Exclusive: Ifill urges Millwall to cherish FA Cup experience

© Action Plus
© Action Plus

EX-MILLWALL star Paul Ifill has urged the club's current crop of players to cherish the "once-in-a-lifetime" opportunity of playing in an FA Cup semi-final at Wembley.

Ifill was a key figure during the Lions' run to the final against Manchester United in 2004 but admits that he let much of that experience pass him by.

So the 33-year-old, who now plies his trade for Wellington Pheonix in New Zealand, insists Millwall should not be afraid to enjoy the occasion when they face Wigan in the last four on Saturday.



Ifill told NewsAtDen: "At the time I didn't really think too much of what we'd achieved because I was caught up in the middle of it. Looking back now it was just amazing.

"There are players a hell of a lot better than me who never got to play in a cup semi-final or final so I count myself very lucky to have managed it, especially when I was at a Championship club.

"The players should take it all in and take a billion photographs – I wish I'd taken more. When you're in the moment you are trying to concentrate and obviously that's important.



"But for some of my teammates, the FA Cup was the be all and end all – they never got to play in the Premier League. Some slipped down the leagues and others retired. You have to think about that.

"There are going to be lads who, if they do play at Wembley, won't be playing football in a few years. That's just a reality. I've seen a few games this year and I do think a couple will play in the top flight.

"But it is a tough game and there is a chance they won't. So they should definitely take everything in and enjoy themselves because these days don't come around often in your career."

Ifill, however, is confident that Millwall can spring a surprise against the Latics: "This is the best draw they could have got," he said. "Wigan's main focus is to stay in the Premier League this season.

"When we did it, people said it would never happen again so it's a massive achievement. They have knocked out some decent sides – it's not like they've had easy draws all the way through.

"They have a great chance and if everyone is fit, I really fancy them to cause an upset. Danny Shittu's been excellent for them – I've played against him a few times so I know what a competitor he is."

The Lions beat Sunderland 1-0 at the same stage of the competition nine years ago and, like many fans, Ifill looks back on that day with more fondness than the defeat to the Red Devils in the final.

He said: "We felt, although nobody made it public, that we weren't going to beat Manchester United or Arsenal, who were playing in the other semi-final. So that was our cup final.

"We were having a good season and the FA Cup run hindered our chances of getting to the Premier League. When we drew Sunderland it went downhill in terms of our league form.

"I remember at the time wanting to prove myself so that I would be in the team. But if you were fit and experienced, you knew you were going to play, so you were worried about getting injured.

"Nobody wanted to miss a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. A lot of the players in 2004 never played in the Premier League so for them to be able to say they reached the final was a pretty big thing."

Ifill played 90 minutes at the Millennium Stadium in the final and recalled how he won the praise of legendary midfield enforcer Roy Keane for his performance – although he missed out on his shirt.

"About 30 seconds before the end of the game, me and Keane went into a tackle and both required treatment," Ifill said. "We were on the touchline and he turned to me and said: 'well played son.'

"That was a nice touch. The game wasn't finished yet but I asked him whether there was any chance I could have his shirt. He said 'no problem' and told me to meet him in the tunnel.

"True to his word, he was waiting there and handed his shirt over. When I went back to the dressing room, David Livermore was sat there looking a bit upset. He'd also asked Keane for his shirt.

"He had Nicky Butt's and, because I like Dave, I suggested we toss a coin. No disrespect to Butt, but the loser got his shirt and I've still got it hanging up in my front room."

Staff

(@NewsAtDen)

20 thoughts on “Exclusive: Ifill urges Millwall to cherish FA Cup experience

  • April 11, 2013 at 08:16
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    I I iffy I I iffy iffy i

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  • April 11, 2013 at 09:00
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    I I iffy, nice words mate.
    Interesting to see where this team Lies in comparison to that of 2004, promotion and relegation with the fa cup interrupting the focus of both. Smashing the hamsters and winning at old Trafford and falling away in the league. So what our fate this time?
    A win at wembley, 3 points on Tuesday and a point at Huddersfield to secure champship football next season?
    Someone pinch me,please.
    COYL

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  • April 11, 2013 at 09:33
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    Valid points made by I I Iffy but is it just me or do those players and many fans just wish we had "had a go" in that very one sided final?? I still blame Wisey for the way we set up that day!!
    Come on KJ and the boys, don't leave your dreams out on the wembley pitch. 100% and no one will ever think what if.
    COYL. Wemberleeeee wemberleeeee we're the famous Millwall and we're.............

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    • April 11, 2013 at 10:12
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      I'm with you on that one rob, I've always looked back at that team and thought how unprofessional it was and wise has to take the blame for that, an older more experienced manager wouldn't have let it happen. Yes we would have lost to Man U but with a lot more spirit. Never mind all that we have enough millwall boys in the set up to drum it into the others and I know he gets it wrong sometimes but I can't see KJ letting it happen, he's already said we're there for the football not the pictures. He like me believes there's a hug opportunity in front of us.

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      • April 11, 2013 at 17:52
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        I've always blamed wise as well. He in turn blamed bomber. IMO bomber should never have played in that final as wise had absolutely no intention of attacking. COYL let's have a go at me this time

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      • April 11, 2013 at 17:53
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        I've always blamed wise as well. He in turn blamed bomber. IMO bomber should never have played in that final as wise had absolutely no intention of attacking. COYL let's have a go at me this time

        That's em!!!

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  • April 11, 2013 at 10:58
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    That was a far better team than this one, but the injuries picked up against Sunderland (who literally kicked chunks out of us at Old Trafford) and Dichio's suspension left us really depleted for the final. I wished we'd made more of a go of it too, but we were never going to beat Man Utd that day.

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  • April 11, 2013 at 12:27
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    Micky Lion - Your comment is spot on. We had no support for Harris with Dichio suspended and were forced to play Marvin Elliot at right back because Kevin Muscat was crippled by Sunderland. I still think Wise used the wrong tactics though. It seemed as though we went out on the pitch to survive than attempt to win the game.

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  • April 11, 2013 at 12:53
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    I really think all the above have hit the nail on the head be it the Sunderland game where they kicked us off the park and the poor tactics Wise used in the final. The FA Cup Final is shown all around the world and we played like we were only there to keep the score down. This time - apart from Chaplow - we have got a full squad (including Hulse). Yes, the team of 2004 were a far better side and they were playing Sunderland in the semi's that year. A team and correct me if I'm wrong we had beaten both home and away in the league but we never met a Premiership side until the final. We've got an excellent chance this time as we've already taken out Villa and Blackburn away who were Premiership this time last year. We owe Wigan BIG TIME and the last thing I want to hear is ''we beat the cockney b******* again''!

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  • April 11, 2013 at 13:12
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    Iffy, I have lost some respect for you.... 'We felt, although nobody made it public, that we weren't going to beat Manchester United or Arsenal' - That mentality will get you nowhere in life!!!

    I don't care if you are playing against Barcelona as long as you believe, have commitment and give your 100% then you can be proud of the game you play but you have to have that belief otherwise don't turn up!!!

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  • April 11, 2013 at 14:42
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    Look at the United line up that day and then watch the game again lads. You can blame Wise all you want and he may have got some things wrong but even with our strongest team on the day the result would have been the same, we did pretty well all things considered, without being really competitive. 3-0 defeat with a dodgy penalty and an offside goal against us versus a team full of international footballers. For example, we brought Mark McCammon on for Neil Harris whereas they brought OG Solskjaer on for Christiano Ronaldo!
    This site is becoming a real forum for moaning lately! lol

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    • April 11, 2013 at 16:38
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      At least the officials are consistent with us !

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    • April 11, 2013 at 22:31
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      Lion forget who when why what, my point was aimed at the professionalism after the semi and wise was to blame for it as IMO a more experienced manager would not have excepted the performances or effort from those players especially as we where near top two, regardless of personel at the the time. Those players were a big loss but we should have carried that momentum forward as many good teams do. Saturday will look after itself and believe me we're getting a result pal. but we need to look deep into that so called better team of 2004 and look at why they couldn't take the momentum into the last couple games. You can say 2004 was a better team all you like but a one off is a one off regardless, but if we go through and carry that on till the end of the season then that will make us the better team. IMO

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  • April 11, 2013 at 16:06
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    As long as they go out on saturday and play with the millwall passion that i know is there then sod the score, just turn up and play boys the 30k+ wall will lift you no matter what..

    COYL!!!!!!

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  • April 11, 2013 at 16:56
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    Can't blame wise, he was realistic. Would you rather have lost 3-0 playing how we did or 6,7,8-0 but having a go? I'd rather lose 3-0 as we didn't lose any respect but if it would have been higher , how embarrassing would that have been. Always liked ifill, wish we had someone like him now as back up for Henry and its good he takes time out to speak positively about us.

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  • April 11, 2013 at 17:41
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    Short memory though on his day Ifill could be Awful...... I recon we could have had a bit more of a go.....if....Harris had been given onside and......if ....he had scored the tactics might have worked ...... No regrets tho they can't take us out of he record books. But I do want an in yer face real Wall performance on Saturday....then exactly the same effort against Watford on Tuesday.

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    • April 12, 2013 at 09:39
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      He was quite an infuriating player, lots of skill and speedy but he could only run in straight lines and didn't look at what was going on around him, often ended up just running into the corners and not getting the cross over.

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  • April 12, 2013 at 09:19
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    Love the debates on a Sunday what could have happened, the sore heads Monday with the stubbornness that you were right still after ten pints, Tuesday who should play what, tactics! come to the evening, with cold rainy nights full of moaning all the way home, Wednesday Thursday planning what next just to make it to Saturday, Millwall match day just get in there faces, big tackles, and lets go to war ! B******* to it !

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