Martin Smith Column: Thugs from Millwall are an insult to the memory of decent guys like Sheffield United fan Dave ‘Shred’ Spencer

David 'Shred' Spencer
David 'Shred' Spencer
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It’s hard to believe they are from the same species.

One an unassuming and dedicated man known to thousands for his kindness and reliability. The others displaying the worst tendencies of humanity.

The Millwall fans who created mayhem at New York stadium on Saturday wouldn’t have a clue who David Spencer was, more’s the pity. ‘A proper Blade, a proper bloke’ is how he was described at the weekend after his death at the age of 62.

I didn’t know David ‘Shred’ Spencer but I reckon those six words were what he might have chosen himself for an epitaph. And six words those Millwall fans would pour scorn on. Shred dedicated his life to supporting Sheffield United and, according to messages of condolence and the 1,000-plus signatures calling for a stand to be named after him, a man who the club should honour.

Nigel Clough spoke warmly of him on Friday, fans paid their respects at Crawley and the club did right by him with the players’ black armbands in the 1-1 draw. “If your coach broke down or you lost your train fare home, Shred would always squeeze you on to his coach,” said former Housemartins singer, and lifelong Blade, Paul Heaton, of David on Saturday.

Shred was never going to win the Nobel Peace Prize for that kind of thing, nor would it get him on the Queen’s Birthday Honours List. But to any football fan who’s ever been stuck at an away game it says everything. Other stories were doing the rounds at the weekend and will for years to come.

Like how Shred became known as the man who started at the top and worked his way to the bottom.

In a good job as a young man he called in sick so he could go and watch United in an away game - only to be spotted in the crowd on TV and sacked the next day. Then there was the time he and fellow Blade Bill Brearley went to a United game in London, enjoyed the capital’s largesse and had to go out and buy a paper the next morning to see what the score had been.

There will be men like David Spencer among true supporters of every club - including Millwall.

Football breeds such passion and loyalties, it’s that kind of game. For some idiots that fervour leads to the trashing of stands.

If your coach broke down or you lost your train fare home, Shred would always squeeze you on to his coach

Former Housemartins singer, and lifelong Blade, Paul Heaton

For a man like David ‘Shred’ Spencer it meant a lifetime of dedication, humour and friendships.

And perhaps a few beers.