illwall boss Gary Rowett believes the club’s supporters showed they are behind the Lions’ anti-discrimination message before their match with QPR – even though some people wanted them to have “a negative evening”.
The gesture of linking arms was agreed by Millwall and QPR on Monday after crisis talks were held between the clubs, Kick It Out, Show Racism the Red Card, the PFA, the FA and the EFL.
Millwall and QPR players also held up a banner to show their collective commitment for fighting racism and inequality in football and they were cheered by fans at The Den.
QPR players then took a knee before kick-off and, unlike on Saturday, boos could not be heard from the 2,000 fans present.
And asked for emotions after that, Rowett told Sky Sports: “My emotions are that maybe we have proved to a lot of people that perhaps turned up tonight and tuned in tonight maybe expecting, and possibly hoping, for a negative evening against Millwall Football Club.
“I think what we have proved tonight is that I believe the fans are behind our anti-discrimination message and are behind our kick out racism message.
“I think that was really important tonight that we at least tried to give everybody a choice to distinguish between the two. Whether that is possible or not I don’t know. That is not for me to say.
“But I thought it was a very positive stance that the fans made behind, not only that message, but behind their own players.
“I am proud tonight. I am proud of everybody at the club, because as I say it has been a difficult few days.
“There has been a lot of mud chucked, and whether you can argue rightly so in some ways, but there has been a lot of mud chucked.
“And I think that what we have tried to do is show the good work and thankfully the people that have worked incredibly hard should come out with a lot of positivity and a lot of praise.”
Rowett admitted after the game with QPR, which finished 1-1, the past few days have placed an emotional strain on the players.
Defender Mahlon Romeo was one of those who spoke out after Saturday’s game with Derby and Rowett has applauded his handling of the situation, with the player walking off the pitch at The Den to applause on Tuesday night and holding up his shirt, with the sponsor Kick It Out on it, to fans.
“He was sat in a meeting yesterday until six o’clock in the evening,” Rowett added.
“There is an awful lot of emotional strain that has been on the last three or four days.
“I am proud of him. Not only the way he spoke intelligently in that meeting and passionately, but also his response tonight and the fact that he has contributed hugely, for me, [to] a far more positive message and far more proactive message and far more positive evening – certainly than we had Saturday.
“I think he should be applauded for that.”
QPR players had decided to take the knee before kick-off and goalscorer Ilias Chair and winger Bright Osayi-Samuel did so again after the visitors opened the scoring in the second-half.
“We didn’t discuss it [before the match], but felt that we needed to do that – especially here,” Chair told Sky Sports.
“So I think it was a good thing to do.”