West Brom win cures Millwall cup hangover - Interview
Tuesday, 9th Apr 2019 18:47 by Clive Whittingham
A remarkable run of form almost carried Millwall to the Championship play-offs last season, but they’re back in the relegation mire this term. LFW checked in with Lions regular James Blewett for the latest.
How would you assess Millwall’s season overall?
It’s been a strange season. We have struggled much of the time and it has felt pretty gruelling. Having said that we have lost a lot of games narrowly and we have also had some real highs such as the West Brom game last week and of course the cup run (especially beating Everton). After struggling with a two-dimensional long ball game for much of the season, in recent weeks we have changed formation, playing 451 and looked much stronger especially in midfield. The return of Ben Thompson from Portsmouth and the loan signings of Alex Pearce and Ben Marshall have made us a much better team.
Why haven’t you been able to maintain that superb end to last season when you almost made the play offs?
We had a very poor transfer window. We desperately wanted to sign Ben Marshall but he chose to go to Norwich (although ironically that didn’t work out and he is back at the Den). We then lost George Saville, our best player and failed to adequately invest particularly up front where Steve Morison needed to be replaced. We had some bad luck in that Ben Bradshaw signed for £1m from Barnsley was injured early season. Also I think that a lot of other coaches sussed out Neil Harris tactics. In terms of the run I also don’t think we can underestimate the impact Tim Cahill had off the pitch for us last season.
Does Neil Harris still maintain universal support, or have the struggles of this season raised questions?
Most managerial reigns end in failure (especially Steve McClaren’s!) and this season has tested the fans’ loyalty toward Neil Harris. Many have felt that he has shown his limitations as a tactician and shown a worrying tendency toward stubbornness and not changing the team when it evidently wasn’t working. Having said that he is held in very high regard by most Millwall fans and our recent upturn in form has seen the grumbles subside. If we survive in the Championship this coming summer will be a big test as he has a lot of work to do building up our squad
That cup game must have been an absolute sickener, how has the team recovered? Good win at the weekend…
It was a complete sickener but we had a great run. Also the prospect of a thrashing at the hands of Man City was a dubious pleasure, especially as we have a serious relegation battle to win. We have played well in the two subsequent games. Also, we have been to Wembley five times in the last ten years already.
Yes a cracking win. We were worthy winners against one of the divisions form teams. It means we come into tomorrow’s game versus QPR with real confidence.
Who are the stand out players in the side and player of the season candidates?
Lee Gregory has been very good all season and is my player of the year. That’s partly because Ben Thompson, who has been excellent since he returned, was out on loan for much of the season. Jed Wallace is always dangerous. Midfielders Tunnicliffe, Leonard and Marshall have also been playing well. Pearce has organised our defence much more effectively and Cooper is a threat from set pieces.
Who are the weak links?
A few weeks ago I would have said we had about eight of them! However, we are playing much better now. I still worry about our full backs though who are prone to errors. Our main weakness has been conceding late goals. Besides the Brighton game we have lost 15 points from goals conceded after the 80th minute
Do you think you’ll stay up? What needs to happen over the summer to ensure next season is more comfortable?
I think we’ll stay up….just… but it will be a nerve wracking few weeks. Over the summer we need to sign Pearce and Marshall permanently, buy a new goalkeeper and another striker (at least)….so all in all much work to do
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