WITH the start of the new Championship season upon us, NewsAtDen columnist Jay Taylor assesses Millwall's squad and shares his hopes for the coming year:
Our forward options are strong, with Andy Keogh and Darius Henderson our two main attackers. Shaun Batt has something to prove in the Championship after missing the majority of the last two seasons – as does Dany N’Guessan, who will be looking to prove he isn’t the flop many fans feel he is.
Having said that, we need another option in the final third and John Marquis needs a loan to a lower-league side. The 20-year-old is in need of regular first-team football if he is to progress and succeed at Millwall. Losing Marquis on loan will open up a space to bring in a new forward, most likely, and preferably, on loan.
I previously thought adding to the midfield would also be needed. However, after seeing Therry Racon put in a good shift in pre-season at Crawley, we are well covered in this area. Racon showed quick feet and endeavour to get out of tight situations and play the simple pass. If if he can stay fit, I believe he and Batt can make an impact this year.
New signing Chris Taylor, possibly our player of pre-season, looks nippy and likes to switch wings frequently and tuck inside, which allows another stand-out player, Scott Malone, who has really impressed me, to bomb on. Malone likes to get chalk on his boots; he was always an outlet against Crawley. I think he will adapt quickly and efficiently to life in the Championship.
The core of the team that finished last season so strongly remains, barring Harry Kane and Tony Craig, and with the new additions things look promising. Last season was a transitional one that culminated in finishing the season top of the form table, ahead of eventual champions Reading, having flirted with relegation. The second season is always the hardest and we survived it, in the end, with a flourish.
There is no real meaning to pre-season form; win, lose or draw, you can’t read too much into performances. Individually or collectively no matter how good or bad the off-season goes, it’s all about getting prepared and ready for new season’s challenge.
But this year will bring new and different challenges; how the players adapt to Jackett's new style of play will be key. I believe we have strength in depth and can mount an assault on the top ten. Realistically, anywhere between tenth and 15th would be a plausible finish considering our budget and stature in such a competitive league, filled with 18 teams who have graced the Premier League in the past. The only teams in the league to never be in the Premier League are: Brighton, Bristol City, Cardiff City, Huddersfield, Millwall and Peterborough.
It’s going to be one of the toughest seasons in the recent history of the npower Championship, but after surviving the dreaded ‘second season syndrome’, Millwall have nothing to fear going forward. If Millwall can improve on the mediocre home form of last season and make The Den a fortress, coupled with maintaining our impressive away form, it could be an exciting campaign ahead.