Paul Newman: Who needs money when your club has nouse and an eye for talent like Millwall?
The Football League column: Millwall have worked hard over the years to rid themselves of their hooligan image. Their latest test will come with next Saturday's visit to Leeds.
Monday 16 August 2010
One of the teams promoted from League One can usually be relied upon to make an immediate impact in their first season in the Championship, but who would have guessed that it would be Millwall topping the table on the second weekend of the campaign?
Kenny Jackett's team were 50-1 outsiders to win the division at the start of the season, but after two matches the Lions are looking down on all their rivals, having won both and scored seven goals without reply in the process.
Millwall's start is all the more commendable given that the wins were against opponents fancied to do well this year, a 3-0 victory at Bristol City having been followed by a 4-0 trouncing of Hull City at the Den on Saturday. A perfect first week also saw Millwall progress to the second round of the Carling Cup, victory at Wycombe Wanderers earning a home tie against Middlesbrough.
It just goes to show what sound organisation, tactical awareness and an eye for talent can achieve. While Norwich City and Leeds United, the two big clubs who won back their places in the Championship through automatic promotion, were relatively big spenders during the summer – and have made moderate starts to the new season – Millwall spent modestly. James Henry, a winger, was bought from Reading for a fee of around £200,000, part of which he repaid with a hand in all four goals on Saturday, but Jackett spent most of his time shopping in the bargain basement.
As for the players who last season took Millwall back into the Championship after an absence of four years, the evidence so far is that they are looking capable of bridging the gap in class. Their work ethic is epitomised by Steve Morison, a 26-year-old striker recruited by Jackett from Stevenage last summer. Having scored 20 goals in League One last season, Morison, who made his international debut for Wales last week, scored twice in the Lions' mauling of Hull.
"It gives us optimism for the future and something to build on," Jackett said of his team's start to the campaign. "When we saw the opening fixtures it's what we've worked hard to achieve, to be competing at this level. After that we're just looking to work hard for the first dozen games to get a foothold at this level.
"There's been no long-term goals but that's our aim at the moment. In your first home game you want to give the supporters some optimism for the future and I think we've done that. How we go on from here is another challenge."
Jackett, who led Swansea City to promotion from League Two five years ago, took over at Millwall in November 2007 with a brief to keep them in League One. Neither club nor manager, who recently signed a new three-year contract, has looked back since. The fans are happy, too. More than 6,000 season tickets have been sold this year and Saturday's attendance of 13,292 was more than 2,400 up on the club's average last season.
Millwall will celebrate their 125th birthday in October, the club having been formed in 1885 by the workers of the JT Morton jam and marmalade factory on the nearby Isle of Dogs. Many of the workers were Scots, hence the choice of navy blue and white as the club colours. Millwall Rovers, as they were first called, played at four different grounds before moving across the water to Cold Blow Lane in 1910. They relocated to their present 20,000-seat stadium 83 years later.
The club have worked hard over the years to rid themselves of their hooligan image. Their latest test will come with next Saturday's visit to Leeds. Security measures to avoid tickets getting into the wrong hands include requiring supporters to collect them at a designated motorway service station en route to the match.
In October 22 years ago Millwall, boasting a strike force of Teddy Sheringham and Tony Cascarino, topped the old First Division. John Docherty's team lasted but two years in the top division, their only spell amongst the elite. Might Jackett's men follow in their footsteps? The examples of Burnley and Blackpool in the last two seasons show anything is possible.
Diving in at the deep end is no excuse for shirking the style stakes
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