Barry Kitchener, Harry Cripps, Teddy Sheringham, Terry Hurlock, Tim Cahill, Neil Harris, Paul Robinson. There have been many players who, whenever Millwall fans reminisce, will eloquently wax lyrical about how these are some of the greatest/hardest/most terrifying players they have ever seen at the Old and New Den. Players who we remember growing up watching wishing we could be, who we would cheer and chant their names from the stands and terraces. But what about the others? The players who when we find old programmes in the garage, we would flip it over and have completely forgotten that these players played a part in successful teams of the past. The ‘Steady Eddies’ who may not have scored hat-tricks or hit crunching tackles every week, but those who were reliable and wouldn’t let you down.
For this edition of Unsung Heroes, we look back to someone who has spent his Millwall career in the background, but he has been as important as any player who has donned a Millwall kit, Mr. Bye-for-Now.
Growing up on the terraces of the Old Den, it was in August 1970 that our stadium announcer heard about the vacancy and thought to himself “I think I can do this...” Club secretary at the time Gordon Borland saw the application and invited the young Bye-for-Now for a trial and the rest, as they say, is history.
There were many funny and memorable moments in the forty-nine years of announcing, but the ones that came to mind were when the ref had lost the pea out of the whistle and everyone was running around to look for a new one! Another time was when a message had come through saying people could go on the pitch at the end of the game, which was relayed over the tannoy. The Police Chief Inspector, however, was quick to point out this stadium wide announcement was incorrect and nearly pinned Mr. Bye-for-Now against the wall! The saddest emotion and moment was when Cripps died and wreaths were placed on the pitch in the former captain’s memory. It was very touching to have to talk and commentate through those moments before the silence. Our voice in the speaker was a great fan of ‘Arry and even to this day Cripps was his all-time hero.
Always being a Millwall fan, his Dad worked seven days a week, but Good Friday was the time he would take the young Bye-for-Now to this mysterious place called “Millwall”. Living in Borough at the time, the family would have a drink in the Bricklayers Arms before a game and would bundle into a lorry that would pick them up and take them to a game, then one Good Friday at 7-8 years of age it was his turn to finally make his journey to The Den for the first time. Although attending a few games at non-league level, he never considered any other football team and he was hooked!
It is a family affair with his son John helping with the technical side and his 14-year-old grandson, Jack comes along to help - although our man in the booth is reluctant to give up the microphone just yet!
The day of promotion to the Old First Division and also the FA Cup Semi Final at Old Trafford were two games he recalls as the biggest Bye-for-Now had ever encountered. He remembers a man behind him in Manchester saying his “dad would have died for this moment” and that really hit home to what we had achieved and how rare it was that a team like Millwall had made the cup final. There are 4-4 draws and the end-to-end stuff is great, but the games with real meaning are the ones that stay in the memory forever.
There are times when even our astute professional can get it wrong - twice the theme tune was put on when it wasn’t a goal, with the most memorable being the Sheffield Wednesday game when he thought Craig had scored from a corner… as had half the stadium! The names of visiting players can be quite a challenge to read out at times, but the tip is to break it down and make it flow: rehearsal is key if you don’t know the name and the advice is to go through it with confidence, as if you get it wrong the only person who would really know is the player and he can’t hear you anyway!
Although the facilities are better, Mr Bye-for-Now preferred the Old Den and Harry Cripps is his favourite player. He epitomised the Millwall player and when he was being called on, his first action was to roll his sleeves up and clawing the floor like a bull about to attack a matador. Harry would give you ten goals a year, always had a smile, didn’t take himself too seriously, but gave everything!
And where did “Bye-for-Now” come from? - by accident and the fans noticed he did it more than he did! It certainly wasn’t a purposeful or a cultured thing and although Hey Jude is played now, he does sneak in the “Bye-for-Now” at the full-time announcements when people are leaving the stadium.
Next year will be his 50th year announcing for the club and his enthusiasm continues to shine through. On behalf of all the home and travelling fans, we thank you for all your hard work and dedication you’ve brought over the years.