Gary Rowett claims the Millwall squad have a healthy and focused mentality, as The Lions face South-East London rivals Charlton Athletic at The Den this Saturday.
Rowett’s side will look to return to winning ways on home soil against Lee Bowyer’s Addicks, and he is adamant that the positives have been built on by he and his squad from our narrow defeat at Reading last time out.
“The players have kept the same mentality from last week as they did after Stoke, it’s important to remember we played well for large parts of the game,” the manager explained to millwallfc.co.uk.
“The disappointment was there which we talked about, but we did enough not to lose the game and we started on Monday assessing what we did well and where we need to improve. That’s then something we’ve looked to put into practice during the week.
“They’ve been pretty good, the players, we know we needed to do more last week but there are positives to build from, and they’re really keen to make amends.”
Rowett explains that whilst the local derby contest – a sell-out in South Bermondsey – will bring with it an exciting added edge, it is vital that the team keep emotions in check, use it to our advantage and do not lose concentration on the task at hand.
“It’s a home game first and foremost, we’ll be looking to get that extra bit of momentum in the performance because of the crowd, and we look at the fact it’s a local derby and that applies even more so.
“But you do have to manage some of that emotion – we want the players to play with some of that but we don’t want it to take away from the gameplan and the control that the team has to show to perform well. We have to keep control whilst also utilising the intensity of the derby atmosphere in our favour.
“It’s a great game to be involved in which both sides will be looking forward to, and we have to also be mindful that Charlton will have plenty of their fans here and we have to be at it and put a good performance in.”
A former Charlton defender during the club’s Premier League days in the early 2000s, Rowett is familiar with our opponents, and credits the current management staff for their positive impact at The Valley following their return to the Championship in the summer.
“I think Charlton have had a tremendous season so far. It’s a funny one as a manager when it’s your local rivals, you don’t want to give them too much praise, but you have to say that Lee Bowyer and Johnnie Jackson have had brilliant starts to their coaching careers. They won promotion last season and have started this season well.
“Their points tally in their last eight games or so hasn’t quite been at the rate it was at the start of the season, but that will always happen when you start so well. They have a young team, they’re hungry and energetic like ourselves, and I’ve been really impressed with how they’ve started the season so far.”
Touching on team selection, the boss says it is important to blend consistency with flexibility, and states that the whole first-team squad will have a significant role to play this season.
“I’m big on consistency. If you look at the successful teams in this division, they tend to be those who don’t often change the team around. You do need to allow the players to build that momentum and confidence.
“What comes with that sometimes is that some players have to be patient, though we’ve had some excellent impact from the bench so far. We’ve changed formation twice so we do have that important tactical flexibility, and then when we look at our squad, we have to use everyone.
“So, I don’t like changing a team too much, but I know there are five or six players working really hard, desperate to show a new manager what they’re about, and ultimately we have a group working to be successful. Certainly, everyone will get an opportunity.”
Rowett finally claims it is imperative to take a positive result into the third international break of the campaign.
“If you look at the two previous games, we’ve learnt so much during those 180 minutes of football as well as in training.
“Yes, you can work on playing principles and a philosophy, but at the same time, games are great to do that. I’m not that keen on the fact that we have a two-week break between matches, and often there are less bodies because some players are away on international duty.
“That’s something we and everyone else has to deal with and the challenges it throws up, but it’d be nice to go into the international break on the back of a good result, evaluate the first two or three weeks, and see how we need to move forward after that.”