It’s Millwall time again tomorrow as we welcome the Bermondsey-based South London side from Zampa Road to the Carra.
We meaning everybody apart from NCFC fans and Lions supporters of course. They’re as cacked off about that as we are as MFW readers will discover thanks to the excellent Nick Hart – creator of the brilliant “Achtung! Millwall” podcast. So, without further ado here’s my chat with Nick.
How has the transition from Neil Harris to Gary Rowett gone down with your supporters?
By common consent, club legend Neil Harris’s time as Millwall manager had reached its logical conclusion early last season. In all honesty, the split felt like a family divorce, as a once close relationship was starting to fray around the edges and ‘words’ were being exchanged in all directions.
The departure when it came, probably felt like a relief for Neil as much as the Lions support. It remains a very odd sight to see him wearing a Cardiff City tracksuit though. And possibly it always will feel akin to watching your ex-wife move on with a new love.
All of that said, football is an unsentimental business and new man Gary Rowett has considerably modernised Millwall’s style of play in the 12 months since his arrival.
‘Modernised’ may be a strange term to an outsider’s ear, but it’s a fact that the Harris style of play was classic Millwall, with all its glorious strengths and flaws too. All based around blood, thunder and the almighty roar of The Den on cold, harsh afternoons as the Bermondsey night starts to draw in.
When it worked, it was utterly magnificent. Such as the FA Cup run that saw a series of Premier League teams wilt in the noise and fury of Zampa Road.
When it failed though? We could be pulled apart by the cooler and more calculating sides that we came up against in the Championship, week in, week out.
Rowett has brought in a more considered, passing and possession-based approach that is looking better each game as this strange Covid19 season unfolds.
Did you expect to get off to such a decent start to this season – you’re pretty much neck and neck with us and doing well?
If you want the essence of the change of mindset from Harris to Rowett, it’s that under Neil we approached each season with an unspoken desire to reach 50 points and thus stave off relegation for another trip around the Sun.
Under Rowett, it’s ambition all the way. Certainly top ten with a shot at the play-off big time is his aim. He makes no secret of his ambition in that way, it’s a bit un-Millwall-like in truth.
So no, it’s not a surprise that we are doing well at the moment. It’s more a surprise that we are not surprised
Our problem may prove to be lack of squad depth over the 46 game programme, as is the Millwall way decent form is always done on a ‘wing and a prayer’ basis. But we seem to be using the loan market very well compared with recent years – so fingers crossed.
Our owners are like dogs with two tails following a couple of big-money sales. What’s been happening at the New Den in financial terms?
We are genuinely very lucky to have a man like John Berylson in charge of our club. The impact of the shut-out of fans has hit Millwall hard and I read that he is sustaining the club at a rate of £1million per month.
Which may sound like small figures in the context of the wider football scene, but is something that I think all thinking Millwall supporters are grateful for as we look around at some of the frauds, charlatans and utter cads knocking around our beloved game.
The lack of fans is hurting us both on and off the pitch however.
We both got a good’un each on loan from Spurs. We got Ollie Skipp, you got Troy Parrot. Has Troy contributed much thus far?
So far Troy’s contribution to medical science has proven immense. The same technology once used to build the ‘Six Million Dollar Man’ (one for the 1970s class of older readers there) is being employed to ‘rebuild’ him.
The Millwall Training Room is currently awaiting a suitable storm over SE London, by which to harness a lightning bolt down through the conduction rod, into Dr. Frankenstein’s room – and into the prostrate body of Troy Parrott. Expect a slow-motion video of the medical team screaming “It’s alive!” on Twitter and Instagram as soon as this happens.
In short, he’s been injured. A lot.
I’ve only seen the Lions on EFL on Quest recently but one player I do like is Jed Wallace. Care to tell us a bit more about him?
Jed Wallace? Never heard of him mate. Move on. [Nick’s subtle way of saying we wanna keep him so don’t draw attention to him – Martin]
What are your reasonable aspirations for Millwall this season? You seem like a good shout for the playoffs to me.
This is quite the oddest season, ever isn’t it? And without the support, but also pressure, of fans in The Den, Gary Rowett has developed a patient style that would normally have generated stronger calls to ‘get the f***ing thing forward’.
The players seem to buy into the approach however and we certainly have a great team spirit and feeling of unity at the moment.
How far can this style take us? I have yet to see a team that we have to be frightened of in the league. So arguably this could take us close to the play-offs. Although injuries do seem to be a curse that may plague us as the season moves into the business end next year.
The combination of defensive nous, combined with patience in midfield may only be undone by one thing – a struggle to score goals. If we can regularly execute the chances that we create, then the Premier League’s ‘Welcome Millwall’ party will have an extra zip as they anticipate all that we’d bring to the ‘greatest league in the world’ – Sky TV™.
We’re quite happy that the kick-off has been brought forward to 7pm by agreement – have you any idea exactly why?
I think that these early kick-offs allow for earlier returns home and sleep for the players. In July during the return to football, we staged a Wednesday afternoon 3pm game versus Middlesbrough for that reason.
Although I’m sure I already know the answer I have to ask what you Millwall guys think of not being allowed into your ground, let alone going away. We’re universally gutted, especially after a successful pilot against PNE.
Like yours, our fanbase is very passionate and we feel sure that NCFC would have achieved a bit more with us lot in the Barclay End behind them. iFollow and Sky pi$$es me off although they’re better than nothing and as I’m continuing with my season ticket at least iFollow is for free. Thoughts from your end?
Much the same as you boys to be honest. As we see (or at least saw – Ed) theatre, pubs and restaurants open within safe guidelines, it’s tough to watch the football world being judged by very different – some might say ‘class’ based judgments. The game is suffering without government support and we may see clubs fold, which would be tragic.
As we seem to be looking at another national lockdown this week, I can’t see things changing sadly. We can all – as fans of a game that needs each other – only hope that as many clubs as possible make it through the winter. And that we are all in a position to get back into the stadia around the country to resume calling each other names, triumphing and despairing each week.
We’ll miss it when its gone.
The inevitable score guess please...
Two decent sides, I think we’ll do well to come away from Carrow Road with a point though: so Norwich City 1-1 Millwall for me.
Nick’s not far away with his 1-1 but I’ll go 2-1 City. I wouldn’t be gutted with a 1-1 though.
Thanks once more to Nick for his assistance and I’m sure we’ll speak with him again before the rematch.