NEIL Harris admitted Jiri Skalak had a “disastrous year” – but challenged the winger to “fight for the shirt” next season.
Skalak, 27, played 19 times for the Lions last season, including only eight starts, after joining from Brighton last summer.
He made 31 league appearances for the Seagulls to help them to promotion to the Premier League in 2016-17.
But then injuries kept him out for the majority of the following season. The Czech Republic international featured in two League Cup games and once in the FA Cup, failing to make an appearance in the top flight.
It means he has started just four league games in the last two years.
After coming on in the 89th minute of the 1-0 Championship win over Reading on Boxing Day, Skalak featured just once more in the league last season, as a 62nd-minute substitute in the final-day 1-0 defeat at Wigan.
There has been some doubt over Skalak’s future at the club, but Harris has offered the player encouragement and challenged him to make an impact in pre-season.
“Jiri Skalak has had a disastrous year, let’s be honest,” Harris said. “It has been a terrible year for him, two years really with injuries and not playing.
“The ball is in his court. If he wants to come back and have a right go and force his way into the team, then the opportunity is there for him.
“Again, being very honest, players that want to play for the club and want to fight for the shirt and give everything they can to be fit and ready to play and grab the shirt off somebody else, then they are welcome back into my squad.
“Jiri Skalak has got to find his rhythm, force his way in pre-season, come back fitter than any other player in the group because of the time he has had out of the side.
“I used him in the last half hour of the last game of the season to say, 'the opportunity is there if you want it', but he has got to come back and want that and earn that.
“He has got to come back and show that ability of the player that we signed for a transfer fee last August on the back of the ability he had shown in a Brighton shirt to win promotion out of this division.
“He has to show that again and if we get that from Jiri Skalak then he will be a good addition to the group.”
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