SOME Millwall supporters have been left genuinely stunned and confused by the way this season has gone.
A year spent flirting with relegation whilst struggling to win at home is not what we’ve come to expect in recent years.
In the last three seasons we have experienced two Wembley finals, one promotion and even came close to finishing in the Championship play-off places.
During this period we played with assurance, pomp, a swagger and a strut. The Den was an impassioned fortress. This thriving period gave Lions supporters’ reasons to be positive and confident about all our endeavours. Our expectations rightfully grew. We wanted to win, we expected to win.
However, this season has been different, very different. We have struggled and faltered throughout the year and this has left us dazed and frustrated: from Championship play-off hopefuls, to relegation contenders in the space of 12 months. But who, if anyone, was to blame for this change in fortune?
Long term injuries; poor individual performances and just downright bad luck have all contributed to our stuttering season. But generally, it was the team as a whole who were held responsible for sub-par displays – some players simply did not live up to previous years’ feats, and lacked the required quality and fortitude in too many matches.
Though inevitably, it wasn’t long before manager Kenny Jackett – as well as the team – came under fire. What first started as cursory dissenting mutterings from the impatient started to grow, and before long some of Jackett’s most ardent backers found themselves questioning his suitability.
Unquestionably, Jackett’s erratic use of the transfer market, coupled with inconsistent and impatient team selection compounded the problem. But there were enough glimpses of quality, of resistance, which should have dispelled the criticism.
The turn of the year was an extremely tough few months for the team and the manager, and the disastrous home form certainly magnified the situation. Confidence around the club was as low as it had been for years.
A piece written back in February by Craig Griffiths endorsing Jackett, spoke about his managerial nous; his resolve; his ability to adapt – qualities which most Lions supporters never doubted he possessed.
Thankfully, as the season moved on, those qualities shone through.With a more established team and the encouraging additions of Shane Lowry, Andy Keogh, Harry Kane and Ryan Mason, things improved. And following three wins out of three in April, we can finally look forward to playing Championship football again next year.
This season has been a demanding test of Jackett’s managerial qualities. But he has weathered the storm, remaining as measured as ever. Managing a successful side is a completely different proposition to managing a struggling one. Jackett has proved that he can do both.
And this season’s display of resolve and character could well be his finest accomplishment.