The international break may have thrown up many talking points, such as qualification for Euro 2016 for nations like Wales, Northern Ireland and Albania, but as far as Millwall Football Club go, news has been pretty thin on the ground over the last ten days.
However, that did allow me the time to sit and have a think about the subject of this blog.
After the Lions’ crazy 5-3 defeat at Peterborough on October 3, which saw Byron Webster and Tony Craig rescue a two-goal deficit in three second half minutes, only to go two goals down again minutes later, followed by Mark Beevers’ consolation, before Posh added a fifth and decisive strike, the news of Jimmy Abdou and Ed Upson’s injuries mattered more to most than the game itself.
Upson, who played out of his skin at the ABAX Stadium, along with Abdou, who left a noticeable hole in the midfield after his departure, will both be missing until December at the earliest. Along with Shaun Williams’ suspension for a fifth booking, the Lions were considerably light in the middle for the Johnstone’s Paint Trophy win over Northampton Town at The Den on October 6.
But, from the current squad, when everyone is fit, what is Millwall’s strongest XI? Which team of players would you consider the best available to Neil Harris?
In goal, there’s a choice of David Forde or Jordan Archer. For me, although Forde has given the club incredible service over the last seven or eight years, Archer has consolidated himself as the number one over recent weeks. His youth and ability has enabled him to get down quickly and make many saves that the Irishman wouldn’t be able to make. He has rarely been at fault for any goals – a far cry from Forde – and has kept the Lions in games. He gets my vote.
In defence, the right-back position is an easy one for me. The return of Carlos Edwards in September showed what we had been missing with Shaun Cummings occupying the berth. I’m not one for singling out players for no reason like some fans do, but Cummings’ positional sense is among the worst I’ve ever seen in a Millwall player. Edwards provides all of that and more; attacking quality, pace (even at 36 and a year out of the game) and intelligence on the ball. A no brainer.
Left-back is a tough one, as we are yet to see Joe Martin in full flow. We know what Tony Craig is like – we have seen him many times before – but until Martin is given a run, we can’t really judge who is best. In the middle, as far as I’m concerned, Mark Beevers is the best centre-half at the club and should be an automatic pick. Alongside him, Craig will probably be an automatic selection due to being the club captain, but don’t discount Byron Webster, who has come on leaps and bounds in the last few weeks, after an utterly disastrous start to his Millwall career.
In the midfield, the wide berths throw up Paris Cowan-Hall, Fred Onyedinma, loanee Shane Ferguson and Lee Martin. For me, although he has clearly needed a rest in recent weeks, if you’re talking about a strongest XI (which I am, clearly!) then Fred must be in it. On the other side, Ferguson has looked very useful in attack, so he would get my vote for the left-sided place.
In the middle, when all fit, there is a wealth of players for Harris to choose from – Ed Upson, Jimmy Abdou, Shaun Williams, Jack Powell, Ben Thompson and George Saville, to be precise. In an ideal world, the latter trio would play second fiddle to the former, but with the current state of the squad, they will get game time in the immediate future. However, as far as my strongest side goes, it would be two of Upson, Abdou and Williams. Don’t ask me to split them!
Up front, with John Marquis sent out on yet another loan, Harris is left with three senior strikers; Lee Gregory, Aiden O’Brien and Steve Morison.
Morison is probably an automatic pick; with O’Brien’s showings since his return from injury, his quick feet, intelligence on the ball and attacking threat make him my selection alongside the Welshman. Gregory is a good option to have from the bench, however.
So, my ‘strongest’ XI would be: Archer; Edwards, Beevers, Craig, TBC; Fred, Upson, Williams/Abdou, Ferguson; Morison, O’Brien.
Agree? Disagree? This kind of subject is always up for discussion, so feel free to let me know what you think!