Hooligans behind violent clashes at a match between West Ham and Millwall today boasted about the rampage which ended in one fan being stabbed.
Evidence has emerged showing thugs organised the riots at the Carling Cup match on internet chatrooms. One message said: ‘Make sure you bring your bats and don’t bring your kids.’
Police are scouring CCTV footage of the brawls at West Ham’s Upton Park stadium in east London in a bid to pinpoint the perpetrators.
As they began their investigation, fans gloated about the fighting which saw one man stabbed in the chest and more than 20 others injured.
One wrote on Millwall Online under the headline ‘Someone stabbed’: ‘Let’s just pray that whoever it is pulls through ok.. unless they’re a West Ham ****, then let them die.’
West Ham supporters also praised the violence. One said: ‘Nights like last night make me want to go back to Upton Park more regularly… the passion and atmosphere.’
Another fan who had clearly already been barred from the ground wrote: ‘Broke my banning order restrictions… am confident of getting away with it.’
Questions are being asked about the numbers of police at the fixture, which fans had predicted would attract hooligans from both sets of supporters.
And it is feared the ugly fighting could harm the Football Association’s bid to host the 2018 World Cup which will be decided next year.
The fighting began shortly after 6pm as thousands of fans made their way to the ground and descended into running battles with up to 1,000 riot police.
The violent scenes were still being played out six hours later, well after the match had been won by West Ham 3-1.
Tensions completely boiled over when West Ham took the lead in extra time and around 60 fans raced on to the pitch as vicious chanting echoed around the stands.
Supporters fought with police and stewards and play was suspended. Bricks and bottles were thrown at officials and police and at least 10 people were arrested.
One Millwall fan said: ‘It was like a war zone outside the stadium. I brought my kids with me and they’ve seen some violence that is indescribable.’
The 44-year-old man was stabbed in the chest just yards from the ground and is today in a stable condition in hospital.
Two other fans had to be taken to hospital for treatment to less serious injuries after what police called ‘large-scale’ violence.
Millwall and West Ham have one of the longest-standing rivalries in English football but have rarely been in the same division and have not played each other since 2005.
A West Ham fan said the violent scenes ‘seemed to belong to another era’. Scotland Yard said they were ‘pre-planned and organised’.
John Whittingham, 35, a caretaker who lives near the ground, added: ‘There were lots of scuffles and fights before the game. I saw a couple of people with bloody faces.
‘People were throwing bricks but I haven’t got a clue where they were finding them. Some people were trying to rip bollards off the pavement. There were also some fires lit.’
Among the spectators in the ground was actress Jaime Winstone, who is engaged to Lily Allen’s brother Alfie.
Miss Allen begged on social-networking website Twitter: ‘Millwall-WestHam, stop fighting, my Jaime is there. If anything happens to her… I don’t know, just stop it!’
Police and stewards had battled to keep the two sets of fans apart during the game as they taunted one another as news of the fighting outside filtered through.
But when the game ended, hundreds of fans invaded the pitch again and had to be forcibly removed.
A 56-year-old man said: ‘There were a lot of lunatics around. The thing is, between these two sets of fans, it’s hatred. The teams haven’t played each other for so long so I suppose it was always going to kick off.’
The manager of a nearby kebab shop said: ‘All hell broke loose, it was very frightening. It’s not every day you see stuff like that. There were West Ham fans on one side and Millwall on the other. They were being kept apart by the police.
‘There were West Ham fans for as far as you could see along the street. Bottles and bricks were being thrown from the back and some were hitting West Ham fans at the front. There were loads of people with blooded faces.’
Another man, aged 19, who did not want to be named, said: ‘People were chipping bricks off buildings and throwing them at police. I saw one officer getting kicked as he was on the ground.’
One West Ham fan said his tube train had stopped just before Upton Park at 7.20pm and did not move for around 15 minutes.
‘Tempers flared on board as kick-off approached, people tried breaking open the doors,’ he said.
‘The atmosphere was tense in surrounding streets, the police helicopter was up and riot police were everywhere. It was only a matter of time before it all kicked off.’
Home Secretary Alan Johnson described the riots as ‘disgraceful’ and insisted tough legislation would ensure there was no return to the old days of hooliganism.
‘Anyone who thinks that thuggery has any place in modern-day football is living in the dark ages and will bring only shame upon themselves and the teams they support,’ he said.
Chairman of the Football Supporters Federation Malcolm Clarke was meeting with Football Association boss Ian Watmore today to discuss the riots.
‘It’s not a good start to the season and it’s important a full investigation is done, and the FA are going to do this with all parties to see exactly what caused this. But I think at this stage we must keep it in perspective.
‘Certainly over the last 20 years the amount of football violence has radically reduced. It’s too early I think to start drawing too many long-term conclusions, but obviously this was a very serious incident,’ he said.
A spokesman for the FA said: ‘We absolutely condemn all of the disorder that has occurred at
Upton Park this evening both inside and outside of the ground.
‘We will be working with all parties, including the police and clubs, to establish the facts surrounding tonight’s events. We strongly expect all culprits to be banned from football for life. They have no place in our game.’
West Ham boss Gianfranco Zola also spoke of his shock, saying: ‘It’s certainly not good for football. I was completely shocked. Totally. I knew it was a game that meant a lot for the two sets of supporters, but I didn’t imagine it like this.
‘What can I say? I’m a sport man. I love the game. I love to go on the pitch and try and make it exciting for the supporters and enjoyable for everybody to watch. This was beyond my powers.’
Millwall boss Kenny Jackett added: ‘There were no Millwall fans on the pitch. They stayed where they were supposed to. There were a lot of people on the pitch. The lads gathered together and came to the sides, as they should have.
‘I wasn’t aware of the stabbing outside the ground. I’m very sad to hear that. We’ve got a passionate game in this country, but when it oversteps the mark then things have to be done.’
The clashes are the worst violence between the clubs for decades. Formed by rival dockers in London’s East End in the late 19th century, the two have long been known for their rivalry.
Millwall were formed in 1885 on the Isel of Dogs, and drew a lot of their support from the island and surrounding areas such as Poplar, Bow, Stepney, Wapping and also south of the river in Southwark.
Meanwhile, East End shipbuilders and ironworkers got a factory team together which became Thames Ironworks FC.
Millwall and Thames Ironworks often met in heated league and cup games, and a rivarly developed.
Thames Ironworks eventually became West Ham and the rivalry was set.
In the 1960s, it even crept into London’s two most notorious gangs: The Krays, who hailed from the East End and supported West Ham; and the Richardsons, from south of the river and followed Millwall.
Two clubs and a very bitter history
West Ham and Millwall, both originating in London’s East End, have one of the most bitter and longstanding rivalries in English football history.
It started in the early years of the 20th century between rival dockers at two London shipyards on either side of the Thames.
Millwall, formed in 1885 by dockers and shipbuilders on the Isle of Dogs gained support in the surrounding areas and were then the best team outside the FA, nicknamed the ‘Lions of the South’.
When a rival football team was formed by dockers at Thames Ironworks, the two became vicious enemies. They were rivals for the same contracts and the players lived in the same locality.
Tensions reached their peak in the 1920s when Thames Ironworks moved to a new home and adopted the name West Ham United.
As Millwall struggled, West Ham’s star was rising. Fighting broke out during the 1926 general strike when the West Ham dockers were on strike while Millwall carried on working.
Although troubles subsided for a time as the two teams didn’t meet, the seventies and eighties brought a fresh wave of violence. The hostilities continued as ‘firms’ associated with the clubs began fighting.
West Ham gained notoriety for its association with the Mile End Mob – a gang of football hooligans named after a particularly tough area of the East End of London.
The club was also linked to the Inter City Firm whose members deliberately wore non-football clothing and travelled to games on ‘Inter City’ trains rather than tightly-policed ‘football special’ charter trains.
The 2005 film Green Street (Hooligans) depicts an American student who becomes involved with a fictional firm associated with West Ham, with an emphasis on the rivalry with Millwall.
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