in the bookshelves, how can there be a nostalgic prompt for the memory banks in years to come?

The lack of programmes hints at cost-cutting in a division where finances inevitably are going to have a big say in who makes it up to the promised land of the Premier League when the baubles are handed out in May.

Last year's barely believable success for Luton Town suggests the wealthy teams awash with parachute money following relegation from the top flight will not necessarily have it their own way.

But for every Huddersfield Town, Barnsley, Blackpool and Cardiff City - among clubs who confounded the odds to reach the top flight - there is a Leicester City and Leeds : clubs who have routes back to the top seemingly mapped out for them before the season even began.

This year, Millwall and Bristol City are among five Championship clubs who have never reached the top division since it became remodelled in 1993. The others are Plymouth - City's opponents at Ashton Gate, Preston and Rotherham.

All five will do well to break the glass ceiling and saving a few pennies on programme costs is probably not going to make a great deal of difference. But it still somehow feels symptomatic of the struggle.

Bristol City's best display of the campaign brought a handsome 4-1 win to lift them up to fifth in the table. But those of us who might like to look back on the occasion in a few years time will have to make do with a flimsy teamsheet (Pictured, top) rather than the more concrete and charming pleasure of a fully-fledged programme.

Most Millwall fans will not be so fussed that there was no keepsake from Saturday's encounter with Leeds to take home, given that the game ended in a 3-0 drubbing. But some future matches are bound to bring great victories, and some accompanying twinges of regret at their absence.


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