By Jake Sanders
FORMER Millwall striker Gary Alexander admitted that Championship survival should always been recognised as a successful season for the club.
The Lions finished 8th in 2017/2018, just three points adrift of the play-offs, but were unable to replicate that form as they ended the campaign only four points clear of the relegation-zone this time around and didn't secure their status until a goalless draw with Stoke City in late April.
Despite recording just 10 league victories this term, whilst spending the majority of the season inside the bottom-half of the table, Alexander said Neil Harris deserves credit for keeping Millwall in the division and knows exactly what needs to be done to avoid a repeat.
Alexander said: "There has been ups and downs, there has been good patches and rough patches. But at the end of the day we finished above the line, so it can go down as a good season – plus we had a good FA Cup run. Survival in the Championship on our budget isn't easy and Neil [Harris] has done a good job.
"I think the season before when we had the run towards the play-offs we overachieved, but if you look back towards the start of the season every report read that Millwall had dominated games but hadn't won the fixture, they had come away without winning the game. The performances were good enough to win football matches at Championship level, but it wasn't happening and once you get in the rut then it becomes difficult.
"But, yes, we did overachieve, and expectations go up if you overachieve no matter what club you are at and this season was a bit of a reality check and Neil knows what he needs to do to get Millwall back on track to make sure we don't have a close call again next season.
"If Millwall survive, then it goes down as a successful season because they are staying in the Championship and it's not easy. They are competing against some big clubs. You have got some big clubs coming up, so it's going to get even harder. You have got some big clubs coming down and the Championship is getting harder and harder each year.
"In among all of those problems we had a decent cup run which got the fans going. Did we go out of the cup at the right time? Probably yes, in terms of not having a fixture build-up and making sure we got a couple of points on the board to make sure we were safe."
Alexander was shocked to hear about the unrest in the dressing room and said he would have intervened if that had happened during his playing days.
After Millwall's 2-1 defeat to Bristol City in their penultimate game of the season, Harris revealed that there has been a lack of commitment from certain individuals, whilst others have let him down with their performance levels and lack of professionalism.
"Team spirit and togetherness is what Millwall is all about and if you don't want to be a part of that then it shows," the 39-year-old said. "That might have been a little bit of a problem as to why we weren't getting results and why there might not have been that togetherness. But as I said, Neil has done a good job and has managed to keep us above the line, but he has realised what the problem is, and he is going to deal with that over the summer I'd imagine.
"It is each to their own. Me personally, I couldn't do that because it is your job at the end of the day and you have to perform 100 per cent every time you go out on the pitch. I haven't really seen it, if I had seen it, would I say something? Yes, I would say something to the boys that I didn't think were pulling their weight around. At the end of the day you have got to work for yourself."
The former Lions striker is currently working as a scout for Millwall and has been travelling and up and down the country watching first-team matches.
He said: "I am out there being sent to games, watching videos and just watching players. There is not a lot of football over the summer, but I imagine I will be watching plenty of videos, seeing what goes on. We need to make sure we recruit the right players to have another season where we can survive in the Championship and hopefully a little bit comfortably.
"I have been watching a lot of first-team players, watching a lot of first-team football at all levels – from Non-League all the way through to the Championship. I have been up to Scottish Premier League, things like that. It is really good. It is good for myself, it is good for my football knowledge and hopefully if I can help Neil in any way by recommending a player, advising him not to sign a player then hopefully I can play my part, but it's football and everyone has different opinions on players."
Image: Millwall FC