RYAN Tunnicliffe says he had to cram pre-season into two weeks – and admitted he would have looked "terrible" had he been thrown into the first-team fray too early.
Tunnicliffe has yet to play 90 minutes since joining from Fulham in the summer, but got more competitive action under his belt in Millwall under-23s' 1-1 league draw with Sheffield Wednesday at The Den on Monday.
Tunnicliffe played in a different system as Development Squad boss Kevin Nugent set his side up with a diamond in midfield.
Kris Twardek put Millwall ahead from the spot after Noah Chesmain had been fouled, before James Murphy levelled before the break.
"I've settled in quite well, it's a good bunch of lads and they make it easy," Tunnicliffe said after the game.
"I was joining in with the sessions and doing a little more afterwards. It was like cramming a six- or seven-week pre-season into a two-week block.
"I did all that as well as getting to know the lads and the individual stuff to get up to speed.
"The gaffer had told me it would be a two-week period until I was ready for games. I had that in mind before I came in the door that I wasn't going to be involved immediately and I had to work as hard as possible so that when I was called upon I was ready to go.
"I went to every game to support the lads. I was itching to get going, especially when you see the pre-match warm-up, you wish you were involved.
"It was a tough summer and I knew myself I wasn't fit enough to play. I would have looked a terrible player if I had been thrown in immediately! That wouldn't have been the right thing for me.
"It was great to get that first start at Reading and then come on against Norwich in a winning performance and feel The Den's atmosphere. It was nice to bed in that way."
"I think we weren't getting the rub of the green in earlier games. But as you saw Saturday when the chances do fall our way we will take them. We beat a very good Norwich side quite comfortably."
It was put to Tunnicliffe that making his debut against Reading in the EFL Cup was an ideal way to begin his Lions career as the competition wasn't a major priority.
"You would think that, wouldn't you?" he joked. "I've played a lot of games so I wasn't that nervous, but it wasn't the best game to get involved in in one way, because we know that they keep the ball.
"In another sense it was a good game because I had to do a lot of running and fitness-wise it was very good for me. It was a tough one for my first start, but I felt fine after it."
It was a different result last Saturday, with Tunnicliffe coming on as Millwall strolled to their first league win this season.
He said: "There are obviously no easy games in the Championship. But we were 3-0 up and I was ready to come on when Hutchie [Shaun Hutchinson] made it four. It ever there was an ideal game to come on in it was that one. There were fifteen minutes left so it was just about seeing the game out and being professional.
"I pride myself on being able to run around and do the gritty stuff for the team. The fans enjoyed it as well, so it was a good experience."
Image: Millwall FC