STEVE Lomas is walking into Millwall with his eyes wide open.
He knows, as a former West Ham captain, that his arrival as manager will be met by resistance from some fans.
The 39-year-old describes himself as "straightforward" and, after all, there is nothing more black and white than Lions and Hammers.
But strip away the past and you will find a man who could have been born under the Cold Blow Lane. As it was, Lomas was raised in Coleraine during the late 1970s and early 80s.
"That was a tough period in Northern Ireland," he said. "I had a single parent. My mum worked really hard and my dad gave me as much as he could. So I know what hard work is all about and I know that Millwall fans are grafters.
"They work all week to come on a Saturday and see their team have a go. If they get that, they'll accept a loss here and there.
"I was at West Ham for eight years so I can understand why some fans are upset. But my promise to them is that nobody will work harder than me to put a team together that they can be proud of. It's a simple as that.
"I'm desperate and really hungry to do well. I've lived in London for 16 years and I class this city as my home. I know about the club and I know what the fans want.
"I'm friendly with the likes of Teddy Sheringham and Tony Cascarino so I wouldn't want anyone to think I don't understand Millwall. I do."
But Lomas also knows from experience what to expect in South London. "Away players don't like it here," he said. "I've been there. I've looked around the changing room at The Den before and seen some scared faces. I've thought, 'not many of my teammates fancy this'.
"The crowd here back their team and make it difficult for the opposition players and fans. I've always liked that.
"The fans are die-hards. With their support, we have a great opportunity. If the staff, the players and myself can turn The Den into a fortress again it will be intimidating."
Intimidating would have been a good word to describe Lomas' no-nonsense approach to playing the game as a midfield enforcer in a proffesional career that spanned 17 years. But since making the move into management, he has mellowed.
"I wouldn't describe myself as a tough man," Lomas said. "I'm competitive, hard-working. I've got good values.
"I joined Manchester City when I was 12 and left when I was 23 before spending eight-and-a-half years at West Ham. I never asked for a move. I'm very loyal.
"But ultimately I'm a winner. For me, it's all about 3pm on a Saturday. People try to make football very complicated but it isn't. If you win on a Saturday, you enjoy your week. In that sense I'm no different to any fan.
"Hopefully I can find the right formula to bring winning football back to The Den. The away record was very good last year but results at home weren't great. That's a big target."
Lomas feels that his experiences as a player have allowed him to bridge the gap between life on the pitch and life in the dugout.
"It's only been six years since I retired so I know what the lads are going through," Lomas revealed. "You've got to be different as a manager but I'm pretty straightforward still.
"Players appreciate honesty and knowing where they're at. You have to tell them how it is. As a player, there's nothing worse than when a manager doesn't really communicate.
"There aren't going to be any problems with the players. If they want to come and speak to me, that's fine. That's the right way to do things. But they must not cross over the line – because then there's no way back for them.
"Equally, a manager is there to help his players because it's all about them really. The players and the fans are the two most important aspects of the club – if you don't have them, you've got nothing. I'm there to help them achieve their maximum and I'll certainly be demanding the best from them."
Last season, Lomas lead St Johnstone to Europa League qualification for the second successive season, playing a brand of football he likened to that of Champions League winners Bayern Munich – at least in terms of intensity. So what can Lions fans expect from Lomas tactically?
"What you do with the ball is as important as what you do without it," he explained. "The best teams in the world press the opposition – they get the ball back as quickly as possible. That allows you to create more chances.
"I played 4-3-3 and 4-4-1-1 last year, but I wouldn't say I have a preferred formation. Towards the end, three up front was suitable to the players we had and it worked for us. But players have to be adaptable and ready to change formation. I'll be looking at that during pre-season. I want to play high-tempo, attacking football."
To do that, Lomas knows he needs to strengthen his squad, and he says chairman John Berylson has given him his full financial backing.
"The chairman's been brilliant," Lomas said. "He's told me to go and get what I need. That's obviously good to hear but I'll only be bringing players in that want to come to Millwall.
"We've got some good players here already – and some good blokes too. I know a few of them already – the likes of big David Forde, Paul Robinson and Alan Dunne. They know what Millwall is all about and they are the core of the group.
"We'll be relying heavily on them. Good morale and team spirit goes a long way and can carry you places. In terms of making signings, the type of person we bring is as important as the type of player.
"We've got 18 players signed up but we're certainly looking at targets and who is available. It's important that they improve the team – there's no point bringing players in for the sake of it, they've got to be better than what we've already got.
"In terms of strikers, Jermaine Easter is very experienced, and Andy Keogh is somone I've always liked. Andy's a big strong boy, with good pace and his goalscoring rate isn't bad for Millwall either.
"I've got high hopes for those two lads but we will definitely be looking at our attacking options. You don't have to be a genius to realise the team as a whole needs to score more.
"Hopefully we can bring a few in but I'll assess the current squad and take it from there. There's a clean slate. Every player will have an opportunity to impress me and force themselves into my plans.
"I know the staff here too and I'll have a chat with them all and see what's what. I'm not one to come in and start slicing and dicing."
Kenny Jackett made extensive use of the loan market during his five-and-a-half year tenure and Lomas admits that is something he too will look to exploit. He could even call in a favour or two with new Manchester United manager David Moyes, who he uses as a sounding board from time to time.
"I speak to David," Lomas said. "He's been very kind to me. He takes my calls and gives me advice and that's great for a young guy like me.
"But, equally, I don't think we should underselling the club. Millwall is a good place for young players to come anyway – you know you're going to play and it's in a great location.
"Any kid wanting to learn should be keen to come here."
In many ways, the same could be applied to Lomas. His mind was made up to come to Millwall as soon as they expressed an interest in him.
"Once the club came calling, there wasn't much of decision to be made," he said. "I had to be respectful of St Johnstone because they gave me my opportunity – although I like to think that I repaid them.
"Everything was done professionally. It was difficult to leave on one hand because the lads up there were a great bunch to work with – that's the stuff managers really love, working with the players to make them better, and getting a shift out of them in return.
"But football moves on and I'm ambitious. Everybody wants to manage as high as they can. I think I've gone about things the right way – I did all my badges and worked in non-league for 15 months under the glare of the spotlight before moving onto St Johnstone. I feel it's the right time for me to step up."
Millwall do too – and whilst clearly Lomas will have to win over some doubters, he is primed and ready for the challenge.