JED Wallace has a memento from the last-ever FA Cup fixture at White Hart Lane – but it’s not one he will look at with any fondness.
Instead, he will use it as inspiration, a constant reminder of the level he has to try to get to.
Wallace swapped shirts with his direct opponent Ben Davies after the 6-0 FA Cup quarter-final defeat to Tottenham Hotspur last Sunday.
Wallace said it seemed like Spurs “had 14 players” on the pitch as they ruthlessly dumped their League One opponents out of the competition.
The on-loan Wolves winger admitted it was an eye-opener to see the level of their fitness and the intensity they applied in winning back possession.
Spurs ended Millwall’s 17-game unbeaten run to advance to the last four. But Wallace felt the previous outing against MK Dons, when Millwall conceded for the first time in 10 games and saw Dean Bowditch miss a late sitter before Lee Gregory’s injury-time match-winning penalty was also a “kick up the bum”.
Focus now returns solely to the league, and if Millwall need warning about how a cup defeat can burst a team’s bubble – even if it wasn’t the priority in the first place – they only have to look at Wycombe Wanderers’ record since their 16-game unbeaten sequence came to an end in the in the fourth round against Spurs: The Chairboys have won just two games since then, drawing three and losing seven.
And if ever Wallace feels his effort levels dropping he need only glance at the framed white jersey on his wall.
“I swapped with Ben Davies, so I can always look at that to remind myself how much he had me on toast for 90 minutes!” Wallace said. “If I ever start to feel good about my career I can look at that and realise where I need to get to.
“Honestly, there was nothing we could have done. It felt like they had 14 players.
“I don’t think we played badly, I don’t think anyone is talking about how bad we were. It was a case of, we came up against one hell of a team. The scary thing is if Bayern Munich played them tomorrow they’d beat them 4-0, so what are those boys like? That’s where you’re at, you always have to strive to do better.
“But we get back to the hustle and bustle of the league. The boys all would have taken a defeat to end up where we want to be – and that’s a promotion party at the end of the season.
“It’s easy when you’re doing well like we were but I think that MK Dons game is a kick up the bum for us in terms of how we played. That’s as poor as I’ve seen us play. We didn’t do what we’re effective at.
“We have to up it from that MK Dons game to the Bury game and get three points.
“The priority was always League One for us. We know how strong we are at home. We haven’t tended to do too well in the games after the FA Cup, so the manager has been stressing that to us, how we need to make sure it’s down to us and that we take the game to Bury. I’m sure we will.”
It’s crucial that they do. Fleetwood lost last weekend to Bolton, who with eight goals in two wins appear to be making a decisive move.
Millwall have games in hand on Bradford, as well as Fleetwood and Scunthorpe, both of whom they have still to play.
It’s being in this kind of position, calculating how many wins are needed and looking to take advantage of any slips, that convinced Wallace to re-join the Lions on loan in January.
“That’s why I came here,” he said. “At the time I had two or three options but I looked at the table and had belief we’d do what we did last year when we moved from around 12th into (the top six). We’re on the breath of the boys that are third and fourth, which is where we need to be.
“It’s in our hands. It’s going to be interesting. I think there are (seven) away games so we’re going to have to be resilient on the road. Our home form takes care of itself if we’re on our game.”
Wallace was glued to the TV last Saturday before Millwall’s cup tie at Spurs. The results of their rivals were mixed, but a top-two finish is still within reach.
“It’s always satisfying for a bloke when you’re sitting there watching Jeff (Stelling) and the boys!” Wallace joked. “It’s rare that I get to do it, sitting there with a cup of tea and a couple of biscuits thinking this is what being a fan is all about.
“It’s probably getting to the point now where you want Sheffield United to beat everyone, because they’re going to win the league.
“We play three of the top six. If we win eight out of the 11 games we’re going to be there or thereabouts. That’s our target.”
Meanwhile, Neil Harris passed the two-year mark as Millwall boss this week, and Wallace believes that kind of stability is key.
“You see (Paul) Tisdale at Exeter, what they did, they’re fifth this season,” he said. “You see (Chris) Hughton at Brighton, he’s been there two years, Paul Cook at Portsmouth, they’re doing well. Derek Adams at Plymouth.
“Isn’t the gaffer top 20 for the longest-serving managers? It just shows you with the likes of Charlton, if you don’t have that continuity off the pitch, it’s difficult.
“When I signed for Millwall I knew I was getting 25 honest pros, a very honest set of fans and an honest manager that are going to give it to you like it is. If things are consistent off the pitch it gives you every chance to be consistent on it, which is probably why I struggled at Wolves It’s been so chaotic off the pitch.
“I had the administration thing at Portsmouth and you’re seeing Charlton now. With their squad they should not be where they are. But when things are not going well off the pitch it’s easy to worry about them on it.
“Luckily here we just plod along. I know I’m going to come in here on a Monday and (the squad) will have been off on Sunday and have had a good weekend. We’re going to work hard, get in people’s faces, train hard and that’s all you can ask for.”
Image: Millwall FC