Millwall years 2003 - 2006
It was a mixed start to the 2003-4 season, and a series of uninspiring displays culminating in a home defeat against 14th October onPreston
led to the departure of Mark McGhee along with his assistant Archie Knox.
Dennis Wise was placed in temporary charge of the team, with Ray Wilkins coming in as his right hand man. Two wins and a draw in the next three games persuaded all parties that the situation should be made permanent, and the team began to make real progress over the festive period.
A run of just two defeats in 22 outings saw The Lions up into the Play-Off positions and on the brink of an historic achievement.
That 1-0 Semi-Final victory against Sunderland at Old Trafford on 4th April 2004 saw Millwall through to their first Final in the club's 119 year history, having narrowly failed to make it through in their three previous attempts. As an added bonus, a UEFA Cup place awaited.
The Cup Final proved to be a momentous occasion for everyone connected with the club and the result scarcely tempered the celebrations. In the end, injuries and the unavailability of key players undermined The Lions' Play-Off push as they finished 10th in Division One.
The 2004/5 campaign was another eventful one, although once again high hopes were ultimately unfulfilled with another 10th place finish in the League. The Lions gave a good account of themselves in their first European tie (UEFA Cup 1st Round), going down 3-1 to Ferencvaros in Budapest after holding the Hungarian Champions to a 1-1 draw at The Den.
The announcement by chairman Theo Paphitis that he would be stepping down at the end of the season after eight successful years was a blow, and his was to be one of several high profile departures. Manager Dennis Wise resigned after the last game of the campaign against Burnley, followed shortly by skipper Kevin Muscat who returned to his native Australia.
Senior players Paul Ifill, Darren Ward, Peter Sweeney and Danny Dichio also moved on during the summer. In late June, new chairman Jeff Burnige appointed former player Steve Claridge as the successor to Wise, but then less than a fortnight later resigned from his position. Claridge was then replaced by Colin Lee shortly before the start of the campaign.
Having managed the team under difficult circumstances up until Christmas 2005, Lee was then appointed Director of Football with his assistant Dave Tuttle taking over the manager's role, assisted by goalkeeping coach Tony Burns. Two wins and two draws over the Festive period brought renewed optimism that The Lions could claw their way clear of the drop zone in 2006.
The turning point was the controversial defeat in a key relegation battle against Sheffield Wednesday - a loss from which The Lions never really recovered. Alan McLeary took temporary for the final two games of the season, during which a number of promising youngsters were introduced to the side.
During the close season Stewart Till was appointed as the new chairman of the football club, with Peter de Savary remaining as chair of the holdings board. Heather Rabbatts also arrived in the capacity of Executive Deputy Chairman as Millwall laid the groundwork for their forthcoming League One campaign, strengthened by the raising of some £6million through a share issue.
The Lions also named former Liverpool, Chelsea
and Rangers player Nigel Spackman as new manager, with the backroom staff further bolstered by the arrival of one of the most experienced coaches in the country in the shape of ex-Scottish international Willie Donachie.