Mills: Recruitment process gives Millwall a better chance

© Millwall FC
© Millwall FC

ANDREW Mills has outlined some of the key principles that underpin Millwall's recruitment policy and believes they are helping to provide players to manager Neil Harris that fit better with the club's philosophy.

Mills was appointed head of recruitment last March as part of a revamp of Millwall's scouting structure.

The former Brentford chief executive has since been involved in bringing the likes of George Saville, Shane Ferguson and U21 player Christian Mbulu to the club.

Mills also explained the background to the signings of Steve Morison and Tony Craig, both former teammates of Harris.

He said: "I understand if supporters look at Steve Morison and Tony Craig and a couple of others and think: 'Well, how hard was it to get them back?'

"But it wasn't just a case of: Have we got their phone numbers in the book? It was a case of: Do they do the job that Neil wanted and what he identified he wanted from a couple of senior players within a very young squad?

"The answer was from Neil was, 'Yes they do'. They then jumped to the top of the queue because they know what's required in terms of a Millwall performance and a Millwall shirt.

"The process we now go through in terms of how we get to the availability of the players and how we put that to the manager has changed.

"The work that we put in certainly weeds out, hopefully, the issues or problems (caused by) players coming who aren't fit, possibly don't fit in with our way of playing.

"There are a couple of things recently that have come up with football clubs where they've recruited players who, albeit have probably been towards the top of their particular position, but who don't play in the style the club plays in and who have been deemed a failure.

"Everything we are doing is trying to focus on making sure we limit the (possibility of making) problems from your perspective, the supporters, coming to watch games and thinking, 'What the hell is that lad doing in a Millwall shirt?'

"Don't get me wrong, we won't get everything right, but there is a process to go through to give you a better chance.

"Neil had a firm opinion in the summer about a couple of people he wanted to bring in and so we did some background work with that and helped put it together.

"But apart from that (the recruitment department has) been involved in everybody who comes in or goes out whether it's young Christian Mbulu in the U21s, who I think is a great prospect for the future, or Shane or George.

"They are players who don't just do a specific job on one day. They are players with whom there is future potential to having around the squad, they can improve the group we've got."

Speaking to Lions Live on Thursday evening, Mills described the delicacy and often the difficulty associated with recruiting players on loan.

He explained: "I was looking at how we arrived at George Saville. The list we had in the recruitment department, that we felt was credible, in the morning it was 16 players.

"By the time that got to Neil, which was after training, we'd whittled that down to four or five players which an hour after making calls about those players there was one player he wanted, which was the one he got.

"As long as they buy into the football club, as long as they feel like a genuine member of the squad, as long as they feel like a Millwall player then I think it's an acceptable way of padding out the squad in areas where we need to or to deal with problems that come up from time to time.

"We got to a stage last where, I strongly believe, people wouldn't loan us their players because the squad was aging and it probably wasn't seen as progressive.

"The average age of the squad this year is floating at around 24 whereas it was 30 last year.

"I think that players are valued at so much by some of the Premier League sides that rather than send them out and risk damage they'll hold them back.

"The other issue for us is that the financial levels in the Premier League and the Championship means there are players that are way, way, way beyond our bracket.

"Bringing those type of lads in tends to destabilise the group and you tend to throw a different dynamic in. That's when you're talking about loans coming in and actually damaging the group instead of benefitting it.

"That's something we said to the chairman we wouldn't do and I think we haven't so far."

Meanwhile Mills paid tribute to the work being done by academy boss Scott Fitzgerald, with a number of his young players tipped to make an impact in the first team.

"We've got probably half a dozen players currently in the academy that Scott thinks will be in the first team," Mills said. "I think that's an incredible success.

"I think that's probably three or four years work in the academy to get us to that stage. We've got to continue that and we've got a manager who supports that and wants that."

John Kelly