Millwall in danger of reverting to type after bright start - Interview
Thursday, 19th Sep 2019 21:37 by Clive Whittingham
Harsh words from Neil Harris at the end of last season resulted in a summer overhaul of the Millwall squad and a good start to 2019/20, but Den regular James Blewett has seen reason to be concerned during a recent five match winless run.
Up and down start for Millwall, great first four then no wins in five starting with a thrashing at Fulham, how would you assess it so far?
An up and down start to the season. After a major overhaul of the squad we started brightly with two good home wins and a credible daw at West Brom. We then were as you say thrashed at Fulham with I believe some of the lowest possession stats ever recorded. This result seemed to knock the stuffing out of the team and supporters and we’ve struggled to find form since. Laboured draws against Hull and Middlesbrough have been followed by a demoralising lacklustre defeat at Blackburn.
I’ve picked up from our previous conversations and following you on Twitter that Neil Harris’ ‘robust’ style of play was starting to wear a little thin on supporters last season when the results faded, has there been a noticeable change to how you play this season?
The feeling was that we became very one dimensional last season with little variety in our style of play. At its most limited we relied heavily on set pieces and long diagonal balls forward from our centre back Cooper to the strikers. With the change of personnel over the summer I hoped to see a more varied dynamic style of play, using the midfield more effectively. As the weeks have worn on though we have again started to look pretty one dimensional and the early sparks of creativity have faded. There are growing voices of concern among supporters who feel these limitations of play reflect Harris’ abilities as a coach and we are not playing to the potential of the players we recruited over the summer. There is increasingly divided opinion over Harris although he of course still has much loyalty and good will from many supporters. A further month of poor results may see that significantly change though
How did you rate the transfer business done over the summer? Harris was quite scathing of his players towards the end of last season so has he corrected those problems?
Harris put himself and the club under considerable pressure by making some scathing comments about the quality and professionalism of much of last season’s squad. However, he rose to the challenge carrying out a major restructuring of the team over the summer. Most of those who left were fringe players although the summer also saw the departure of stalwarts Lee Gregory and Steve Morison. The new players generally had good pedigrees - Alex Pearce from Derby, two quality Championship goalkeepers, Connor Mahoney from Bournemouth and Ireland U23 captain Jayson Molumby from Brighton. Up front he has brought in The Icelandic international Bodvarsson from Reading who has looked pretty good and of course Matt Smith
Ins: Connor Mahoney, 22, RW, Bournemouth, £900k >>> Matt Smith, 30, CF, QPR, £400k >>> Jon Dadi Bodvarsson, 27, CF, Reading, £700k >>> Jason McCarthy, 23, CB, Wycombe, Undisclosed >>> Jayson Molumby, 19, CM, Brighton, Loan >>> Frank Fielding, 31, GK, Bristol City, Free >>> Alex Pearce, 30, CB, Derby, Free >>> Harvey Bradbury, 20, CF, Oxford, Free >>> Bartosz Bialkowski, 32, GK, Ipswich, Loan
Outs: Fred Onyedinma, 22, RM, Wycombe, Undisclosed >>> Sid Nelson, 23, CB, Tranmere, Free >>> Ryan Tunnicliffe, 26, CM, Luton, Free >>> Lazar Stojsavljevic, 21, CB, Newport, Free >>> Conor McLaughlin, 27, RB, Sunderland, Free >>> Tom King, 24, GK, Newport, Free >>> David Martin, 33, GK, West Ham, Free >>> Lee Gregory, 30, CF, Stoke, Free >>> Steve Morison, 35, CF, Shrewsbury, Loan >>> Jordan Archer, 26, GK, Released
How’s Matt Smith gone for you so far?
Your pre-season assessment of Smith when we signed him has been entirely borne out. He is slow and struggles to play for 90 minutes. However, get the right service into him and he is extremely dangerous. He is also a very clever player who rarely wastes possession and uses the ball well
Stand out players and weak links in the side?
Potentially a lot of our players are dangerous – Ben Thompson in midfield, Mahoney in patches, the ever willing Jed Wallace and the new strikers. The defence is generally ok although Mahlon Romeo, usually a good player, has been accident prone. It is in midfield that we have looked particularly pedestrian and have been underperforming.
League Results So Far…
What are your expectations for the rest of the season?
The first few weeks showed that this team have potential. However, the recent poor run has seen the problems of last season re-emerge. We barely avoided relegation the evidence so far is that as well as new players we need to sharpen up our coaching and tactics.
The Twitter @millwalljdb, @loftforwords
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