Testimonial preview: Millwall vs. VfL Bochum

NEIL Harris doesn’t treat testimonials like a lot of clubs and this will be a proper friendly that should give a strong indication of what he sees is his first-choice side.

There will be little sentiment when he sits down to choose the XI to face Middlesbrough on August 4, but there should be plenty of it around The Den this weekend.

Jimmy Abdou joined Millwall 10 years ago from Plymouth before departing this summer for FC Martiques, his hometown club in France.

He was a manager’s and team-mate’s dream, selflessly covering ground and giving the ball to more creative players.

He didn’t score often – just nine times in 342 appearances – but if fans didn’t already love him for his work ethic and humility he went a long way to achieving legendary status when his goal in the second leg of the 2009 League One play-off semi-final at Elland Road against Leeds took his side into the final.

Kenny Jackett’s Lions lost to Scunthorpe at Wembley, but were back a year later with Abdou in midfield in a 1-0 win over Swindon to achieve promotion to the Championship.

Abdou was one of the constants – along with David Forde – over the next turbulent five seasons that culminated with the club in a shambles and relegated back to the third tier.

Harris had taken over from the sacked Ian Holloway a couple of months before with little hope of saving them. Instead, he focused on rebuilding, and one of his first acts was to offer Abdou, then 31, a new deal.

Abdou played in his third play-off final a year later in a loss to Barnsley, before losing his place in the team the following season.

But towards the end of the campaign, when Millwall were faltering and needing a calm presence, Abdou was recalled, playing the last game of the season, then the two semi-final legs, and the 1-0 win over Bradford in the play-off decider.

That turned out to be his last ever competitive game for the Lions, a fitting finale.

“He was a great servant," Lions captain Steve Morison told Millwall's official website this week. "He was one of those players you always wanted in your team. You didn’t want to play against him – he was fantastic.

“It’s about hard work and it’s about understanding your roots. Jimmy epitomised that. That’s why the fans loved him.”

Former Millwall captain Tony Craig added: “Jimmy is the type of person you could ask to look after £100 for you – and when you got it back you would have £101.”

Ex-Millwall defender and former team-mate of Abdou, Paul Robinson, recalled the midfielder's first day at the club.

“At the end of his first day of training we did a running drill," Robinson, also speaking to the Lions' website, said. "Because he was new, he didn’t really get to grips with what we were doing, but by the time the rest of us reached the halfway line, he’d run too far.

"However, as we turned back, Jimmy had run past everyone again!”

“You knew exactly what you were going to get with Jimmy.

“He made it as a pro at Millwall because he had that relentless nature, that non-stop running, effort and energy. He kept himself to himself, would be consistent every single day and he could always be relied on, be it a lesser stage or a bigger one. He gave us the platform for other players to go on and win the game for us.

“He could have his fun – he also had that mischievous side, but he wouldn’t be one to moan and groan.”

Abdou spent last season on loan at AFC Wimbledon and will be back at The Den to play one final time – featuring for the first five minutes – this weekend.

Possible Millwall starting XI: 4-4-2: Archer; Romeo, Hutchinson, Cooper, Meredith; J Wallace, Abdou, Williams, O’Brien; Morison, Gregory.

Image: Millwall FC 

John Kelly