"It feels so good to reunite.
Within yourself and within your mind..."
After last featuring for Millwall in the League One Play-Off final victory against Bradford City, Jimmy Abdou signed a one-year contract extension before being loaned out for the season to AFC Wimbledon. The popular midfielder never played for Millwall in a competitive fixture again and was promised a testimonial game after being released from the club at the end of the 2017-18 season. Abdou returned to The Den for this final appearance against VFL Bochum and seeing him take to the field through a guard of honour with the captain’s armband and his children in his arms, the old emotions came rushing back. The opening lyrics of ‘My Sacrifice’ by Creed sum up how we felt when we saw Jimmy take to the pitch: “Hello my friend we meet again. It's been a while where should we begin? Feels like forever…”
Jimmy knew that he would only get a handful of minutes so made sure they counted. The clock was turned back in the 2nd minute when the former Millwall man hit the Bochum midfield with a crunching tackle which drew a large reaction from the home fans. After some backwards and forwards action, it was the 7th minute when the Lions came close. A delicious corner came in which Shaun Hutchinson took a large bite from, but his header was just too high and the ball went out for a goal kick.
The substitution board followed this break in action and the number ’26’ was on it in dark, illuminated red. We knew this would be short, but like heartbroken teenagers who is seeing a former love leave, we knew that this was the end. As Ray Davies once sang, “thank you for the days. Those endless days, those sacred days you gave me” and that’s what the fans were subconsciously singing to our former midfield hero.
After some of the nostalgia died down, Bochum floated in a cross that left the Lions off-guard. Bouncing just outside the six-yard box in the 14th minute, Jordan Archer, Shaun Hutchinson and Jake Cooper gave each other nervous glances before the Millwall goalkeeper took responsibility and came to collect the ball.
The small number of German visitors behind the goal were creating a great atmosphere for this game, but it was the home team on the field who looked more likely to take the lead. Although this game revolved around a club legend, it was the younger generations who wanted to be the new love of our sentimental fans. A Millwall flick-on from a long free-kick hit the bar in the 31st minute and Dornebusch in the Bochum goal was helpless as Aiden O’Brien stood with the ball at his feet only a few yards out. Luckily for the VFL ‘keeper, O’Brien misread the bounce and his swipe at the ball resulted in him missing it completely and the Germans were able to clear.
The Lions threatened again in the 37th minute and it was an old team-mate of Abdou who was instrumental in the attack. Steve Morison linked up well with James Meredith who unleashed a shot as powerful as Cupid’s arrow from six yards, but unfortunately it did not reach it’s destination and was cut out at the last minute by a desperate Bochum boot.
It was in the 41st minute when the home fans had moved on from one exciting midfielder to another. Steve Morison was again involved in the build-up and his perfectly weighted short pass was just enough for Jed Wallace who unleashed an unstoppable strike towards goal. Dornebusch was beaten from the moment it left Wallace’s foot and his effort from outside the box smashed off the underside of the crossbar and bounced back up into the Bochum net. The celebrations were calm and respectable, but inside Wallace must’ve been as delighted as the home fans. This was the last real action of the half and the Lions went in at half-time 1-0 up.
The second half was only seconds old when Danilo Soares decided to get the handbags out and unnecessarily get into a shoving match with Steve Morison. This was a sign of what the fans would expect from the visitors, as the second half turned into a scrappy affair. Shaun Williams glided a free-kick into the Bochum box in the 51st minute and after a penalty area scramble the ball fell to Jake Cooper, however his shot was blocked from close range.
The impressive Jed Wallace continued to show the heartbroken Den faithful that there was life after Jimmy Abdou. In the 54th minute, Wallace picked the ball up from a wide position and had his dancing shoes on, as he gleefully executed some lovely tricks and turns which caused the Bochum defence to commit a foul on the edge of their box. Not to rest on his laurels and knowing he still needed to keep proving his worth to become the Millwall fans' new love affair, Wallace once again picked up the ball and in the 64th minute repeated the heroics from ten minutes before.
It was the 73rd minute when Bochum had their best chance to equalise and ruin the day for the Lions. Lukas Hinterseer found himself in space in the Millwall penalty area and unloaded a low shot towards the Millwall goal, but substitute goalkeeper Ben Amos was cool and composed and managed to get in a vital block to keep the ball out.
The last real action of the game was a free-kick from just outside the box from Shane Ferguson. In a central position just inches outside the penalty area, the free-kick beat the wall and was on target, but unfortunately was easily held by the Bochum ‘keeper.
The final whistle sounded and Millwall’s last friendly at The Den before the league game with Middlesbrough was over. This whistle did not just signify the end of the game, but also Jimmy Abdou’s time with our club. As the players left the field, Jimmy took to the field one more time to say goodbye. One of the old guard who gave us some of our greatest moment bid farewell to those in the stands who had shared so many memories with him, and it is sad to see our former hero go. Whoever decides to take on the number 26 shirt in the future has huge - and Leeds United beating - boots to fill.
Thank you Jimmy.
Millwall: Archer (Amos), Meredith (McLaughlin), Hutchinson, Cooper, Williams (Tunnicliffe), J. Wallace, Onyedinma (Ferguson), Romeo, Morison (Elliott), O'Brien, Abdou (Saville).
Subs: Amos, Martin, McLaughlin, M. Wallace, Webster, Thompson, Elliott.
VfL Bochum: Dornebusch, Hoogland, Soares, Maier, Sam, Weilandt, Hinterseer, Gyamerah, Janelt, Celozzi, Tesche.
Subs: Grave, Losilla, Wurtz, Kruse, Fabian, Perthel, Saglam, Baak