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The Latest Instalment

17 May 2016

Millwall years 2010 - 2016

Kenny Jackett's men kicked-off their 2010/11 Championship campaign in style with a 3-0 win at Bristol City followed by a 4-0 demolition of newly relegated Hull City. In spite of a bizarre 6-1 home defeat at the hands of Watford, The Lions soon established themselves comfortably at the higher level, and after an unbeaten December moved into the New Year harbouring ambitions of sneaking into the  Play-Offs. 

The formidable home form of the previous two seasons returned with big wins recorded against Palace (completing a home/away double), Scunthorpe and  Preston, whilst promotion rivals QPR and Leeds United were also beaten at The Den. Away victories at Hull and Burnley, also up amongst the front runners, saw Millwall targetting sixth spot with half a dozen games remaining, but defeats at Coventry and at home to Swansea put paid to those hopes and ultimately a ninth place finish was secured.  

It was a case of 'second season syndrome' in 2011/12, with stuttering home form the achilles heel for much of the campaign.  

The departure of Steve Morison to Norwich and the legendary Neil Harris to Southend left some large boots to fill up front. Darius Henderson was signed from Sheffield United and was to finish top scorer with 19 goals including three hat-tricks.  

However, it was the arrival of Andy Keogh (Wolves), Shane Lowry (Aston Villa), Harry Kane (Tottenham - loan) and latterly Maik Taylor (Leeds United - loan) that provided the catalyst for a revival in the New Year.  

Firstly the away form began to improve with notable successes at Barnsley, Burnley, Peterborough and Doncaster, culminating in a tremendous run during April which saw The Lions win five on the spin before drawing their final game, gaining Kenny Jackett the Championship Manager of the Month award in the process.  

On a sad note, the great Barry Kitchener passed away on 30th March at the age of just 64. The main West Stand at The Den was subsequently renamed 'The Barry Kitchener Stand.'  

Unfortunately, the tremendous finish to 2011/12 did not carry over into the start of 2012/13 and by the end of September Kenny Jackett's men were hovering just above the drop zone again.  
However, the arrival of Chris Wood on loan from West Bromwich Albion, in particular, sparked a significant upturn in form and fortunes, taking The Lions to the fringes of the Play-Offs by the turn of the year.

Wood's departure on a permanent deal to Leicester, closely followed by that of Darius Henderson to Nottingham Forest saw the goals dry up and precipitated a slump that was barely arrested for the remainder of the campaign.

The FA Cup, however, proved to be an exciting distraction as Preston, Aston Villa, Luton and Blackburn were all dispaatched on the way to a Wembley Semi-Final meeting with Wigan Athletic where Cup Final dreams were finally extinguised following a 2-0 defeat.  

The Cup run left The Lions with nine fixtures to play in the month of April, when injuries, suspensions and fatigue took their toll.  
Games in hand came and went, sending Millwall into a final day fixture at Derby County on 4th May needing a win to be sure of Championship surival.

Fortunately Peterborough's defeat at Palace meant that a 1-0 reverse against The Rams was immaterial and relegation had once again been averted.

Just 48 hours later, however, came the news that Kenny Jackett had resigned after five and a half years at the helm, leaving the board looking for a new manager to take the club forward.
The 2013/14 season was described by John Berylson as 'challenging', and with eight games of the campaign remaining the challenge was beginning to look an insurmountable one.

Steve Lomas had been appointed as successor to Kenny Jackett, and in spite of a number of high profile summer acquisitions the team struggled from the start.

The first League success didn’t arrive until the seventh outing, and in spite of three wins on the spin in September, just two more victories before Christmas suggested a bleak outome.

Following a 4-0 reverse at Watford on Boxing Day, Lomas was relieved of his duties, soon to be replaced by the irrepressible Ian Holloway, whose success record at this level was second to none. Ollie soon discovered that the task of turning things around was a bigger one than even he had anticipated, and after a 1-0 home win in his second game in charge, he had to wait a further eight games for the second, at Derby.

Even that success against a side with promotion aspirations didn’t prove the catalyst for revival and the prospects of avoiding relegation were receding with every game. Following the 3-2 home defeat at the hands of Birmingham City, The Lions dropped to the bottom of the Championship table, and with Charlton three points better off with three games in hand in 21st spot, the vultures were beginning to circle sensing the Millwall carcass would soon be ripe for picking.

Another home fixture, against Blackburn Rovers on 29th March, just four days after the Birmingham choker, was universally described as ‘must win’ if Ian Holloway’s men were to retain any hope of saving themselves. Consequently when, having led twice in the game thanks to a brace of penalties (and that doesn’t happen too often at The Den!), ten man Blackburn scraped an injury time leveller through Josh King, the fat lady stepped up to the microphone and began clearing her throat.

The manager’s post match assessment was stark, 'seven games left and we probably need to win five of them. We have to believe we can do it, but it now looks a tough ask.' Fast forward six days to a practice match at The Den on the eve of the trip to Nottingham Forest – probables v. possibles. Result: 6-0 win for the possibles and a quick reassessment needed.

When the team sheet arrived at the City Ground it showed seven changes from the previous outing as Ollie elected to back those who had played with such evident confidence 24 hours earlier. The outcome was a deserved 2-1 win and at least 'the inevitable' had been postponed for a while longer.

When Carlos Edwards bagged the winning goal against FA Cup semi-finalists and the Division’s form team Wigan at the JJB Stadium (where Millwall had never won) three days later, the harbingers of doom from a week earlier previously were at least now sitting up and taking notice. Watford at home was the next 'massive' encounter, and while the team's home sickness continued (one win in 11 and counting at The Den) Martyn Woolford's late late leveller following another fine performance almost felt like a winner.

Easter Saturday was ‘the day of the Hof' as the big Austrian striker produced two first half strikes to secure a 2-1 win at Middlesbrough which lifted The Lions out of the bottom three. Now unbeaten in five and with confidence restored, the visit of fellow strugglers Doncaster to SE16 the following Monday was now being acclaimed as Millwall's 'date with destiny' as they were set to take one final massive stride towards Championship safety.

Those who have followed the fortunes of the mighty Lions down the years knew better than to start counting any chickens, and sure enough, Donny, reduced to ten men for more than half the match, ground out a 0-0 draw to keep those raw nerves jangling.

And so to Loftus Road, Ollie's former stomping ground, to take on a QPR side already Play-Off bound, and whose budget was the envy of many in the Premier League.

A controversial refereeing decision might have proved costly, but after more than matching their west London neighbours, The Lions extended their unbeaten run to seven thanks to Scott Malone's late leveller, setting up a nail-biting finale.

There was a certain symmetry about Martyn Woolford's winning goal against Bournemouth which ensured Millwall were not sweating on results elsewhere. It was Woolford’s strike for Scunthorpe that had signalled heartbreak at Wembley Stadium in the 2009 Play-Off Final, but now he had made amends by helping preserve Millwall's Championship status.

The 1-0 scoreline capped off a remarkable escape from the relegation abyss and send all at SE16 into the summer break in optimistic mood.

Unfortunately a 3-1 defeat wrecked those hopes, but there were so many positives to take overall from a season that also saw Harris' men come within a whisker of reaching the JPT Final too, leaving hopes high that the 2016/17 will be one to relish.

A thumping 3-1 win at Valley Parade followed by a 1-1 draw in the return fixture in SE16 secured an incredible fourth Wembley appearance in just seven years for the club, where Barnsley stood between The Lions and an instant return to the Championship.

The partnership of Lee Gregory (27 goals) and Steve Morison (19 goals), coupled with a defence that kept 20+ clean sheets over the course of the campaign, proved pivotal as a strong second half to the season saw Millwall cement their place in the Play-Offs, where they faced Bradford City.

After a mixed start to the 2015/16 in which The Lions picked up points away from The Den, but struggled to win in front of their home fans, the tide slowly but surely turned and Harris' side, including a sprinkling of youngsters, grew in both confidence and stature as the season progressed.

A close season cull saw 18 players released by Millwall as the club looked to rebuild once again and the solid foundations of an excellent Academy set-up proved to have a crucial role to play in the ensuing months.

The passion, purpose and direction that had arguably been lacking in the team was very much evident during those final games, with Academy prospects Sid Nelson, Aiden O'Brien, Jack Powell, Jamie Philpot and Alfie Pavey all featuring for the first team.

Chopper and Livers were installed as a new management team on a permanent basis five days after the season ended.

The improvement in both level of performance and results during the latter stages of the season was not, however, enough to prevent The Lions slipping out of the second tier.

Manager Ollie had his contract terminated soon after, with Neil Harris and Dave Livermore installed as manager and assistant boss on an interim basis.

A desperate run of form and results left The Lions rooted in the bottom three at the turn of the year, and when Norwich slammed four goals past Millwall at The Den in March, having already endured a crushing 6-1 Boxing Day defeat at Carrow Road, the writing was on the wall.

However a campaign that started with such promise became a hard slog the longer it went on, with in excess of 40 players used as manager Ollie tried in vain to find a winning formula.

That positive mood continued at the beginning of the 2014/15 campaign when Millwall kicked off the season with back-to-back wins against Leeds and Fulham.

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