by Nathan Critchlow

The 123rd FA Cup Final (the 4th to be played at Cardiff’s Millennium Stadium due to the ongoing reconstruction of Wembley) was, in the opinion of many, a slightly mis-matched affair which pitted Premier League heavyweights, Manchester United against a mid-table Championship team, Millwall. The game saw Manchester United record a record 11th FA Cup triumph thanks to a goal from Cristiano Ronalo and two from Ruud Van Nistelrooy. The FA Cup final will also be remembered for more than a game of football thanks to Manchester United who celebrated with “Davis, 36” shirts, in memory of former player Jimmy Davis who tragically died in a car crash at the start of the season.

However, in comparison to the legends and superstars of Manchester United (what ever happened to Cristano Ronaldo anyway?) the Millwall stars of the FA Cup Run of 2003-2004 have seemingly been forgotten by the footballing world.

You know that at some point in the future somebody will say ‘What ever happened to him?’ Well hopefully, after reading this, you’ll know.

GK:Andy Marshall (at Millwall between 2004-2006)

Andy Marshall is perhaps best known to Norwich and football fans of the 1990’s as the man who displaced club legend, Bryan Gunn. To Marshall’s credit he certainly filled the big man’s shoes, by racking up 219 appearances in the green and yellow. Then, after arguably his most productive season for Norwich, Marshall then spectacularly put his size 11s in it by moving across to arch rivals Ipswich Town. Very smooth. Following the move it appeared the shot stopper’s career was falling apart, as he struggled, ultimately making 50 appearances in four years at Portman Road. However, a loan spell at Millwall turned it all around and Marshall found himself fulfilling a dream by playing in the FA Cup final. It certainly can be argued that 3-0 doesn’t reflect Marshall’s performance as the keeper pulled off a string of fine saves. After the heights of the cup Marshall moved to a stuttering Coventry City, who threatened with administration were continually on a downward slope during his spell at the club. However, that didn’t affect the keeper;s popularity as he helped Coventry stave off relegation until the last moment. Surprisingly, after Marshall was released by Coventry in 2009 he joined Aston Villa as 3/4th choice keeper. To date he is still there, however a place on the bench against Chelsea a reserve league title and a failed trial with Charlton Athletic is as exciting as it has been.

RB: Marvin Elliott (at Millwall between 2003-2007)

For a lot of youngsters in football it is a case of ‘right place, right time’ in order to make the grade. That is certainly true of Marvin Elliott. As an emerging youth team prospect 2003-2004 proved to be Elliott’s break-through year. However, his progress was still hampered by the presence of Millwall’s resident psycho/right back/international man of violence, Kevin Muscat (look him up). However, as the saying goes bad things happen to bad people and I guess nobody was surprised when Muscat was injured for the final, and in the process gave young Elliott his chance. It was a tough task to mark Giggs/Ronaldo and co, but it was the start of a solid career. Elliot went on to make 148 more appearances for Millwall and even taking part in their two game European adventure, before joining Bristol City in 2007 where he still remains.

LB: Robbie Ryan (at Millwall betwenn 1998-2004)

In contrast to Elliott, the FA Cup Final represented the end of Robbie Ryan’s career at Millwall. Bought from Huddersfield for the sum of £10,000 I think you’d struggle to find any Milwall fan who would argue Ryan wasn’t value for money. He was given the tough job of marking Cristiano Ronaldo in the final, an experience for which he is probably still recovering from. Following his spell at Millwall he was then transferred to Bristol Rovers, after one of their scouts realised he was out of contract after looking Football Manager (who says it isn’t real life?). Ryan’s career ended with a farewell tour of non-league, finishing with Croydon Athletic. I wonder what meant more in his career; the FA Cup Final Runner Up meal of his FIFA World Youth Championship medal he got in Malaysia in 1997? Probably the FA Cup.

CB: Matthew Lawrence – Captain (Millwall between 2000-2006)

Matthew Lawrence is what I would term a ‘real underdog’ after beginning his career in the non/lower leagues with Grays Athletic, Fulham and Wycombe Wanderers. However, the former Millwall captain and player of the year could have been on a completely different journey than that which led to the FA Cup FInal. Followed a bust up with manager Mark McGhee at the start of the season it appeared Lawrence was on his way out. Cue a managerial merry-go-round and the arrival of Dennis Wise, which saw the centre back become a pivotal figure on their march to the final and a 10th place Championship finish. The departure of Wise also coincided with the demise of Lawrence at Millwall and a concession of managers all seemed to all differ on where Lawrence’s best position was. The frustration was finally ended by a transfer to Crystal Palace where he flourished under the stewardship of Neil ‘Mrs Doubtfire’ Warnock (who doesn’t? Honestly, he made Clint Hill a Premier League level player). After a couple of years at Gillingham Lawrence was most recently seen playing for Non-League Whitehawk. Yes, that is right. Whitehawk. Yes it sounds like a James Bond villain.

Darren Ward: The ‘Peckham Beckham’

CB: Darren Ward (Millwall between 2001-2005)

Affectionally known as the ‘Peckham Beckham’, due to his rather identical (and by identical I mean ridiculous) hairstyle which leant itself more to looking like an X-Factor’s  Rylan than a professional footballer. Ward started at Watford before being shown the door by Gianluca Vialli. However, he would perhaps see that as a decent exit, as he joined Millwall on an upward curve. Ward played the full 90 minutes against United and put in a solid performance in keeping the score respectable despite facing Ruud Van Nistelrooy and co. After a couple more years at The New Den Ward went on a mini tour of Championship and League one clubs (Crystal Palace, Wolves, Watford and Charlton) before ending back up at The Den in 2010, and was most recently spotted in the Italian Job led by Di Canio at Swindon. He also runs a cattery in Hertfordshire. That’s right a house full of cats. Just checking you understood.

RM: Paul Ifill (Millwall between 1998-2005)

My over arching memory of Paul Ifill is of football manager 2005. For some reason he was seen as a powerhouse, a catalyst, a player of Messi-like proportions who was almost immediately snapped up by Arsenal, Tottenham, Liverpool or one of the other top four clubs. It always baffled me when they signed him, and he invariably spent more time cleaning the boots of heroic Adam Hammill (yes the current Wolves bench man) than Champions League football. This is clearly a disservice to a player who went on to play 264 games in all competitions for Millwall, despite a tendency to be best friend with the clubs physiotherapist. Unlike the majority of the 04′ Lion’s squad Ifill continued on an upward progression post  cup final as he spent a prosperous spell under Neil Warnock (surprise, surprise) as Sheffield United romped to Premier League promotion. However, Ifill failed to realise the Premier League dream as he quickly fell out of favour and was sold in January. Following a fairly unspectacular spell at Crystal Palace (another one) he can now be seen strutting his stuff for A-League club Wellington Phoenix, even reaching the Play Offs in 2010. Ifill has also collected a pretty nifty scoring record at International level for Barbados scoring 6 goals in 10 games.

LM: Peter Sweeney (between 2001-2005)

As another product of the Millwall Youth academy, Sweeney (like Marvin Elliot) timed his break through into the first team just at the right moment. Prior to the FA Cup final season (2003/2004) Sweeney had only made 7 first team appearances, however the young winger went on to play 34 games in the run up to the cup final. Unfortunately, it is a hard task for any young winger to get the better of Gary Neville in his prime. However, the cup final appearance didn’t go unnoticed as Sweeney went on to play six times for the Scotland Under 21’s. Unfortunately, like many of the Lion’s of 04′, the cup final was the pinnacle of a relatively low level career. A serious 3 month lay off occurring on his debut stalled his progress at next club Stoke City. Several loan spells followed at Yeovil and Walsall, however neither helped his progress at Stoke and he was saved my Millwall cup final hero Dennis Wise who had recently taken the reigns at Leeds United. However, Dennis Wise was soon gone from Leeds as well, and Sweeney again found himself out of favour under Simon Grayson and Gary McCallister. However, Sweeney got his revenge on Leeds by scoring a rasping volley against Leeds for his next club Gillingham (who he helped save from relegation). However, salvation didn’t last and Sweeney joined Bury following Gillingham’s relegation from the Football League.

CM: David Livermore (Millwall between 1998-2006).

David Livermore’s career is one of the more interesting of Cup Final Squad of 04. Livermore spent the most product of his career at Milwall. After failing to break the ranks at Arsenal as a youth team player (not easy trying to oust players of Ray Parlous and Paul Merson) Livermore went on to play 273 league games for the Lions. Livermore rather had a cup final to forget, snapping down Ryan Giggs to give United a penalty which all but sealed the game at 2-0. After two more seasons at Millwall Livermore joined Leeds United. However, Livermore bizarrely left Leeds 10 later after Kevin Blackwell admitted he’d signed too many midfielders (signing Westlake and Nichols as well) and Livermore would not actually play any games. If anybody ever needed more evidence that Blackwell was a completely crap manager – this was it. Livermore’s career somewhat fizzled out after that. It never really worked out at Hull and after several loan spells the mid-fielder finally ended his career at Histon. He is currently a coach back where it all started – MIllwall.

The Cockney Mafia in camp-mode.

CM: Dennis Wise – Manager (Millwall between 2002-2005)

The former Wimbledon, Chelsea and Leicester player needs very little introduction. Having enjoyed an illustrious career Dennis Wise joined Millwall for one last Hurrah. However, he clearly got more than he bargained for. You could probably argue that the former Wimbledon head case and Millwall were quite well suited. Following the sacking of Mark McGhee Dennis Wise took the reigns for his first shot at management. It certainly went well as he became the first manager to lead a Football League club to the FA Cup final final since 1992, whilst also leading Millwall into Europe for the first time in the club’s history. Although Wise’s actual performance in the final was relatively low key his it was a fitting swan-song to a player who clearly deserved a better crack at international football than he was given credit for. Unfortunately the managerial dream went sour when Millwall were dumped out of Europe at the first hurdle, and a subsequent a disagreement with the current chairman occurred. Wise had a solid start to the rest of his managerial career enjoying relative success with both Swindon and Leeds United. However, Wise finally fell victim to the modern football management jargon (read bulls***) as he became a ‘football executive’ under Mike Ashley at Newcastle United. His principal role was to spend time flying round Europe identifying potential superstars and advising the board on footballing matters. However, following the decision of local hero Kevin Keegan to leave his managerial post due to ‘influence from upstairs’ the eyes were suddenly on Mike Ashley and his band of merry dimwits, dubbed ‘The Cockney Mafia by supporters. The pressure mounted and mounted, whilst Wise helped his reputation no end by (1) bringing trash like Xisco and Ignacio Gonzales (No I don’t know who he is either) to Newcastle and (2) being regularly spotted hob nobbling with his mates at Chelsea. Wise even spent the day on holiday with his wife in Dubai as Newcastle crashed out of the Premier League. The fall-out from his disastrous spell at Newcastle United rumbles on. Wise has barely been seen since.

FC: Tim Cahill (Millwall between 1998-2004)

Tim Cahill is clearly one of the biggest success stories of the 04′ squad. It is difficult to say (without having been present at his early days at MIllwall) whether Tim Cahill became the player he did due his time at Millwall or whether Millwall signed him because of the player he was. Either way, he was a first and foremost a decent football player, but secondly he was a hard and dirty bastard. However, regardless of which category he fell into Cahill was undoubtedly a hero throughout the cup run, even scoring against Sunderland in the Semi FInal. Following a tussle between Crystal Palace (yes again) and Everton Cahill finally become a Toffee in 2004. Cahill went on to become and integral part of Moyes’s Everton revolution, with performances that even saw him nominated in the 50 candidates for the 2006 Ballon D’Or (which was eventually won by some guy called Fabio Cannavaro who won some International Trophy or something). Cahill (or Tiny Tim as the Everton affectionally named him) remained a permanent fixture in Moyes’s team and will perhaps be best remained for his corner flag boxing celebration and ability to score from headers. However, following a goal against Manchester City in 2010 (their last home defeat to date) Cahill went on a goal drought that lasted 34 games. He did score again but it was clear Cahil’s time at the top was near an end. However, although he has put himself out on the old football pastures new he does spend him time passing the ball to Thierry Henry for New York Red Bulls. It’s a hard life, isn’t it.

FC:Neil Harris (Millwall between 1998-2004 and 2007-2011)

Every team that can be branded ‘the best of generation’ needs a legend – so on that note we welcome Neil Harris. Neil Harris joined Milwall for the measly sum of £30,000. Not bad for a player who went on to become the clubs eventual all time top goal scorer. It didn’t take Harris long to get off the score sheet for Millwall, winning the Player of the Year in his first season and helping the club romp to the second division championship 2000-2001 season. His tally throughout that season also saw him win the Golden Boot and earn the nickname ‘Bomber’ after the Sir Arthur Travers – a Second World War Commander in Chief affectionately known as ‘Bomber Harris’ due to his preference for airstrikes. It would be difficult for any player to be known as a Millwall legend without kicking the living daylights out of something. For Neil Harris that something was testicular cancer which he developed in 2001 and beat a year later. Although Harris fell out of favour with Dennis Wise he still managed to make the FA Cup Final XI. Harris then had a loan spell at Cardiff before eventually ending up at Nottingham Forest. Even though Harris experienced a meek spell at Forest (including loan spell at Gillingham), Harris even rejected a chance to return to Millwall on loan, instead opting to complete his quest to establish himself at The City Ground. His quest lasted 21 months, after which he finally scored a goal for Forest. However, that was as good as it got and much like pies need gravy, summer needs a cold beer and Balotelli needs a decent hair cut, Neil Harris needed Millwall  – and Millwall needed him. During his press conference he admitted “There is something special about this club, it brings out the best in as a player and a person. It feels like home, it always has done.” Good Lad. Unlike his spells at Forest and Cardiff it didn’t take Harris long to get started as he became the club’s all time leading goal scorer in just his second game – a feat which seems more impressive when you realise the man he over took was Teddy Sheringham. Harris immediately began to peruse the all time top goal scorers record, a record he duly broke (with 112) on the 13 January 2009 against Crewe. Harris prolonged his stay with the Lion’s  before finally moving to hometown club Southend United in June 2011 where he can still be seen today.