Millwall's Leonard: 'There have been harsh words – but it's not panic stations'

RYAN Leonard has revealed that there were “harsh words” and “conversations which were needed” at Millwall’s training ground over the international break.

The Lions lost 4-3 to Norwich in their last game after conceding twice in injury-time to hand the three points to the Canaries.

The result leaves them 21st in the Championship table, level on sixteen points with this Saturday’s opponents Bolton.

“We wanted a game to come as quickly as possible but obviously we’ve had the break and we have had a few harsh words and some conversations which were needed,” Leonard said. “To be fair, training since then has been second to none, probably some of the best training sessions since I’ve been here.

“It was very disappointing, and probably one of the most topsy-turvy games I’ve ever played in, to go from 2-1 down to scoring from the kick-off and then going 3-2 up, we’re thinking, ‘we’ve got a result here’. A result which we needed and which was going to change our season.

“It was a real sucker punch to us which, to be honest, I don’t really think we deserved. We got punished for small mistakes, and at this level away from home against teams at the top of the league you can’t afford to make those mistakes. You will get punished.

“It was more of a case of disappointment. We’re not a group that digs each other out, we’re not a group that passes the blame. Everyone knows they could have done better.

“We were all gutted, all sat there with heads in hands, it was a horrible feeling. It wasn’t for the want of trying, everyone ran their hardest.

“We could have done with a game to put it right, but we’ve had a couple of weeks in training to work on areas we need to improve.

“I’m not someone who in meetings will stand up and make big speeches or have a go at people. When I get out on the pitch I’m more of a talker then.

“We’ve had meetings and it’s been really good for people to get their opinions across and say what they did wrong and what they should have done on certain goals. We’ve had really good discussions where people have stepped up and said important stuff.

“We’ve got a squad of players who have really good experience, and plenty of people who potentially could captain the football club. That’s always a bonus in good times and bad. You’ve got people who will stand up and be counted. We’ve got that in abundance here, so that’s nothing to be worried about at all.

“In the end the break probably came at a good time and we’re all ready to go on Saturday now.”

Leonard scored to make it 2-2 at Carrow Road, his second goal in three games. Shaun Williams has four, and the former Southend man believes the partnership will be even more fruitful as he makes the most of a relatively new position.

“I’ve enjoyed playing in a more advanced role, it’s not one I’ve played a lot in my career,” Leonard said. “I’ve played nearly 300 games now but not many in that kind of attacking position. It’s something I’ve really thrived off. The gaffer said: ‘Go and take the handbrake off and enjoy your game.’

“Luckily enough I’ve managed to chip in with a few goals and assists and if it continues it’ll be good for me and the team.

“We’ve got quite a good relationship. It’s not an out-and-out pairing where one plays forward and one plays defensive. We’ve both got a good all-round game where if one wants to go forward then that’s how it works, and all either of us has to do is to have a little look over the shoulder. If one is a bit deeper then the other one knows to bomb on and get into the box.

“To be fair to Shaun he’s got quite a few goals this year so if we can both chip in with five, six, seven goals this year it’ll really help the attack.”

One area of real concern for Millwall is at the other end of the pitch in the last quarter of games. They have conceded fifteen Championship goals after the 68th minute of their seventeen fixtures so far, costing them a total of thirteen points from drawing or winning positions.

Asked if he had an explanation, Leonard said: “I wish! I think the gaffer would like to know that as well. It’s strange, I don’t understand it, but it’s something we need to work on. We know that, we’re not a perfect team by any stretch of the imagination. There are areas we need to work on and improve.

“Those stages late in games is something we need to address. Whether it’s down to concentration levels, I’m not sure. We’d all love to know the exact reason why.

“A lot of the goals do come down to errors at this level, and slight errors will get punished. At this level you don’t even need to make mistakes and you can get punished because players are so good. Players are in this division for a reason, they all have quality.

“We need to stay concentrated, keep talking to each other on the pitch and keep switched on. I think then we’ll see a difference at the end of games.

“We could have stopped Norwich’s late goals, it shows we have to be ultra-concentrated to stop players at this level.

“When you score three goals away from home you expect to take home three points, if not a point minimum. We know we need to work on things like that.

“If you look back at the points we should have taken from games then we should be a lot higher in the league than we are. I know it’s very tight at the bottom at the moment but if we can just close out games using the experience that we have we can be in a much different position.

“It’s not a case of panic stations, it’s more that we need to learn from our mistakes. As long as we do that and put things right we’ll be fine.”

Image: Millwall FC 

John Kelly