Ahead of our visit to The Den, I spoke to Nick Hart, (@CBL_magazine on Twitter) and creator of the “Achtung! Millwall” podcast, which he advises contains a Parental Warning and “Strong Language” from the start! Nick’s first match was against Portsmouth in 1972 in a second division season that saw Millwall finish third, just 2 points behind Norwich who were promoted as champions.
Hi Nick, how are you enjoying being back in the Championship?
Being back in the Championship this time feels rather different to our previous stint ending in 2015. Much more Premier League lite feel to it all now. Millions of pounds being spent on average players. All sanitised, corporate and ever so faintly bland. Thankfully we are back in the division to give it some all-important ‘edge’ … ?
I know exactly what you mean. I went to see us play at Burton last season and it was nice to be at a ground that wasn’t an identikit plastic wraparound. Although my back has grown unaccustomed to 90 minutes on the terraces! When we were promoted via the Playoffs a couple of years ago, we found it difficult to bring players in as we were 3-4 weeks behind everybody else in knowing which league we were going to be in and which players we could target and so missed out on a few targets as a result. Have Millwall found it equally tough going?
Our recruitment over the summer has been pretty good. We signed James Meredith from Bradford practically in the middle of the Wembley pitch invasion. Also really solid signings like Tom Elliott from Wimbledon, George Savile from Wolves, Conor McLaughlin from Wigan, Jed Wallace Wolves and Jake Cooper from Reading. None are big money fees, each are Millwall style players and have strengthened our play off winning squad. ‘Recruitment pretty good’? This is not the Millwall I know …
Are you all set for the season now or are you still looking for players ahead of the transfer window “slamming” shut ™ next week?
I forgot Ryan Tunnicliffe from Fulham! So I don’t think we will be making many more signings; if we do maybe an experienced goalkeeper or maybe some pace up front. In our three league games we have made a stupid number of chances, but scored proportionately few. We are in danger of becoming institutionally unlucky.
“Along come Norwich” is a phrase much-used by our fans as whenever a team needs a first win, or to overcome a run of bad or unlucky results, “Along come Norwich” to roll over for them. We may be the answer to your prayers!
Haha let’s hope so mate, we need all the help we can get!
I’m going to be making the journey to The Den for the first time on Saturday. Am I going to be hooliganed-to-death or is that all a bit passé these days?
Absolutely. You’ll have a day you’ll never forget … ? No clappers. No pyro. No card displays. Traditional English football, you’ll hate it and love it.
After me bigging it all up, it may yet be boring. It does happen, but Norwich are a big club who bring a decent following. So the atmos should be good.
I’m looking forward to it!
Do you feel that Millwall fans will ever overcome the reputation they garnered in the 70s and 80s? From the outside looking in, the club seems to win Community Awards every year and are bending over backwards to clean up the image. However, it only takes a slight misstep, such as the pitch invasion at Wembley, and the rest of football collectively groans “Same old Millwall” and the good work has gone out of the window. What do Millwall fans feel about their reputation?
The rep is what it is. No Millwall supporter will ever entirely escape it; nor in truth do we want to. The ground is arguably the safest in the country for away fans. Bleak in the approach, but safe.
The Den for me is the last great bastion of what was once a working class sport. On its day, it is a theatre like no other. Still a place where home advantage means something. This season we are a financial minnow swimming with money bloated sharks. If we are to succeed – which means survive against the odds – we have to make The Den a fortress.
I think you will enjoy it. Despite being a world away from Cold Blow Lane and the 1970s, you will get a glimpse of it. We certainly wouldn’t want it any other way, though the EFL certainly do … haha
It does feel like a rite of passage and if it was sterile and not a little intimidating I think it would be almost a disappointment. Neil Harris is obviously a club legend as a player and has led you to two play-off finals in his first two full seasons as manager. How high do you think he can go in the game, and are you a little wary he may become sought after by other clubs (or is Millwall all he’ll ever be interested in?)
Neil Harris holds semi God-like status at The Den. His playing career and recovery from cancer is a movie plot in its own right. As a manager he has developed a highly specific playing style which makes a virtue of Millwall’s inability to financially compete in the Championship. Also to deal with the reality that the Millwall crowd thrives on blood and thunder. Hard, fast and direct is the Harris style. Like that other former Lion, Sean Dyche, NH seems to have built a very English traditional method at The Den. None of this standard passing from the back boredom that we see so much of now. Whether this would translate elsewhere I genuinely don’t know. I certainly can’t think of a more ‘Millwall’ manager than Bomber Harris though.
That concerns me a little! Our style under Daniel Farke has been to build up slowly from the back and try to dominate possession. Where we have struggled a little is against teams that are hard, fast and direct! My expectations are being recalibrated as we speak! Which of your players should we be worried about?
Savile in midfield has been consistently good so far this season. As has Wallace cutting from the right. Up front Gregory and Morison have created plenty of chances, without scoring. Both are too good for the dry run to continue. I also like the look of Tom Elliot ex AFC Wimbledon. He has a touch of the former Lions favorite John Fashanu about him.
We know all about Steve Morison. Sharpest elbows in the Premier League when he was with us! What do you make of Norwich’s chances? Both on Saturday and for the season.
Norwich are the kind of club that would expect to compete for the top six. I don’t know enough about your current squad to comment on your playing chances, but the Millwall v Norwich fixture is always entertaining. I hope Saturday’s game produces the same level of chances that we’ve seen in our three matches so far. If it does, expect an end to end game with all guns blazing.
At the moment we’re still adapting to Farke’s new style and he’s experimenting with formations so I have no idea what we’ll look like on Saturday, especially as we have a lot of question marks over injuries. The one constant seems to be that we’re open though so you should see opportunities at both ends. What’s your score guess?
I expect a highish scoring game. We need a win and will be keen to get at NCFC from the off – 2-2 / 3-3 draw will not surprise.
I’d definitely be happy with a point on the road so that sounds good to me. Nick, it’s been a pleasure. Thank you for your time and the best of luck for the season. Starting from Sunday obviously ?
Haha cheers Andy all the best mate ?