Hard work and progress pays off for young LionPromising young defender Christian Mbulu has spoken of his 'delight' at penning a new one-year contract at Millwall.
Christian originally signed for The Lions from non-League Brentwood Town on his 19th birthday in August 2015, but such has been his progress that he has been rewarded with a further deal.
"I am delighted," Christian told millwallfc.co.uk, "But there is still a lot of hard work ahead of me.
"The boys and coaches and manager have made it quite an easy transition for me from non-League to the Football League. I was training twice a week with Brentwood and when I first came here it was weird training every day. The quality and intensity of the sessions here are much better. It improves you as a player once you get used to it, and obviously you have to train hard too."
The style of play adopted by first-team manager Neil Harris is mirrored by the U21s and down, and that in itself has been useful for younger players such as Christian, Ben Thompson, Fred Onyedinma, Sid Nelson, Kris Twardek and Kyron Farrell who have all pushed on into the first team squad during the 2015/16 season.
Christian, who was a regular for the U21s and skippered the team on many occasions, added: "Justin Skinner is a good manager and makes the U21s play in exactly the same style as the first team. It works well because if you are an U21 going up you know what to do, what is expected of you. Likewise if you are a senior coming back from injury or playing to get match minutes, you can slot in and know the set game plan. You know what you are doing every week."
In a season that saw the U21s come within a whisker of reaching the Play-Off Final, the consistency of style and direction of manager Skinner clearly helped the team. The proof of the pudding was the string of impressive results, especially taking into account the number of changes to the playing personnel on a match-by-match basis.
"For me personally, it felt as it we could beat anyone on the day," said Christian. "We had a style, a game plan and knew what was expected of us in every game - and it worked well.
"The two that stand out for me were Wolves away in the Cup when the tempo we played with was incredible and we won 3-1. Also, the 'second' away game at Charlton after the first one was abandoned. In the second game we had the likes of Sid Nelson, Noah Chesmain, Fred Onyedinma and Mahlon Romeo - all the youngsters basically, and we played them off the park even though it was a 1-1 draw."
Having made the step up from semi-pro to professional football with such ease, Christian now hopes to push on and establish himself in the first team squad - and it is a challenge that the towering centre half is clearly up for.
"I managed to get in the senior squad last season, but it got interrupted by injury," he explained. "I set myself targets every year because I want to progress. I want to push on and break into the first team but I have to be patient, work hard and be focused so that if the opportunity is there, I am ready to take it.
"The senior players here have been great. They are so encouraging and when you have players like Tony Craig, Mark Beevers, Byron Webster and Carlos Edwards giving you advice, well you can't help but learn every day.
"As a youngster it is fantastic to have that support and honesty. It gives me so much encouragement and can only help my development."
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