Mid-Table Will Do Me Nicely - Notes for Millwall
Friday, 12th Sep 2014 10:30 by HarryFromBath
HarryfromBath assesses the mood in the opposition camp ahead of Saturday's game by delving into their forums.
"This time last year we had one point on the board. Ollie has stopped the leaky defence, added some decent play to our game and managed to get nine more points", "I'm turning up to games expecting to get some positive results. I haven't felt like that for a long time."
"We're a million miles away from the joke that was us last season, both on and off the pitch", "It's been an amazing start to the season", "I'm confident of a comfortable season", "We have been subjected to dire, boring football for three years and Holloway is changing that."
The Lions go into Saturday's game in the play-off places with 10 points from their first five games. A 2-1 home win over Blackpool before the break added to wins at home to Leeds and at Fulham and a draw at the Owls. The only blip so far has been a 1-0 home defeat to Rotherham.
Some fans are urging perspective. "I don't want to be a killjoy, but this season we've beaten teams occupying 18th, 23rd and 24th in the division, lost to the team in 17th and drawn with the 10th place team. I think we're going to struggle to score against the better teams. I hope I'm wrong."
"For the first time, I feel that the club is being set up for the long term, both on and off the pitch", "I firmly believe he wants to build a club from the bottom up and not just have a quick go at promotion", "I am happy with slow and steady improvement."
"We now are a mid-table side with the potential to shock a few teams. That is far better than scrapping for relegation each season." Lions are also happy watching Holloway's motivational skills bearing fruit on the pitch. "He's a f***ing magician", "He's a bit different to Kenny Jackett, isn't he?"
"I have been to every game this season. Every player looks like they really want it. The team spirit and talking among the players is fantastic. You can see the amount of organisation and community there is within this team. I f***ing love this Millwall."
"Our system will ensure that we dominate possession. It's clear that Holloway has invested a lot of time and effort to get to the 60% possession mark he has been craving. We have also tightened up the back with a solid and settled back four."
Holloway has used a 4-3-3 system with three narrow central midfielders, and two wide players flanking the striker. Two midfielders protect the defence while the third links with the frontman. It has faltered when this third linking player has been forced too deep, leaving the striker isolated.
Their midfield can also lose tempo when they are forced back too far, something which happened against the Millers. "We certainly need an injection of pace into the team", "We are too slow and will never burst into the box", "There's too much sideways and backwards bollocks. We created f*** all."
"This formation is a trend which intellectuals love, but English footballers are not talented enough in reality to play it properly. It's also as boring as hell to watch", "We mess around with the ball too much, giving teams too much time to organise themselves." Some Lions are happier with 4-4-2.
"Ian Holloway seems to have sorted out our defence in a short while. He started at the right place and we aren't conceding many. They are in formation and have become visibly more capable in a short time." Millwall have conceded just three goals in their five league outings this season.
"Last season plenty of us criticised David Forde's kicking and distribution. Under Holloway, it has been a revelation this season. Forde's as good as we'll be able to get. He rolls it, throws it and kicks the ball from hand over the top to a runner."
The 34-year-old Republic of Ireland international keeper has been widely praised. "He's still a great shot-stopper and takes the ball confidently in the air", "He looks like he has lost two stone on last season", "It's admirable how he has turned himself into a much better keeper in 12 months."
"Our centre-backs may yet prove to be a weakness", "We have been spoilt by Shittu's aerial presence for the last two seasons", "You only have to look at how we defend corners to see how much taller other teams are. Once we play against better sides who can deliver crosses we will struggle."
"Mark Beevers is still doing well and looking much better with the ball at his feet." The 24-year-old former Owl "can compete against players who are okay in the air, but struggles against the better ones", "I have never seen Beevers bossed about in the way Alex Revell did today [against Rotherham]."
"Alan Dunne has to be the most improved player under Holloway. He was getting gradually worse at right-back until Ollie moved him to centre-half." Some Lions have damned the 32-year-old club veteran with faint praise. "He's an average player going through a purple patch of form."
"When other teams turn in desperation to the long ball, Dunne isn't tall enough to win it in the air", "Teams now play on Dunne's lack of height", "He gets constantly beaten in the air and that's the problem he will always face as a centre-half."
"I would bring Byron Webster in over Beevers solely on the basis of his distribution", "He seems to be able to pick a pass. It's time to get rid of the hoofers", "Bringing on Byron Webster as an extra defender to deal with Blackpool's Nile Ranger was a master-stroke."
The 27-year-old former Yeovil man has also been used in midfield. "I was expecting Webster to be more dominant in the air, but he has looked anything but that", "He's good on the ball and reads the game really well", "He's the best centre-back at the club by a mile and a future captain."
"We won't get a better left-back than Scott Malone", "He puts a good shift in and is always likely to pop up with a vital goal." The 23-year-old ex-Bournemouth defender "used to be s***, but now is a possible threat to most teams. He could be better if he sorted his crossing out."
"My only gripe with Malone is that he receives some great diagonal passes which really open the opposition up. Off he goes, with his head down running at the goal and he then blasts the ball all over the place. He needs to hold the ball up, look around him, assess the situation and pass the ball nine times out of 10."
"I know it's stupid but Edwards is my player of the year so far", "He's the best right-back I can remember for some time, and I saw Kenny Cunningham", "He has really impressed me. He's such a clever player", "He's a blinding player. He makes our defence a good strong unit."
"Mick McCarthy thought Edwards was finished. He has got to be Ollie's best signing. It's f***ing unreal what he can do at 35", "Ipswich must have a wealth of talent at the back to let Edwards go", "They must have some right-back there", "He's a proper gift. Let's hope he remains in that form."
Edwards signed a one-year contract with the Lions this summer having initially arrived on loan in March. He went on one of his late trademark marauding runs to set up an injury time equaliser against the Owls. "He kept going. Without his persistence in getting forward we would not have scored."
"How fit is that man? He bombed up and down the Sheffield Wednesday flank all night. How Ipswich let him go is beyond me. They must have some right-sided defence and midfield if he was kicked out", "He's fit as a f***ing flea", "He's 35, but can still make a 95th-minute run like that. I love him."
"We need a bit more composure and we definitely need to play our decent passing football 10 yards further up the pitch. Then we will hurt teams", "We play like a crab. Passing sideways looks pretty and teams allow us to do it until 10 yards outside the box where they sit and pick us off."
"We lack someone who can run at defenders. If we can't find a tricky striker or winger, one or two midfielders must break into the box and try and commit defenders in the channels. Teams sit in front of us, and moves break down through our poor final ball or are snuffed out by force of numbers."
"I'm fast becoming a fan of Shaun Williams", "I would like to see him pushed back as a centre-back, using his ability to bring the ball out and make a decent pass, which we haven't had for ages." The 27-year-old ex-MK Dons holding midfielder "has a pass in his locker all right".
"I'm not sure he has the mobility to play further up the pitch. I think just in front of the defenders suits him", "He's our most technically gifted player and can drive this team forward", "It comes naturally to him to fill in when Dunne and Beevers split, as our full-backs push on in our system."
Nadjim 'Jimmy' Abdou has covered for Nicky 'Basher' Bailey, who has hardly featured this season with a calf injury. The 30-year-old former Plymouth man "deserves his place in the squad, but I don't think he should start when everyone is fit", "He has been playing well of late."
"I can't understand how anyone can knock Jimmy", "We all love him and he'll always be on the bench to give us energy when we're trying to close a game out", "Jimmy's a pest and an in-your-face destroyer", "I wonder whether he'll retain his place as the season progresses."
There has been little comment about Ed Upson, the 24-year-old former ITFC Youth Cup winner and Yeovil midfielder who has missed the start of the season with a hamstring injury. He featured in a U21 game against Nottingham Forest this week and may be on the bench on Saturday.
"Scott McDonald had his best game in a Millwall shirt against Blackpool. Prior to that, he's done f*** all", "He needs to be further forward, as he can provide the attacking spark we're missing", "He's wasted in that deeper midfield role", "He was poor at Sheffield, leaving the striker without support."
The 31-year-old former Middlesbrough player "could contribute more to our attacking play if he is further forward", "He's too slow, and when he's on we're reduced to punting ball up to the forward with nobody to pick up the flick-ons."
"Holloway does like to sign players, doesn't he?" "Angel Martinez played for Holloway at Blackpool", "He's very creative and can pick a pass. He's very good on the ball." The 28-year-old is seen as a possible solution for the Lions' lack of midfield creativity, and may feature on Saturday.
"In over 60 years of watching Millwall, I rate Powell's first-team debut on a par with Tim Cahill's. He oozes class, vision and confidence", "It was a brilliant league debut. His passing and reading of the game was top drawer. He likes a tackle too", "Take a bow, Jack. You showed proper Millwall class."
"West Ham's academy let him go. It would be so much sweeter if he turns out to be a gem." The 20-year-old made his league debut against Blackpool, having greatly impressed in the Lions' Capital One Cup defeat to Southampton. "He reminds me of a young Lee Cattermole."
"Powell has got everything. He's compact and has good vision and balance. He's skilful, two-footed and composed", "He looked very comfortable on the ball and used it well", "Everything he did appeared effortless", "This could be the pivotal player Holloway's looking for, his Charlie Adam."
"We are crying out for pace and some genuine width which we don't have and you can't help but feel for the lone striker. What chance does he have with no support or service from the midfield?" "When wide players get the ball, we have no-one in the penalty area to pose a threat."
"We need to decide where Magaye Gueye is meant to play. A tricky winger with pace would help as what we have currently doesn't create anything like enough chances." The 24-year-old summer signing from Everton "shows more skill than Liam Trotter but with a work ethic."
"Gueye doesn't get around the pitch like Martin", "He's a good player to throw on and get the ball at a late stage in the game for now", "At the moment he's being used correctly, when Martin or Woolford have blown out", "He looks a forward to me and not a winger."
"Martyn Woolford has not had the best start to the season." The 28-year-old ex-Bristol City player "will never be dynamic, but has a decent scoring record for us. He's scored way more goals than Lee Martin", "We need a player who will create more with the system we're playing."
"I just don't see much end product with Lee Martin", "He works his nuts off but he doesn't do an awful lot with the ball when he gets it, which is a shame", "He looks prettier than Woolford and has more flicks, but doesn't weigh in with the goals and assists."
The 27-year-old former Blue has been played on the right flank as well as on his traditional left side. "He plays like a man possessed. It's great to see a winger putting in shift after shift and not being afraid to tackle", "He has an outstanding work-rate", "Tackles fly in and he doesn't stop chasing the ball."
"Against Rotherham, Martin reminded me of Paul Ifill. He had to beat the same player three or four times before trying to get a cross in, by which time it was too late as we had been shut down by other defenders", "Moves seem to break down with him more often than not."
"I love our passing football, but we just look clueless when we get into the final third", "We look quite good until we get into the final third, and then there's a lack of creativity, guile and craft",
"Teams will be happy to watch us play tip-tap football as long as we don't have effective strikers in the box." The Lions are averaging just one goal per game this season. Along with concerns over their formation, they are worried about the quality of their frontmen.
"The Lee Gregory situation is a strange one." The 26-year-old summer signing from Halifax Town "is a work in progress. His work rate and movement are excellent, but he needs a bit more aggression", "He had no minutes against Southampton. It looks like we've done our budget for a bench warmer."
"Ricardo Fuller is average at best. I cannot believe he's going to trouble the best defences in the league. In fact, I'll go the whole hog and say that he's well past his best and pony", "This persistence with Fuller is bollocks. It isn't working." The 34-year-old former Town loanee joined this summer from Blackpool.
"Fuller's not a target man and he could show a bit more endeavour", "He's okay to come on for the last 20 minutes but other than that he's not up to it", "He's been asked to lead the line until Holloway finds the right person to do the job. He will then be used in bit parts to rest the main man."
"I wouldn't be surprised if Ranegie starts at Ipswich", "He will start against Ipswich so we don't need to worry about Fuller." The 30-year-old Sweden international has arrived on loan from Watford, and made his debut against Blackpool, coming on from the bench.
"He won everything in the air and put himself about a bit", "I predict a lot of huff and puff but no great end product, but I have seen loads worse", "He reminds me of Darius Henderson, a big strong player with a bit of a temper", "He looks like a rugby league player to me."
"In his first passage of play, he had two defenders on him. He held them off and rolled the ball around until the last possible moment before flicking it on to a team-mate. We need to find someone to lay off him", "He can drop and turn, and looks so much more comfortable than Fuller."
Lions' Thoughts on Mick, ITFC and the Game
"Last year at Portman Road was a disaster", "Is Bobby Robson's ghost going to be there this year? I'm sure that Lomas blamed the defeat on him last season."
Most Lions expect a narrow away win on their prediction threads, with a 2-1 win or a 1-1 draw their most popular predicted scores.
"I have a soft spot for Ipswich ever since they knocked us out of the FA Cup a few years back. There was a good atmosphere as well that day. Mariner scored a couple", "I bet Carlos Edwards is looking forward to this one. It would be good to see him score and make big Mick choke."
"A good honest bloke, Mick respected us as fans when he was with us." There was some discussion of Mick's time at Millwall. "He completely ruined one of the best squads in our history, which has been playing attractive football under Bruce Rioch. He f***ed the club about over the Ireland job."
One Lion uniquely thinks that Mick may be under more pressure than we all realise: "By all accounts McCarthy is on borrowed time. Ipswich fans are far from happy with any of his signings, having had to swallow the 'working on a limited budget' quote.
"They were dumbfounded when the club turned down £7m for McGoldrick and £2.5m for Tyrone Mings. Normally I don't expect anything when we go to Ipswich, but they could be there for the taking and McCarthy could get the sack as well."
The Millwall Way
"Millwall isn't about football. It's a way of life", "We are lucky to be Millwall. In the world of modern day football, we are miles different to every other club, just proper supporters that love their football club. Long may it continue."
Lions are proud of their unique identity in our footballing landscape, and they do enjoy discussing it. One fan here reflects on how they would take on the top flight: "I'd love it if we went up, just to shake that plastic league up for at least a year. Our fans won't fall in love with the Premier League.
"We wouldn't give a s*** about going back down. We'd use it as an excuse to get smashed and take the piss in some of the most famous grounds in the world. It would be great, but only if we didn't fall into the trap of thinking we belong there because most of the fun comes from the fact that we don't."
There are two busy Millwall forums. House of Fun is the busiest and requires prior registration, while Millwall Online is also quite busy and has open access. These links come with the usual cautionary note regarding the omnipresent industrial language.
Photo: Action Images
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