Ring out the old, ring in the new – 2016 is upon us. After a ‘year of two halves’ (as explained in my previous blog) for Millwall Football Club in 2015, the new year will present manager Neil Harri.s and his team with a chance to draw a line under the first half of the season and move on, as we being to approach the business end of the campaign.
But, what should we as fans expect from the Lions this year? After the 4-0 win at Southend United on December 28 signed off 2015 in style, 2016 began with defeat against Barnsley at Oakwell last Saturday, with Steve Morison’s equaliser quickly being cancelled out in a 2-1 defeat to the Tykes. It was typical of this seasons’ Millwall – the trait of inconsistency shone through once more, just as it looked like a dodgy December was put to bed by the win at Roots Hall.
I think – in fact, I know – that we can look forward to more erratic results as the season tumbles on. So far, for every 4-0 defeat to Coventry City at home, there has been a 4-1 victory over Colchester United, and for every disappointing defeat on the road, such as Fleetwood, there has been a result like Bank Holiday Monday’s. As I have said time and time again, this is a relatively inexperienced club at management and playing level this season, so at times, they are going to get things spot on, but they are also going to get things wrong.
I’m not completely ruling out the possibility of finishing in the top-six; with the way the race for the automatic promotion spots is hotting up, the top-two is probably out of our reach already, but a few wins will see us inside the play-off places – the majority of the division is that tight. However, promotion – as miraculous as it would be – is a step too far this time around. This team needs another season or two at this level; so does Neil Harris. It wouldn’t last five minutes in the Championship.
Speaking of the team, it’s that time of year again when changes are made – the January transfer window. Personally, I hate it. I despise the way Sky TV has made nothing into something out of Deadline Day, and I wish we could go back to being able to buy anyone at any time, but that’s the way modern football is these days. Harris has spoken of dipping into the market this month and has also hinted at some leaving the club for pastures new.
I’m of the belief that the Lions need a fourth striker, some natural width and defensive cover at left-back, above anything else. Alfie Pavey and Jamie Philpot are jointly acting as the fourth striking option at this present time, but both will need experience before they can commit to such a task, so bringing in someone with a bit of know-how is a necessity. Whilst all three front men (Morison, Gregory and O’Brien) have played well so far this season, it needs to be someone that can come in and dislodge any of them from the side with immediate effect. It needs to be someone that will make the division sit up and take notice.
The same goes for a winger. For a while now, the team has lacked options on the flanks and with Paris Cowan-Hall and Lee Martin seemingly headed for the exit door, along with Shane Ferguson’s future being up in the air, the manager will need to address the issue this month. In a 4-4-2 formation, width is key – playing Ed Upson (a good footballer who deserves to play in the middle) isn’t.
The second left-back will be needed to deputise for Joe Martin, when suspended. I like you, Joe, but eight bookings already, considering you missed the beginning of the season … ?!
If we can add those elements into the current squad, I think we’re good to go. This team is growing and will be ready for a promotion challenge in the next st:asun or two, if we carry on in the same vam. For the first time since the days of Kenny Jackett, the club has a little bit of stability, a manager who knows what he is doing and a team that wants to play for Millwall. Come January 1, 2017, here’s hoping that it’s even more positive than it is now. Happy New Year!