Millwall boss Gary Rowett claimed the current squad was the strongest he has ever worked with at the club ahead of the 2021/22 season, but fans are concerned about the Lions’ progress.
The South London side finished two points outside the top six in 2019/20 but slipped to 11th last term, 15 points adrift of the play-offs.
However, it’s been something of a disappointing beginning to the current campaign, with Millwall 15th in the Championship after just one win from seven games.
But Rowett, who succeeded Neil Harris in October 2019, believes the club can progress this season and says they will be boosted by the return of full crowds after more than a year of matches behind closed doors.
“I don’t think it’s been a hangover from last season,” Omer from That Millwall Podcast tells FansBet.
“I think the start of the season was a bit iffy due to what everyone was going through with Covid and not having a complete preseason with the full squad available.
“Injuries also impacted us, but I think it’s more a case of getting the formulas right and trying to get the pieces to fit together.”
🤔 “The fanbase is not fully behind him…”
🔻 “You want to see improvement and 11th is a step back…”
— FansBet (@FansBet) September 17, 2021
Millwall harboured play-off ambitions last season but a poor end to the season eventually saw them finish mid-table in the Championship.
After a slow start to the campaign, they finally got off the mark in terms of league wins in their fifth game against Blackpool thanks to a late winner from Jake Cooper.
It was a much-needed three points that lifted the pressure on Rowett over the international break.
But perhaps more worryingly for Lions fans is the fact their side has only found the net seven times, something that contributed to their disappointing showing at the end of last season.
“I felt like we fell short in the attacking department,” says Kai.
“Our defence was fantastic last season, we recorded 17 clean sheets. Where we fell short last year was not being clinical in front of goal.”
“There’s an overreliance on Jed Wallace,” Omer agrees. “A lot of the good stuff happens through him and we need a bit more of a creative outlet going forward and hopefully we can address that.”
In terms of recruitment, Millwall were fairly quiet in the recent transfer window, but Gary Rowett said he was pleased with their summer business and hopes the best is yet to come from their new signings.
The Lions recruited six players in the summer, the most recent being Sheyi Ojo on loan from Liverpool on deadline day.
He joins George Long, Scott Malone, George Saville, Daniel Ballard and Benik Afobe, all arriving at the club to bolster the quality available to Rowett.
“The squad has improved quite a lot compared to where we were a year ago,” says Omer.
“We’ve got pretty much two players for every position, so there’s competition and versatility too.
“The likes of Billy Mitchell and Ryan Leonard are playing out of position but also looking quite comfortable.
“Ojo is a good player and hopefully he can shake off the illness that he’s got at the moment, but obviously Jed Wallace is the key and keeping him was important.”
Gary Rowett arrived at The Den as Millwall’s new boss in October 2019, following the departure of Neil Harris.
He brought with him a wealth of managerial experience having previously taken charge of Stoke City, Derby County and Birmingham City.
But after an eighth place finish in his first season, a rather disappointing 11th followed, meaning pressure is mounting on the 47-year old to demonstrate there has been progress at The Den.
“I think his first season was brilliant,” says Kai.
“We finished eighth in the league and were really close to making the play-offs.
“Last season, without fans, it was difficult to tell if we were struggling playing in empty stadiums as the support we get at home is unbelievable.
“This year hasn’t started as well as we’d have liked and the formation that he plays could be seen as a little bit negative.
“Sometimes we could be accused of trying to stay in games rather than win games and though I don’t think he has the full backing of Millwall fans he could turn things around and get the fans onside very quickly.”
“It’s a tricky one,” says Omer. “He’s a steady Eddie.”
“The fanbase is not fully behind him, no, but if you want someone to steady a ship then I think Gary Rowett is the man for the club.
“Eighth place in his first season, 11th in his second season with steady consistent performances, the problem is when you have that sustained steadiness you don’t see improvement.
“This season, it’s a case of trying to cement ourselves in the top half of the table but be in and around the play-offs.
“So when you put in performances that seem to be steady and not really trying to go for games, that’s when you see people start to doubt the manager.
“The ambition has to be top-six for Millwall, we want to try and be up there and at least come to the last day of the season with something to play for really.
“We’re always grateful to be in the Championship, but now it’s a case of kicking-on and trying to get into the top-six.”
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