Richard Sutcliffe: Is it too much to hope respect will be shown by all at The Den?

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TOMORROW, Leeds United travel to Millwall.

It is a fixture with such a volatile history that the police spend weeks planning how to keep apart the lunatic fringe among each club’s support.

The hope, of course, is that the boys in blue get it right and the day passes off peacefully, meaning all the post-match focus will be on events on the pitch.

Sadly, the tribal nature of a fixture that not so long ago was featured on a documentary entitled Football’s Hardest Away Days leaves this column fearing the worst.

Not, I hasten to add, in that hordes of warring fans are expected to be doing battle on the streets of south London.

The slick police operation that slips into gear for the more high-profile fixtures at The Den should prevent that, as should the building a few years ago of a walkway that takes visiting supporters direct from the ground to the platform at South Bermondsey Station without having to step within 100 yards of a home fan.

No, any unpleasant post-match talking points are likely to revolve around the taunts about the death of two Leeds supporters in Turkey that have become a depressingly regular feature of this fixture over recent years.

Last April, an entertaining 3-2 win for Millwall saw not only the chant ‘always look out for Turks carrying knives’ aimed at the 2,000 visiting supporters but also 100 or so Turkish paper flags being waved in their direction.

That some halfwit had even gone to the trouble of printing these offending items before distributing them among his fellow morons only added to the disgust felt by those from Yorkshire.

It was a new low at a fixture that, in the past, has seen Millwall fans wear the shirt of Galatasaray, the team Leeds were due to play in the UEFA Cup on the fateful trip that saw Christopher Loftus and Kevin Speight murdered in Istanbul.

Millwall as a club do their best, threatening to ban anyone involved and this week posting a further warning on their website. Whether that will be enough, however, is debatable with the suspicion, when watching those waving the flags last year, being that turning on a computer may be beyond them.

Should the worst happen tomorrow and the sick chants are given another airing then it will be a sad return to the gutter for football just a week on from the respectful reaction to Fabrice Muamba’s collapse at White Hart Lane.

The manner in which the Spurs fans took up the chant of the player’s name that had originated in the away seats showed that decency does have a place in the modern game after all.

It also deservedly drew praise from the public at large, though perhaps this said more about the depths to which fans of all manner of clubs had previously sunk.

Just last week, for instance, Nottingham Forest fans were subjected to the chant ‘where’s your chairman gone?’ during the East Midlands derby at Derby County, a disturbing reference to owner Nigel Doughty’s recent death.

Leeds fans were also caught on camera chanting about the Munich air disaster before September’s Carling Cup clash with Manchester United, whose supporters marred a FA Youth Cup tie at Anfield a year ago by singing about the Hillsborough disaster.

Former Doncaster Rovers striker Billy Sharp is another to have recently been subjected to shocking abuse, this time about the death of his baby son.

Perhaps the saddest aspect is that the silent majority – such as the 215 Millwall fans whose respect towards the late Gary Speed was impeccable at Elland Road in December – are the ones tainted by the idiots.