FEATURE: Wallace on Wolves, Harris and why he re-joined Millwall

JED Wallace revealed he ignored interest from the Championship and from one of Millwall’s close rivals in League One before signing for the club.

Wallace and Jake Cooper joined the Lions on loan from Wolves and Reading on the same day last week.

Millwall weren’t the only club in the hunt to sign Wallace, who revealed Charlton Athletic were also interested.

“I had a few options, it was a long build-up,” Wallace said. “There were a couple in the Champ, there was another one close to here, no names but they play in red!

“There was another one higher up in this league as well but in football you can’t beat the consistency and familiarity that I’ve got here.

“People know what I’m about and I know what this place is about. It’s a good fit for me and I want to be part of a successful team. We’re very, very close to being a really good team.”

Wallace played 14 times on loan at Millwall last season between January and March before being recalled by Kenny Jackett, who put him straight into the Wolves side.

But Jackett left the club in July with Walter Zenga taking over, and Wallace’s first-team chances were limited further when Zenga was replaced with current boss Paul Lambert.

Reading-born Wallace said a move back to Millwall became a possibility last month, and he revealed his relationship with Lions boss Neil Harris was a key factor in his decision to re-join the club.

“In December I realised I wasn’t going to be involved with Wolves,” Wallace said. “One thing I have learned at Wolves is that you can’t take your relationship with a manager for granted. I had a good one with Kenny and he trusted me. The manager here trusts me and you can’t take that for granted.

“People are happy to sit at certain clubs. Wolves are a massive club and it would have been easy for me to sit there and see if anything changed. But that’s not the reason I wanted to become a footballer. I wanted to play football. There’s no point me being three hours away from home and not playing. It’s the same as last season really.

“The opportunity to come back to a club where I know I’m going to play and will be pushing at the right end of the table was a no-brainer.”

Wallace’s first game back at Wolves last season was at table-toppers Burnley, when the winger started on the right of midfield alongside another ex-Lions loanee, George Saville.

But an injury in that game set him back, and he feels that and other issues involving new owners and a manager wanting to bring in their own players hindered his chances of making an impression.

“I’ll look back at my Wolves career and think my time to really establish myself and make an impact was probably when I went back from here,” he explained. “I was in good form, was fit and confident and played really well against the best team in the league.

“And then I pulled my quad in that game in the 80th minute and that’s what I’ll look back on and think that’s cost me. I’ve been a bit unlucky there with injuries and never had a sustained run in the team, so it was difficult to make an impact.

“In my opinion there are a lot of things that happened there that shouldn’t have happened. We finished 13th last year under Kenny with a lot of injuries, a lot of key players not being involved. “If he had been giving money to spend would they be in a higher position than they are now? In my opinion, yes.

“But I didn’t get a run of games, like a lot of the boys. A lot of foreign boys came in and played and that was the way it was.”

“I’d play one game and do well, and then play away from home and be doing badly and come off at half-time. To be honest, he (Zenga) kind of messed me around. It was the same with some players there not really getting opportunities, certain players coming in from certain clubs and people pulling strings. It was a bit of a strange situation, I didn’t really know what was going on there.

“I just kept my head down and tried to play as best I could with limited opportunities. It’s hard to be consistent when selection is inconsistent. I don’t think I’ve ever started more than two games in a row for Wolves so it’s hard to find form for any player.

“They signed some fantastic talent, like Helder Costa. You’ve got to be realistic, he’s a twenty-million pound player and I’m not going to keep him out of the team. He’s playing right midfield. So that’s where the club’s at, they’re trying to move forward.

“For me to come here, it’s two steps back to take one forward and I want to be playing in the Championship for Millwall next season.”

Wallace has played just one 90-minute competitive fixture this season but with Millwall's smaller core of first-team players he is hoping for a run of games.

“It was the same selection for six games in a row and you can see the consistency come through,” he said. “It was the same last year, you could almost pick the team and the subs that were going to happen.

“The manager showed it was important that there were eighteen or nineteen players that can make an impact. Me and Coops now are another two. You look to your left and right and know there are people that can fill in positions. We’re looking to kick on now and get into the Championship if we can.”

Wallace played 21 minutes last Saturday at Valley Parade, and he acknowledges he needs to quickly build up match fitness with the fourth round of the FA Cup coming up against Watford on Sunday.

“I think any player will tell you it’s not easy coming off the bench, especially when it was almost like a game of basketball, back and forth,” Wallace said.

“I’ve always been a player that can get rusty, I need to get my minutes in and play. I’ve been like that since I was about fifteen or sixteen. Some boys can be out and then come back and pick it up but I’m not one of those players.

“I need to build my minutes up and I’ve spoken to my manager about that. There are various things going on behind the scenes to do that. If I can get more time on Sunday I can hit the ground running.

“I’m quite a fit lad but it’s about getting a feel of the ball, you can’t replicate that on the training pitch, no matter how hard you train. You need eleven v eleven games. Hopefully I’ll be ready to go on Sunday.”

Wallace kept an eye on Millwall’s progress this season, and feels despite some bad results earlier in the campaign they are as good as anyone in the league.

He said: “They got themselves into a really good position and then lost four in a row, it went a little bit crazy. You always follow clubs when you’re with another club that you think, ‘Potentially I could be there in three or four years’.

“I followed Millwall for a couple of years and they always seem to be the same, a bit of a slow start and then come strong as the season goes on, like last year. We’re hoping to replicate that this season.

“If we can keep everyone fit, especially the front two, we can beat anyone in this division.”

Image: Millwall FC 

John Kelly