Millwall Fans: Play-off hopes, a promising manager but a frustrating board…

Two members of the Millwall Supporters Club talk to REP ahead of their game with Port Vale at the New Den.

About the fans…

JAMIE HOWLETT – I’m a life-long supporter and I was taken to my first game either five or six years old.

BOB ASPREY – My first match was Millwall 1-0 Bournemouth on the 12th April 1966. It’s been full on for the last 20 years and I’ve had a Season Ticket for that time.

How are your team doing?

It’s just nice to not expect defeat every week and see a team that wants to win…

JAMIE HOWLETT – I wouldn’t say fans had one set expectation. Some doom mongers felt we would slide down another league (ha!), some felt mid-table security and re-organising was likely, some felt we might make a run at the play-offs and a few brave souls felt we would walk over the league.

Given how incredibly awful the past three seasons had been and how we had regularly dodged relegation, with dire home form, lunatic managers and indifferent players, it’s just nice to not expect defeat every week and see a team that wants to win.

BOB ASPREY – After a poor start we have risen to eighth, mainly thanks to a nine match unbeaten run in October and November. Since then we have been very inconsistent, over Christmas and the New Year we lost three (two at home) but won 4-0 at Southend.

The good run raised expectations, but now we are hoping rather than expecting to scrape into the play-offs. Presumably you are hoping the same, being only one point behind us. However, we also have the JPT. This is a distraction, but having reached the Area Final we are now two games away from what would be our fourth visit to the new Wembley!

Where you think you will finish?

JAMIE HOWLETT – I’d like to hope we would make the play-offs. We aren’t consistent enough for automatic promotion but we have a decent enough spine to the team to really be in the mix. For me anything less is disappointing.

BOB ASPREY – If we can avoid any further injuries to our very small squad, and hopefully add a player or two by the end of January, we should be able to get to fifth or sixth. If we get to Wembley that may be more difficult, we have seen time and again how players’ focus is sometimes lost before and after Wembley finals.

Who should we watch out for?

Our team is not about the ‘stars’, it is more about a collective work ethic…

JAMIE HOWLETT – It really does depend who is on form. Steve Morison is a pain up front, Lee Gregory can go through patches of scoring goals, Aiden O’Brien won player of the month in October but has hit a skid in terms of form of late – he’s looked very tired. Shaun Williams can control a game in midfield (or watch a game pass him by), Jed Wallace had a good debut on the wing on Saturday and Beevers and Webster at centre-back are both solid players who are hard to beat (but prone to brain farts).

BOB ASPREY – Before our previous clash I said that our team is not about the ‘stars’, it is more about a collective work ethic and producing a team which is bigger than the sum of its parts. This is even truer now than it was then. The goals are being shared around almost the whole team. Last week we took Jed Wallace, a winger, on loan from Wolves. He made a good debut at Oldham last Saturday, he will be making his home debut and keen to put on a good performance for the fans.

What are your thoughts on your manager?

JAMIE HOWLETT – He’s learning, he’s figuring out what he’s got and how to get the best out of it and how to motivate the entire squad. Maybe he’s a bit loyal to his players or afraid to bring in new faces for fear of upsetting things because we need a couple of additions and he hasn’t made any big moves so far.

BOB ASPREY – He’s still young, he’s still a rookie and he’s still a Millwall legend. He’s made a few mistakes but he’s learning fast. He has unwavering confidence in his players, old and young. Or at least he says he does. So far so good. Compared with when his predecessor was in charge, the players appear to know their jobs and they don’t seem confused at all!

What are your thoughts on your board?

The lack of football know-how on the board has cost us a lot of money…

JAMIE HOWLETT – They mean well but there’s a lack of footballing knowledge, aside from our CEO who is well respected in the game. They backed successive managers with huge (for us) budgets in the Championship, which lead to massive losses (£8m+ a year) and a large pay-off for Mr Holloway for being completely crap at his job. It’s no surprise they have cut the playing budget accordingly. We don’t do enough to bring in new fans though, especially given where we play.

BOB ASPREY – The board is very light on football people. The chairman John Berylson is American and was not involved in football until he got involved with Millwall. We have three other American directors and two other directors – one a lifelong Millwall fan and one not. All these people regularly put money into the club. We also have a Chief Executive, who came from Fulham and who now also sits on the Football League Board, and last but certainly not least we have a democratically elected Fan on the Board.

The lack of football know-how on the board has cost us a lot of money in recent years, not just in terms of recruiting managers but in endorsing the signing of useless expensive has-beens. Happily they have now all gone.

Did you attend the reverse fixture earlier this season?

JAMIE HOWLETT – I did not.

BOB ASPREY – Yes. Uche Ikpeazu caught the eye but he missed all the chances that came his way but he has gone back now. Your best player on the night was the keeper Alnwick.

A score prediction?

JAMIE HOWLETT – I won’t get into scorers, but I’d like to think we’ll succeed at home 2-0. It all depends on how it goes on Thursday in the JPT. Fans and players could be on a high, be distracted or be down in the dumps. Or they might be tired playing Saturday (away), Thursday and Sunday. There isn’t a lot of time to rest and recover between matches. It really does depend if the side who waltzed over Southend away and won 4-0 show up, or the side who lost to Wycombe at home in the cup show up.

BOB ASPREY – 2-1 Millwall. Gregory and O’Brien for us, JJ or any dead ball specialist for you.

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