RYAN Tunnicliffe has admitted it has taken him a while to get used to Millwall’s style of play, after growing up in different football environments at Manchester United and then Fulham.
Tunnicliffe has had to wait for his chance with the Lions, after Shaun Williams and George Saville’s excellent early-season form kept him out of the team.
He made just his third league start of the season against Birmingham on Saturday, and scored his first goal for the club, the crucial second in a 2-0 win at The Den.
Millwall boss Neil Harris said afterwards the coaching staff had done a lot of work with the squad in general and Tunnicliffe in particular in the week leading up to the game, and the midfielder felt that it paid off and he is finally getting used to the demands of the role.
“It’s different to what I’ve played before but it’s effective, as you saw tonight,” Tunnicliffe said after the game. “If we can get it right it causes a lot of teams trouble. It’s an adapting period for me, coming in and learning the way we play and how people play.
“I did a lot of work this week, the gaffer showed me some videos on the Brentford game. I’ll just keep trying to improve and get into the way we like to play.
"It’s different to how I was brought up. I came up with United which is pretty much total football, especially at a young age. I always said if I wasn’t in the first team at a certain age I wasn’t going to sit and be in the reserves until 22 or 23. I don’t feel that’s right for my development as a footballer.
"I had an opportunity to work for Rene Meulensteen in the Premier League and I grabbed it with both hands.
"Fulham play a similar way and if you make a mistake the manager accepts it because you’re trying to play how he feels is the right way.
"I’ve had a stop-start career. I settled at Fulham and the manager was then sacked. I was playing every week under [Slavisa] Jokanovic at the back end of one season and then at the start of the next season my face didn’t fit, for one reason or another. It was time to move on and I did.
"I want to play every game I can, that’s what I’m in it for. Hopefully I can get a good run of games and show my quality here.
"I think I pride myself in being an intelligent footballer. Obviously it’s going to take a few weeks, or it has taken a few weeks to get to grips with how to do it properly. I can get my head around it. I worked hard this week and got my head around how the manager wants me to perform. Tonight it came off for me in a good way.
"Sav likes to bomb forward, as you’ve seen with his goals this season, so it’s more about me steadying the ship at the moment, the job Willo does for us so well.
"It’s more about anticipation and seeing where the ball is going to drop rather than charging about, which is how I used to play. I don’t think it's as much running for me but you’ve still got to put the yards in."
Asked how he has settled at Millwall, Tunnicliffe said: “Yeah, it’s lovely, to be fair. It’s a nice and easy club to settle into. It’s a family club. As you’ve seen, the crowd are so passionate about Millwall.
“It’s predominantly an English or British group and everyone makes you feel welcome. It’s easy to get on with your job.
“I had a few people saying they were interested [in the summer] but I met with the gaffer here and he sold me the club. I’d never had it where a manager has come and met me and done a presentation on me and how Millwall like to play and it made me feel wanted.
“I came out and said to my agent that this was somewhere I could see myself playing and would love to play, especially under the boss.”
Tunnicliffe’s goal on Saturday was his first since he scored for Wigan against Leeds on the last day of the 2016-17 season.
And he enjoyed it in front of the Cold Blow Lane End.
“Lovely, and to get it at home as well was quite special. Hopefully many more to come.
“You’ve seen them blasted over before. I was buzzing when I saw it come to me but I just had to make sure I hit it into the ground and thankfully it went through a defender’s legs and the goalkeeper was unsighted.
“I’ve hit the bar around 20 times, I’ve just not had the rub of the green. Obviously everyone wants to score but I pride myself first and foremost on doing a job for the team with my running power, tackling, being brave.
“It gets your name on Sky Sports if you score but I’m more than happy to do the dogged work and let Moro [Steve Morison] and Gregs [Lee Gregory]and Ells [Tom Elliott] score the goals. If I can chip in now and then like tonight it’s better for the team.
“But as long as we win I’m not too bothered.”
Image: Millwall FC