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Pete's summer report

2 August 2013

Latest from our fan/director

Well the new season is upon us and since my last report a lot has happened, notably the departure of Kenny Jackett. Kenny leaving was a shock to everyone concerned, especially as he was offered a vastly improved budget for this season. 

JB and the board were aware that we needed more fire power and that was the reason for the increase but Kenny felt strongly that he had taken us as far as he could. I know everyone would wish him all the best for the future. I personally know the effort he put into Millwall and he left us in a far better condition than when he arrived.

We knew the search for a new manager of the same calibre was going to be hard. Within hours lists of potential replacements were drawn up but the board knew knee jerking wasn’t an option. They comprised applicants, ex-Millwall people, employed managers and unemployed managers. The list was whittled down eventually to a shortlist.

Getting a new manager in isn’t easy.  Many things need to be taken into account. I hear people saying we should get him or him when there are valid reasons they are not viable.  It may be their salary expectation, their requirement to stay in a certain area (up north).

Their experience, their knowledge of us as a club, the expectations of us the fans and the board must see a passion and desire to succeed. Although most of us would give up anything to manage Millwall, other people outside the Millwall family only see it as a job and therefore a lot of boxes need to be ticked before appointing. 

It was very frustrating that the moment Kenny resigned people were on the board’s case saying they would go for the cheap option. It was a case of damned if you do damned if you don’t.  If the board rushed someone in it would have been seen as knee-jerk. If they employed from within it would have been the cheap option.

The process followed, in my opinion, was correct and followed at all times. Whatever decision the board take it is always in the board’s opinion, the best for the club. 
There are financial restraints at all clubs. If the board wanted to get in a cheap option, believe me, they wouldn’t have set the bar so high in the first place. 

I know that the season hasn’t started but the calibre of player Steve Lomas has brought in and the commitment I have seen makes me sure the board have taken the right decision.

Once there was a shortlist, the next stage was to arrange interviews (plus contacting the potential manager’s club if required). This wasn’t as easy as it sounds due to the fact that our Chairman lives in Boston and one of the potential managers lived in Central Europe so interviews were held in London and Paris. 

I was not involved in the interview process as I had just started a new job, but each day after any interview I was called and advised how it went. It became clear early on that Steve Lomas was well ahead of the other candidates for several reasons, his knowledge of the Millwall team and understanding of what Millwall fans expect from anyone who has a position at the club.

When I had my first meeting with SL I was impressed with his attitude and how positive he was.  I hope he can transfer that to the team and eventually to the pitch. 
We spoke at length of his vision for Millwall and he is determined to get us playing football and to succeed.

I mentioned that I thought that the fact SL has a prior connection with West Ham was a good thing as he knew exactly what Millwall fans were about and what was expected from him. His response was blunt and straight to the point; 
“I am ginger, I come from Northern Ireland I am used to stick. I just can’t wait to get out there, pull my shoulders back and show the fans what I can do. 
I felt SL was a very decent man. If it wasn’t for his previous football connections I would go as far as saying if I met him in a pub I would call him “one of our own.”
He doesn’t seem a man to suffer fools gladly and I would put him in the mould of a smaller version of Terry Hurlock.

The board have been really encouraged by SL’s contacts within the game, and the speed he has managed to get players in. 
The signing of Steve Morison was a great boost. Having Neil Harris as part of the backroom staff is an added bonus. His passion to succeed and Millwall knowledge can do us nothing but good. Mick Harford choosing us over Newcastle is another pointer to the fact that we are becoming a team that knowledgeable football professionals want to be part of.

Steve has already moved very swiftly in the transfer market, attracting high calibre players to Millwall. 
I think he has set his stall out and shown his intent to succeed. The one difference I can see from Kenny is the speed. My experience has been with Kenny that a lot of the signings were made very late, and nearer the beginning of the season. With Steve’s speed, the team has had more time to settle in and gel prior to the real thing starting.

I spoke to Steve about players who were on the fringes and his plans for them. He said that everyone will have a chance to prove themselves no matter what has happened with them under Kenny. H
He believes all players are entitled to a second chance, and if they show the correct commitment they will be given the chance to win the fans back over if needed. It is then up to them to show they have the passion and guts to be part of the Millwall team. I think an example is Dany N’Guessan who has shown a lot more fight and passion in pre-season.

I tried to get Steve to commit to his preference regarding Pie and Mash, I tried to push him towards Arments but he was having none of it. He couldn’t believe fans could be split over the choice of pie and mash! 

The Family Enclosure has been moved to the Dockers Stand as from the beginning of the season. 
The initial decision was not publicised very well, and fans were not given the option to air their views prior to the decision being taken. 

The decision to move the enclosure was made at board level but no further details were discussed as to where it was to be moved. There were a number of complaints mainly because of the lack of consultation. I initially agreed to arrange a meeting for everyone to come in and meet Alan Williams the new Commercial Director for him to discuss the reasons behind the new location. Alan called everyone who had complained and was able to allay their fears and explain the reasoning behind the move.

There was an issue that a lot of fans were not happy with, regarding attendance at night games without young children who were connected to the Family Enclosure membership. The club listened to fans concerns and changed the ruling. Looking over the whole issue, it was a communication breakdown that has know been dealt with and hopefully the new Family Enclosure will go from strength to strength and bring in the new young fans and families we need to grow the fan base for future years. 

I have sat down and discussed the whole issue with Alan Williams. He has some great ideas and a lot of experience in this area. He is passionate about seeing the new Family Enclosure flourish and bringing in the new families we so need. I think everyone concerned is now more aware how key fan/ club communication is for the smooth transition of any project.

Last season’s home game against Bolton, where there was an allegation of a young Millwall fan racially abusing a black Bolton player, became a very emotive issue for all concerned. 
I hope this has now finally been put to bed. I had a quick chat with the young lad concerned and his mum. They were both really pleased with how it was handled and the final outcome. She thanked everyone for their support and was very vocal in her support for the course, the people running it and the positive impact it had on her son in his all round life. 
The boy is currently deciding if he wants to work as a volunteer with the community scheme which has happened because of the course. This has been a great turn around for all concerned as at the beginning there were a lot of sceptics. But the actual results have proved it was the correct route to take. The annoying thing is the community scheme support local youngsters week-in and week-out, helping them with many life issues. The press never seem to highlight that when they do their regular damning reports on Millwall.

The friendlies are now over and in my opinion we improved game on game. 
A convincing win against Crawley was followed by a 3-0 defeat at Brentford, where  I felt we looked a lot better as time when on in the first half. In the second, all the substitutions didn’t help to get the team playing as a team.

These games are mainly to get the players match fit. 
Let’s hope for the Yeovil game they are not only match fit but able to take the points. Against Gillingham we played very well in the first half Morison and Keogh played very well together.  I  also thought Scott Malone did very well and was man of the match

Robbo’s testimonial went really well and was very well deserved. He is a model pro and a gentleman. Let’s hope he gets back to full fitness and challenges for his place in the near future. 
A good turnout saw a hard fought battle. It can only be called a feisty affair, with the Millwall team seeming to have an added tenacity to win tackles at all costs.
Once again I was proud to be a Millwall fan during the minute’s silence for the 79 people who lost their lives in the recent train tragedy in Spain. It was impeccably observed just like others we have held recently, including for Gary Speed at Leeds.

The board’s decision to donate this year’s shirt sponsorship to the charity Prostrate Cancer UK is commendable, as every fan will have been in some way touched by cancer at some time in their lives. I hope the next time the press do a piece on Millwall they remember to put something about this decision instead of trawling the archives for pictures of the Luton game!

If anyone has any issues they wish to discuss, please drop me a line at petergarston@hotmail.com or via the club.

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