Millwall midfielder: Championship experience has given us belief

RYAN Tunnicliffe hailed a “great” Millwall season – and believes the experience gained will help make them better in the next campaign.

The Lions beat Aston Villa 1-0 on Sunday to finish eighth on 72 points, just three points off sixth.

They were in the last play-off spot with three games left but a tough run-in denied them.

“It’s been a great season, considering we were relegation favourites at the start of the year. To come so close but not get over the line, we can all be proud of what we have achieved this year,” Tunnicliffe said.

“To give the fans something to cheer about on the last day and get over 70 points is remarkable. We were professional and got the job done.

“It’s been a great season overall but with a few games to go we were sat sixth. All we needed was a few good result to get you in there. But if you look at the games, Fulham, Middlesbrough and Aston Villa, it was always going to be tough.

“We gave it our all but came up short. After the Middlesbrough game everyone was very, very disappointed. Our season was pretty much over barring a massive goal-difference swing.

“December was big for us. We played six of the top eight or whatever it was at the time. That’s when everyone got the belief that we can beat these bigger teams, especially at home.

“And then getting that first away win of the season at Leeds in such dramatic fashion just gave us that momentum. We went on a run of six or seven away wins along with our home form, we’re so strong here.”

Tunnicliffe was one of seven signings last summer, and Lions boss Neil Harris will now be focusing on improving his squad again.

“Our expectations are the get better as a club overall. He’ll do his recruitment and try to get more quality into the squad. We’ll come back in shape, sharp and ready to improve. It’ll be tough because it’s such a hard league,” Tunnicliffe said.

“But everyone is up for the challenge of trying to get better. We’ve had a year of experience at this level which is going to stand us in good stead. We’re confident now that we can beat the bigger teams.

“Coming up from League One last year you’re a bit blind to it, you don’t know how you’re going to perform. We’ve proven over the season that we’re good enough for anybody.

“It’s going to be tough. Everyone that’s getting relegated from the Premier League is going to want to bounce back up. If you look at the league as a whole there are a lot of good teams in it and there are more coming down to add to it.

“There are some massive games and big stadiums to go to but next year we won’t fear anybody. The teams that come down, we’ll go to those grounds expecting to win and trying our hardest to win.”

Tunnicliffe praised Harris for helping him to improve his game.

The midfielder said: “He’s been a big influence. As soon as you come to the club he tells you what he wants. There are no airs and graces, he wants everyone to work hard and play for the shirt, which suits me down to a tee. I’m all about that, running and tackling and hustle and bustle. He’s brought a lot more out of me.

“It took me a few games to get used to how we play, second balls and putting it in the channels. He taught me the other side of the game that I hadn’t done as much of in the early part of my career.

“There are always things you can improve on no matter how old you are. I think I’ve played quite well when I’ve been called upon. Obviously I would have liked to play more but the boys were on a fantastic run and I couldn’t get into the team.

“When called upon these last two games I tried hard to get us over the line but it just wasn’t to be.”

Image: Millwall FC 

John Kelly