MILLWALL are aiming to reach a first FA Cup semi-final since 2013 when they host Brighton on Sunday afternoon.
The Lions have an excellent record in this competition with this their 11th quarter final.
Brighton could become the sixth consecutive Premier League side to lose in the Cup at The Den, a run stretching back to a 2-1 win over Aston Villa in 2013 – when Danny Shittu and John Marquis scored.
The two sides have been drawn together in the Cup just once before in 1956 – Millwall were 3-1 winners in a home replay after a 1-1 draw away.
Lucas Ball spoke to Sami Zeglam this week.
Why do you support Brighton?
Brighton is a one-club city, growing up in the area means you either support them or a Premier League team.
During my time at school most of my friends supported Arsenal, United or Liverpool – very few supported Brighton because at that point we were stuck in the lower divisions playing at the Withdean.
Supporting Brighton gave me the first chance to watch professional football live, even if the standard was not great nor the football pretty.
What’s been your favourite season following the Seagulls?
This is a tough one. It would have to be either the promotion season 2016-17 or the first season in the Premier League in 2017-18.
The promotion season was brilliant, I could go to every game feeling like we would always come out winners. On top of that we had so many near misses with the play-offs in the seasons before and it just felt different, the atmosphere around the club, the momentum driving us to automatic.
It was just a shame we couldn’t have ended the season as champions. Last season on the other hand was a dogfight, but that was to be expected in our first season in the Premier League that ended in us ultimately staying up. On the way we beat Manchester United and reached the FA Cup quarters, too.
And the worst?
The 2008-09 season was pretty terrible, we were almost relegated from League One. That season was also the first season I started consistently going to away games alone for the first time during my A Levels.
We were still in the relegation zone after 43 games. Ultimately Russell Slade managed to guide us to five wins from the last seven games, staying up by two points.
That said, we did beat Man City in the League Cup. That was the season when they had just been taken over and signed Robinho and co – so it was huge to win that.
I take it fans are happy with Chris Hughton at the helm?
On the whole I’d say they are. There have been some questions about the tactics, many viewing his approach as often negative.
Earlier on in the season people also questioned his approach to substitutions and loyalty to some players.
That said, most fans appreciate the job he is doing and has done, everyone knows we’re new to the Premier League with a smaller budget by comparison, so realistically can’t expect to be pulling up trees.
Maybe after a season or two more in the Premier League and established status it could be time for change, but at the moment he is the right man.
Do you think Brighton have enough about them to stay up?
If you had asked me this two games ago it would have been a totally different response, but now following the crushing of Palace at Selhurst Park and the win over Huddersfield at the Amex Stadium we should have enough.
Still got some tough games: Chelsea, Spurs and Arsenal away and City come to us on the last day of the season.
But we have a few games at home where I’d hope we could pick up points: Southampton, Newcastle and Bournmouth, for example.
Do you expect the Lions to avoid relegation?
I’d like to think so. I’m a teacher in Lewisham so whenever I’m not at the Amex or following Brighton on the road I try to get down to The Den.
The problem with Millwall is the consistency. For example, I was at the Preston game and it was just too easy for them whereas against Everton in the FA Cup you made it difficult and played to your strengths.
To use a cliché, ultimately it is in Millwalls hands. They have to keep picking up points especially now when it seems that every time Millwall win so do teams around you, like this week when Rotherham won, too.
Do you think the atmosphere created by a sold out Den will affect the visitors?
Definitely, I did a tweet along the lines of this after the draw. I stated how with the exception of Cardiff away, The Den (even when not at capacity) has a better atmosphere than all the Premier League grounds I’ve been to in the last two seasons.
It’s also different. It will for sure unsettle some of the squad and play into Millwall’s hands.
We play better for some reason against teams that play expansive attacking football. Against a team with a style similar to ours we struggle.
To get through will be as tough as it would have been had we drawn City. That said I don’t think Chris Hughton will underestimate Millwall and the impact The Den can have as 12th man, it will be well drilled into the players.
If a focussed Brighton team turns up that expects a tough game and hostile atmosphere then I’d expect us to win. If, though, a complacent team turns up its Millwall's for the taking.
The game may well have a heavy influence by two 35-year-olds, is that a worrying sign for both sides?
Yes and no. Both Steve Morison and Glenn Murray do a job, a very specific kind of job.
Harris and Hughton don’t start the two of them for pace or skill, they get started because, ultimately, they are nuisances for defenders. They are able to hold up the play well and bring others into the play, and from set-pieces they have the presence you need to create some danger.
Thankfully for Brighton you can see and sense that Hughton is carefully managing Murray and trying to slowly reduce the reliance on him – I'd have been more concerned for us particularly if we had not started seeing Florin Andone and to a lesser extent Jurgen Locadia more.
Chris has always been very careful about team management and to transition his squad over time and introduce players gradually. For me, Andone looks like he will have the potential to be a great leader of the line in the long run for us.
Which of the Seagulls’ players will the Lions need to pay most attention to?
Murray is of course the main goal threat but Andone could cause problems either off the bench or from the start.
Likewise, which Millwall players are you worried about facing?
Jake Cooper, for sure. He is a quality defender and a huge threat from set-pieces. This is the kind of threat that Brighton are themselves used to posing from Lewis Dunk and Shane Duffy at corners and free-kicks.
Cooper this season has a great return on goals and assists so is a definite threat.
Alongside Cooper I’m worried about Mahlon Romeo, players with pace always seem to create us problems, and pace is something Mahlon has in abundance.
What are your thoughts on Neil Harris?
For me, Harris at Millwall reminds me a lot of Hughton. He is a manager with a very fixed way of play, he has his approach and generally makes it work.
The football is not the prettiest but the football is effective at getting points. They have a style that is quite traditional and build on defence first.
Ultimately, both managers have had promotions and kept both teams up after promotion so it is hard to knock them. That said, in a similar manner to Hughton I think Harris has a very comfortable set-up at the club and as a consequence of being in charge for significantly longer than average (four years is a lifetime in football today) are almost untouchable when you consider that they are meeting the expectations.
This sometimes can manifest itself in a lack of desire to change approach from the managers, though. On the whole, in a similar manner to Hughton, I think he is doing a great job within the context and budget and therefore worthy of praise.
Both would be worthy of and have earned chances at clubs deemed a “step-up” but both don’t ever seem to have their names linked to “bigger” jobs.
If you could sign one of his players, who would it be and why?
Jiri Skalak…I jest! I’d have to say Cooper again, at 24 he still has potential to improve further.
Lewis Dunk was still playing Championship football at 24 and has gone on to play for England since. I’m not sure he would be able to dislodge Dunk or Duffy at the moment but he would be a great alternative.
He can play football in a style that is similar to Brighton's but is also a threat from set-pieces. A large chunk of our goals come from such situations and until we are established in the Premier League it is likely to stay that way – so Cooper would help with that.
What’s your predicted Seagulls starting XI and formation?
Hughton is likely to rest some players, but I expect him to play a strong team – especially as it’s a chance to go to only our second FA Cup semi-final!
Ryan; Bruno, Duffy, Balogun, Bernado; Propper, Kayal, Stephens; Knockaert, Murray, March.
Will you be at the game on Sunday afternoon?
Yep. Looking forward to another away visit to The Den, one of my favourite grounds and atmospheres.
There is something authentic about the place, the people and the club.
Finally, what’s your score prediction?
This in my eyes has 0-0 written all over it. I can see it going to extra-time. Both teams will score in extra-time but we will just about steal it 2-1.
Image: Millwall FC