Millwall player profile – Paul Ifill (1998-2005)

© Action Plus
© Action Plus

Millwall have a rich history of wing wizards: From the days of Joe Broadfoot, Billy Neil and Anton Otulakowski to this season’s crop of Fred Onyedinma, Jed Wallace and Shane Ferguson, the club have been blessed with some truly great wide men over the years.

One of those – in one of the Lions' most successful periods in their history – is this week’s profile star – Paul Ifill.

Ifill arrived from Saltdean United and rose through the youth ranks at The Den, before going on to make 261 appearances in a Lions shirt, scoring 43 goals and being a major part in the Second Division championship-winning season of 2000-01, as well as the run to the FA Cup Final in 2004.

Keith Stevens and Alan McLeary handed the winger his full debut on February 13, 1999, as the Lions lost 2-0 at Lincoln, but Ifill would go on to make a further 17 appearances that season, including a start at Wembley Stadium in the Auto Windscreen Shield final against Wigan Athletic.

The 1999/2000 season saw 'Iffy' become a first-team regular – in a campaign that saw 52 games, due to the club’s involvement in the play-offs. Ifill made 48 appearances, scoring 11 goals that season. The winger’s first for the club came against Preston North End in the April of the previous season, but 11 more were added in a year that saw the Lions miss out on promotion, thanks to of a semi-final defeat to Wigan – them again – in the play-offs.

Injury hindered Ifill's start to the 2000-01 season, but he still went on to make 35 appearances in the league, scoring six goals – half of them coming in a 5-1 demolition of Cambridge United three games from the end of the campaign, in what many Lions fans consider as one of the greatest hat-tricks ever seen.

With Steven Reid operating on the opposite wing (and with the majestic Christophe Kinet dipping in and out when needed) and with the partnership of Tim Cahill and David Livermore dominating the midfield every week, the Lions were unstoppable in their charge towards the Division Two championship; it was a joy to watch.

The following campaign saw Ifill heavily feature once more – the former Brighton boy made 29 starts, with a further 13 coming from the bench, as the club missed out on a shot at the Premier League in agonising circumstances, losing to Birmingham City in injury-time of the play-off semi-final.

2002-03 saw Ifill's best season to date with regards to appearances made, as the winger missed just one game in the league – a defeat at Reading – scoring six goals, as the Lions finished ninth in Division One. Two of those goals came against Sheffield United; eagle-eyed fans will know that Ifill had a penchant for scoring against the Blades, who he would ironically go on to join a couple of years later.

Eight goals – including another two against United – would help the club to a 10th-place finish in a 2003-04 season that ended with a historic appearance in the FA Cup Final against Manchester United at the Millennium Stadium, Cardiff. Ifill would write his name into the history books earlier in the run, scoring one of two goals against non-league Telford United in round four.

The 2004-05 season would prove to be Ifill's last at The Den – he would be restricted to just nine starts over the year, but still managed four league goals, as Dennis Wise's side finished 10th in the newly-named Championship.

The winger exited SE16 in the summer of 2005, as the club looked to cut costs in the wake of Wise's resignation and failure to challenge for promotion to the Premier League. Sheffield United stopped Ifill from continually scoring against them in the only way they could – buying him – as he made an £800,000 move to Bramall Lane.

What are your favourite memories of the wing wizard?

 

Mark Litchfield

(@IAmTheLitch)