A new era officially gets underway at The Den this Saturday afternoon, as Gary Rowett takes charge of his maiden Millwall match with his former club Stoke City making the trip to SE16.
The Lions sit 17th in the Sky Bet Championship heading into the contest, having played three games under the caretaker reign of Adam Barrett – one win, one defeat and Tuesday night’s 2-2 draw on home soil against Cardiff City. Nathan Jones’ Stoke side were slenderly beaten 1-0 at Sheffield Wednesday in midweek, but before that secured successive wins as they look to patch up their poor start to the season which sees them second from bottom of the pile.
The Potters are spending their second season in their current spell in The Championship, following their relegation from the Premier League after a decade in 2018. Stoke have enjoyed five promotions into the top flight in their history, including two as Second Division champions. During their 10 years amongst the elite, Stoke’s best record came when they finished ninth for three consecutive seasons between 2013 and 2016. The Midlands outfit beat Chelsea to win their sole major trophy in the form of the League Cup in 1972, were runners-up in 1964 and were beaten by Manchester City in the FA Cup Final in 2011 – thrashing Bolton Wanderers 5-0 in the Wembley Semi-Final.
Jones has looked to assemble a squad based on work ethic over the summer, with a significant turnover of players. The most notable transfer to the bet365 Stadium was the signing of Lee Gregory, who in five years with The Lions scored 77 goals in 238 appearances. Gregory makes his first trip to The Den since his summer move, signed on the same day as fellow recruits Nick Powell, Liam Lindsay, Adam Davies and Jordan Cousins. Stephen Ward, Scott Hogan and Cameron Carter-Vickers were amongst other incomings. The experienced Darren Fletcher and Charlie Adam were among those to move on from The Potters before the start of the season, joined through the exit door by Bojan, Saido Berahino and Erik Pieters among others. A number of players departed on loan, including Kevin Wimmer, Moritz Bauer and record signing Giannelli Imbula.
Nathan Jones arrived at Stoke City in early January of this year, taking over from new Lions manager Rowett. The Welshman enjoyed a fruitful spell in charge of Luton Town whom he joined in 2016, and steered into League One with promotion in the 2017/18 season. Jones’ stock considerably rose during this campaign, scooping three Manager of the Month awards. The 46-year-old’s first experience of coaching came with Charlton Athletic’s professional development coach, before undertaking various roles at Brighton & Hove Albion – including assistant head coach, first-team coach and caretaker manager. A former left-sided defender or midfielder in his playing days, Jones enjoyed long spells with Brighton, Yeovil Town and Southend United, as well as spending time in Spain during the mid-1990s. Jones has gradually improved Stoke’s form in recent games after a poor start, as they look to climb up the Championship table.
Millwall have won 16 previous meetings against Stoke, with The Potters taking 22 victories. There have been 13 drawn games, including the last fixture between the sides in late April last season, ending in a goalless stalemate. The Lions have not beaten Stoke since April 2003, a 3-1 win at The Den with former manager and assistant Neil Harris and Dave Livermore both on the scoresheet alongside Andy Roberts.