Millwall check out Wembley as final preparations intensify

© Millwall FC
© Millwall FC

NEIL Harris is taking his Millwall players to Wembley today so they can familiarise themselves with their surroundings before the League One play-off final clash against Barnsley.

The Lions were just 90 minutes away from an appearance at the stadium in January before losing to Oxford in the semi-final of the Johnstone’s Paint Trophy.

Eight of the current squad, though, have experience of the stage.

David Forde, Tony Craig and Jimmy Abdou played in Millwall’s League One play-off finals in 2009 and 2010. Steve Morison played in 2010 and before that for Stevenage in the 2007 and 2009 FA Trophy finals. The Millwall captain also started for Wales at Wembley in a Euro 2012 qualifier against England in 2011.

Chris Taylor was with Millwall when they lost 2-0 to Wigan in the FA Cup semi-final in 2013, the same year Ed Upson and Byron Webster were on the Yeovil side that defeated Craig’s Brentford to win promotion to the Championship. Fred Onyedinma, likely to be on the bench this Sunday, was among the substitutes when Wycombe lost 7-6 on penalties to Southend in last season’s League Two play-off final.

Paul Heckingbottom’s Tykes have already played at the national stadium this season when they beat Oxford 3-2 in the final of the Johnstone's Paint Trophy in April.

Millwall boss Harris, who was also on the Lions side in the club's last two play-off finals, hopes that Thursday’s trip will help ensure the focus is on the 90 minutes on the pitch against Barnsley on Sunday rather than on the occasion.

“My job as the leader of the group is to try to explain to the players what it’s going to be like, how to deal with,” Harris said.

“Little things like taking the players to Wembley, for me that’s key. I’ve certainly done that before and it’s been successful.

“The biggest thing leading up to a day like this is routine and consistency within the group. That’s certainly my job to make sure the players know exactly what they’re doing, when they’re doing it, preparations-wise.

“It’s just to get a feel for the place, it’s important they know where their families are sitting. That’s the biggest thing. Forget about the stature of Wembley and the history of the place, the biggest thing for a player on the day is, where’s his family sitting?

“Couple that with where they’re going to be sitting in the dressing room, they can get the pictures of where they are on the pitch.

“Every little inch you can get is important.”

Harris and his coaching staff will start specific preparation for the contest on Friday, when the squad will be left in no doubt what's expected of them.

Harris said: “The important message for my players is: We’re going to work on Sunday. I’ll be delivering messages later in the week about what we’re going to do tactically, how we’re going to play.

“You want everything (else) dealt with earlier in the week. So (Thursday) they have a look around the stadium and they can picture what they’re doing and get used to the surroundings.

“Then when we’ve prepared tactically their minds are clear on the game and everybody’s focussed on the same thing.”

John Kelly