INTERVIEW: Millwall midfielder on why he feels at home 10 years after first joining Lions

MILLWALL’S form hasn’t cheered their fans of late but it’s unlikely that when the Leeds United bus pulls into The Den on Saturday that there will be any bricks lobbed through windows.

Lions supporters haven’t exactly rolled out the welcome mats for John Terry and Frank Lampard in last few months, and Ian Hollaway was also reminded of the feeling towards him around these parts and he responded with a sarcastic doff of his cap before he stepped off the QPR bus in December.

One of the reasons Jem Karacan is back at Millwall is because he feels at home. He may only have played seven games for the club during his first spell over 10 years ago, but he’s a local lad and some of his family are Lions fans.

The move happened quickly this time around. Karacan heard about Millwall’s interest on a Tuesday and had signed two days later.

He is a former team-mate of Neil Harris’, and that was also another decisive factor before he signed a contract until January.

“I had offers from all over the world, I spoke to clubs in Australia and Turkey,” Karacan, who is of Turkish descent, explained. “But the last few years I’ve moved a lot abroad and back over here, so location for me was massive. I’m from around here, I know the area well so the settling-in period wasn’t tough. I knew a couple of the boys and the manager, which was massive for me.

“I got a call from my agent who had spoken to the club, and that was it, really. I said to him, ‘jump on it and get it done’. All the other stuff is just details.

“It’s a club I was at years ago and there are still people here I know from back then. It just made sense. Obviously I wasn’t here for that long, but being back down here near where I grew up, it’s very homely and that was massive for me to feel welcome and wanted.”

“Having a manager that knows me, what I’ve done and what I can do, was huge. A couple of managers that I had spoken to, the feeling wasn’t right. I’ve experienced enough to know what I want and how I can do well for a club. As soon as I spoke to the gaffer here I knew this was where I wanted to be.

“It’s only until January. It works well for both of us, I can come in and show what I can do and the gaffer will see what I can offer and go from there."

30th April 2017, Macron Stadium, Bolton, England; Skybet League 1; Bolton Wanderers versus Peterborough United; Jem Karacan of Bolton Wanderers celebrates after scoring his team's first goal after 22 minutes

Karacan had spells with Galatasaray and Bursaspor in Turkey after playing a key role for Reading when they won the Championship in 2011-12.

Karacan, 29, could make his league debut against Leeds.

“I remember playing for Millwall against Leeds at home and that was a very tense environment,” he continued. “I was only 18 then and that set me up pretty well for moving to Turkey and seeing how extreme the atmospheres and the fans can be.

“I used to laugh because I’d already experienced it at Millwall, and when the away teams came in they used to get a bit of grief.

“It was an experience out there and one that I won’t forget quickly. My first game was pretty much the equivalent of the Charity Shield but they see it as a much bigger thing there. They’ve got the league, the Turkish Cup and then the Super Cup.

“When we were heading into the stadium a brick came through the window. When I got on the bus I saw security men and I thought, ‘what are they for?’ I found out quickly. The glass smashes and I turn around and all the other lads are sitting there as if nothing happened. That was normal.

“That was my first experience of seeing what it was like. It happened a few times travelling away. Galatasaray bring such a massive support with them, when you go to the airport or anywhere it is crazy. The players are looked at as celebrities and they’re just swarmed.

“I had opportunities to go back but it didn’t go as well as I would have liked it when I was there. Speaking to my wife and family, it’s very easy to forget how you felt in the moment when you were there. You consider it, but then you think about it deeply and what happened. Little things like the standard not being what it is in England. I was quick to forget things like that, but I got reminded pretty quickly by my friends and family.

“It was interesting but I’m delighted to still be in England and the Championship. You see how the big clubs have come down from the Premier League and struggled. No one expects it. It’s a tough league and I’m looking forward to getting my teeth stuck into it again.

“When I came here all those years ago as a young lad on loan, you kind of keep your head down. You get your work done and get out of the building quietly. It was only for six weeks or so. There was a good little group of us: Ali Fuseini, Jay Simpson.

“Time flies. I was speaking to the gaffer saying, ‘I played with you 10 years ago’. It’s crazy to think how quickly it has gone.

“I trained with the gaffer a lot and learned a lot from him. He’s got that desire to win in every session on the training pitch. I learned a lot from a pro who had done so much in his career and still wanted it every day and still wanted to be a winner.

“He’s taken that into management. Being around the squad reminds me of what he was like back in training. It’s my first experience playing under someone I played with. I’m enjoying it.

“He’s a club legend. I’m not surprised to see how well he’s done. The manager gets what he expects from the players. It’s a good bunch of lads and a strong unit.”

Image: Millwall FC 

John Kelly