Five pre-season games, five wins. That’s the impressive record the Lions boast in preparation for the new season. Wins over Shelbourne (3-0) and Longford Town (1-0) in Millwall’s pre-season tour of the Republic of Ireland kicked things off in style with Kenny’s men showing their class against two team’s mid-way through their seasons. Other results included a 5-0 rout against Conference South side Dartford and victory over south London rivals Charlton Athletic.
Having made the trip to watch this game, it’s fair to say it was explosive right from the off with Charlton opening the scoring within five minutes before a 30 yard free-kick by James Henry was rifled into the top corner of the goal. This set the tone for the afternoon. Right from the equaliser Bradley Wright-Phillips added Charlton’s second, wrong footing defender Darren Purse and slotting home before a John Marquis double for the Lions made it 3-2 by half time – a full-time score of 4-3 resulted in true value for money and great insight into some of our new players. Recent signing Therry Racon played a full game and impressed throughout, showing some accomplished touches in the middle of the park as well as getting stuck in defensively. Clearly he was one of the stand-out players; carry on playing like he did that day and he will endear himself to the Millwall faithful very quickly!
Likewise, new target man Darius Henderson put in a shift upfront doing what he does best; holding up the ball and spreading the play very well, which culminated in setting up John Marquis’ first goal of the afternoon. Third summer signing of the season Jordan Stewart was an unused substitute but from the Dartford and Gillingham games he looks like another typically shrewd signing from Kenny Jackett, showing good pace to get forward and a willingness to get involved from left-back. All three men can, and hopefully will, all add something to the team throughout the season – having said that, with Steve Morison moving to Premier League new-boys Norwich City and true legend Neil Harris now at Southend, many fans, including me, feel we are still a striker light.
With that in mind, we’ve been linked with Rob Hulse, Nile Ranger, Craig Mackail-Smith and even Neil Mellor during the close-season. With a month still left in the transfer window, anything can naturally happen so there’s no need to start panicking about a possible relegation battle just yet; Kenny knows what he is doing and I for one am sure he will bring in a suitable player that will help the team going forward.
The general consensus around The Den, as it was last season, is to consolidate our status in the Championship again. With teams coming down like Birmingham City, Blackpool and West Ham United, along with big spending Leicester City and the obligatory promotion hopefuls Nottingham Forest seemingly stronger, this season will be more difficult than the last. Finishing 9th last term was an achievement in itself, so anything other than relegation and we can build on what we have and possibly try and challenge for promotion in two years time. Fans should be realistic in what we can achieve due to the size of the club and budget we have (compared to the rest of the league). Punching above our weight last season will be in order again this year; I predict us to finish between 10th and 15th – obviously not as good as last year but it’s about establishing ourselves more and more into this league and then eventually pushing on.
So, having said all that its Play-off Final losers Reading first up at the Madejski Stadium; a tough test for the lads but a challenge I fully expect the boys to be able to cope with, even with the likes of Shane Long and Jimmy Kébé in the Royals team.
Finally some good news on the injury of Shaun Batt; after a week at of rehabilitation at Lilleshall, he has been given the all clear from his muscle surgeon to start being introduced into training this week, which is fantastic news after over a year out with a cruciate knee ligament injury and should be fit by September.
With just a few days left, I can’t wait! Roll on the highs and lows that will be experienced and emotions only the beautiful game can evoke – In KJ we trust!
Written by Jay Taylor, We Are Going Up’s Millwall Blogger
Jay tweets @jay_taylor18