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Tunnicliffe reserves praise for Lions boss Harris

Midfielder speaks about final day victory...

9 May 2018

Millwall's Ryan Tunnicliffe has stated that The Lions won't fear anybody in the Sky Bet Championship in 2018/19.

Neil Harris' side completed their 2017/18 campaign last Sunday with a 1-0 win over Play-Off hopefuls Aston Villa, with the midfielder making his 27th and final appearance of the season.

Signed on a free transfer last summer, Tunnicliffe, who can boast clubs such as Manchester United and Fulham amongst his former sides, was a regular fixture in the middle during the first half of the season, but frustratingly found himself behind Shaun Williams and George Saville in the pecking order as The Lions stormed up the table in the New Year.

Owing to injury, however, the 25-year-old featured in the club's final two matches at Middlesbrough and against Steve Bruce's outfit.

"We'll look back and think it's been a great season," he said after Sunday's victory confirmed an eighth-placed finish. "Considering we were relegation favourites at the start of the season and to come so close but not quite make it, I think we can all be proud of what we've achieved.

"To give the fans something to cheer about and go home with on the last day of the season and to get over 70 points is remarkable, I think. We were professional [against Aston Villa] and got the job done for everyone."

"It's been a great season overall, but with three games to go, when you're sat in sixth, all you need is a few good results to get yourselves in there.

"If you look at the three games - Fulham, Middlesbrough and Aston Villa - it was always going to be tough. We gave it our all but came up short. Everyone was bitterly disappointed after the Middlesbrough game that the season was pretty much over bar a massive goal difference swing."

The Lions were competitive in The Championship before Christmas and were rarely in trouble at the wrong end of the table, but a 17-match unbeaten run off the back of a 2-1 defeat at Norwich City on New Year's Day sparked a dramatic upturn in the club's fortunes.

The midfielder claimed the win at Leeds United - Millwall's first away victory of the season and part of the run - was a turning point in the campaign.

"December was big for us. If you look at the teams we played and then look at how we came out of that, with 11 points out of 15, playing five of the top eight at the time, I think that's when everyone got the belief that we can beat the bigger teams and especially at home.

"Getting the first away win at Leeds in such dramatic fashion also gave us that momentum. We couldn't win away from home but then went on a run of six consecutive victories which was perfect with our home form, where we're so strong."

By his own admission, it took Tunnicliffe a while to get going at The Den - but "big influence" Harris taught the midfielder the way to play at Millwall, bringing a lot more out of him in the process.

"There's always things that you can improve on no matter how old you get. Personally, I think I've played quite well when I've been called upon. Obviously, I would've liked to have played more, but the boys were on a fantastic run so I couldn't get in the team, but when I've been called upon, especially in these last two games, I've tried my hardest to get us over the line, but it wasn't to be.

"I think Neil Harris has had a big influence on me. As soon as you come to the club he tells you exactly what he wants - there's no airs and graces about it, he wants everybody to work hard and play for the shirt, which I think suits me down to a tee. If you look at the way I play, I'm all about that - running, tackling and hustle and bustle.

"I think he's brought a lot more out of me. It took me a few games to get used to how we play, getting second balls and putting it in the channels, but he's taught me the other side of the game that I've not done much earlier on in my career."

The dust is yet to settle on 2017/18, but attentions straight after the final whistle last weekend turned to next year and Millwall's second season in the second tier.

Tunnicliffe expressed that the club's experience at Championship level will "stand them in good stead" in "a hard League" in 2018/19.

"The gaffer told us post-match that the expectations for next season are to get better overall. He'll recruit and try to get more quality into the squad and we'll have to come back in shape, sharp and ready to improve. That will be tough because it's such a hard League, but everyone is up for the challenge of trying to get better, as you've seen this year.

"We've had a year of experience at this level, which is going to stand us in good stead. We're confident that we can beat the bigger teams - coming up from League One last year you're a bit blind to it, you don't know how you're going to perform, but we've proven over the season we're good enough to match anybody.

"It's going to be tough. Everyone that gets relegated from the Premier League will want to bounce straight back up, there's some strong teams already in this League and then there's more being added to it. We'll have some massive games, there'll be some big stadiums for us to go to and next year, I don't think we'll fear anybody."

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