In this penultimate edition of 'The A-Z of Millwall', NewsAtDen takes a look at the influx of youth over the years at The Den – particularly in two successful seasons since the turn of the millennium.
In SE16, the most popular formula for a prosperous Lions side has been to mix experience with youth.
This season has seen Neil Harris bring through a plethora of young stars: the likes of Ben Thompson, Fred Onyedinma, Aiden O'Brien and Mahlon Romeo have been producing performances beyond their years on a weekly basis, while names such as Sid Nelson and Jamie Philpot have lent their weight over the course of the campaign.
In addition to that, Harris has introduced youngsters like Kris Twardek, Harry Girling, Alfie Pavey, Noah Chesmain, Keaton Wood, Kyron Farrell and Christian Mbulu to the match-day squads – names that will hopefully go on to form the basis of the next successful Millwall side in years to come.
The introduction of the current crop of prospects has gradually got the Den faithful back on the side of the club and has brought back a real sense of togetherness within. The last time this kind of unity was present was in the 2000-01 season, when Mark McGhee's Lions won the Division Two championship title.
Promotion to Division One was won with ease, as a side packed with the perfect amount of youth and experience took the division by storm.
The old heads of Stuart Nethercott, Paul Moody and Steve Claridge provided the education for the youthful side of the team, who ultimately provided one of the most exciting periods in Lions history.
Ahead of the solid defence, Paul Ifill, Tim Cahill, Steven Reid, Neil Harris and Richard Sadlier became household names as they tore defences apart week after week. The former three went on to carve out careers at the top level and if not for illness/injury, the latter two would have followed suit.
Should the Lions not win promotion to the Championship via the League One play-offs this season, you have to feel that it could prove a blessing in disguise – something special is forming at The Den. That is largely due to the influx of young, hungry Lions, willing to stamp their authority and play for the shirt and the badge.
“You'll never win anything with kids”, one Match of the Day pundit once said. This corner of south London disagrees.