NEIL Harris has reiterated that young midfielder Jack Powell has an important role to play in Millwall's future.
Powell burst onto the first-team scene in August, earning back-to-back man of the match awards against Southampton and Blackpool, but has made just three appearances since.
The 21-year-old's last senior run-out came against Ipswich in January.
Powell has been the subject of a number of loan enquiries from lower-league sides this season but former manager Ian Holloway was always reluctant to let him go.
However, Harris is confident that Powell will be playing first-team football sooner rather than later.
"Jack is definitely in the long-term plan, without a doubt," Harris said.
"He's a talented player and a great lad. He's been very unlucky this year because he's been so close to the squad for so long.
"He's travelled home and away with the first team to so many games as the 19th or 20th man – he's always been the next one in.
"That's probably cost him the opportunity for a loan spell that he's desperately needed.
"I know that Ollie ummed and ahed quite a lot about it because it was really tough to decide whether to let Jack go on loan at the risk of leaving himself short of players.
"Jack is certainly ready to play league football and he should be in the mix to play for Millwall's first team on a regular basis next year.
"At the moment we're very fortunate that Shaun Williams and Jimmy Abdou have been outstanding in the last few games and Jack's just being patient again.
"He's got a lot to offer and a lot to learn, and he knows that, but he's definitely in the thinking towards the end of the season and certainly in the years ahead.
"He'll come back fitter and stronger again after the summer and, like all players, he'll have a chance to stake a claim come July and August."
Powell was one of the standout performers as the Lions' U21s beat Crewe at The Den last week.
That was one of two development fixtures Millwall have played during the international break, giving Harris the chance to assess every member of his squad in a match scenario.
"I learned a hell of a lot from those two fixtures about what players can and can't do," he said.
"We had a good look at different players in different positions to see how they might fit into the way we're playing at the moment, so it was very valuable.
"There were positives and negatives as there always are.
"There were some good performances and some not-so-good performances from players in slightly different positions in a different formation.
"That cleared my mind a little bit. It was also pleasing for the young lads to get two good results.
"Myself and Scott Fitzgerald decided to change the shape and that resulted in two not-outstanding performances but two wins.
"I asked the boys to change the style of play they've been doing for 18 months without really working on it, so that was a big ask.
"They found it difficult at times but it was a real eye-opener."