JED Wallace has urged the Millwall squad to be “more professional” and “work harder” as the Lions try to establish themselves as a Championship side.
Wallace said there are no more excuses and added that players like Alex Pearce and Ben Thompson will be key in a third consecutive season in the second tier.
Attacker Wallace admitted he knew not everything was quite right in the dressing room last season, something mentioned by Neil Harris towards the end of the campaign.
“It’s always the way, when things aren’t going well they highlight themselves. Football’s full of people making excuses for this and that,” Wallace said. “When things are going well people don’t notice these things.
“Obviously it didn’t go as well as we would have liked last season so things come to the fore. At times when the team is doing well you can carry players, you can turn a blind eye to certain things happening. When it’s not going well you notice it more.
“Certainly this season we need to be more professional, we need to train harder, we need to concentrate more as a group of players and get ourselves over the line.
“It’s not good enough just being good players. We’ve seen that recently with the England under-21s. Unbelievable group of players, but probably not being as professional at certain times and end up not winning games. That happened to us last season.
“Adding people like Pearcey to the group will be huge. He drives the changing room and that’s what you need. You have to have big personalities.
“We’ve lost Moro [Steve Morison], so obviously I will be the ‘guvnor’ around the training ground! That might surprise a lot of people but I’ve got the muscle of big T [tom Elliott] behind me that I can use, I’ve got the mouth. It’s a winning combination!
“But seriously, Pearcey will be a leader. Moro has been such a massive influence on and off the pitch. I’ve lost a lot of mates this summer, which has been difficult, but that’s how it goes. I’m looking forward to new faces coming in and driving us all.
“Thommo’s an infectious personality on the pitch. He will lead in different ways. Thommo’s very quiet, he ain’t the confrontational type but he’s the sort of player that when you see flying into tackles next to you it makes you want to do it as well.
“He’s got that infectious nature and he’s a very, very popular member of the changing room. They’re the sort of players that if I were a Millwall player I would want to watch. Thommo’s honest, flies into tackles.
“Everyone does it in a different way. I’m not one that’s going to fly into headers, that’s not my game, but I’ll run up and down as much as I can and try to drag people with me in terms of running power. Thommo’s the same with his competitive nature. He can be a huge player for us this season.
“There are a lot of players that need to improve, myself included. I need to get that consistency. But let’s be honest, we could be starting the season in League One and, to be brutally honest, I’d be deflated.
“The reality is we’re playing, again, Middlesbrough, Derby, Sheffield Wednesday…I don’t think any Millwall fan would turn their nose up at games like them.”
Wallace feels after last season’s 21st-place finish there is less expectation on the squad next season.
And he also admits there needs to be realism around where the Lions are at.
“I don’t know why everyone’s being so negative. No disrespect, but it’s Millwall Football Club getting 12-13,000 fans through the door every week,” Wallace said. “For Millwall to stay up at this level is a successful season, in my opinion.
“The problem you’ve got now in football is that someone like Bournemouth have thrown a spanner in the works and established themselves at Premier League level. And all of a sudden clubs like Nottingham Forest and Sheffield Wednesday, huge football clubs, and clubs like Bristol City are geared for the Premier League in terms of facilities. Bristol City are a huge club now, selling players for £15million every window. They’re ten years ahead of us, really, as a football club.
“The job this club has done over the last four years, as players and by the manager, is not something to turn your nose up at.
“It’s difficult because we didn’t build on the previous season. But we were never going to rock up and go to the play-offs last year. You look at the clubs who didn’t get into the top six last year and you realise how competitive the division is.
“This season we’ll look to get to 50 points and not be silly and throw away games like we did last year. I think we’ll be alright.
“I ain’t going to be rocking up to lads in the changing room and saying we’re going to be getting top two this season. You’ve got to be realistic.
“There are times in the season when you put a run together and that’s what you’ve got to do. We didn’t win enough games back to back last season. Over the course of the season if you can win games back to back five or six times then you’re going to be in the top half of the table. That’s where I feel like we should be.
“I’ve been here almost four years and I like to think I know the club well. I’m 80 per cent player and 20 per cent fan now. My boys are growing up watching me play for Millwall.
“But you’ve got to be realistic, we’re not going to win the league. We want to get to our target a lot quicker than we did last year. We’re very close. The only game I can think of that we got battered in last season was Preston at home.
“The last three seasons I don’t think we’ve lost many games by more than one goal. We just need to come out on the other end of those small margins.
“That’s why I always felt we’d be alright last season. Rotherham went to Derby and lost 6-1. I was looking around the changing room and thinking, ‘we ain’t going to get done 6-1’. We never throw the towel in.
“I saw a lot of people tweeting that at least Rotherham are having a go. What, because they’re going 1-0 up and losing 3-1?
“We were having a go because we were tight-knit, grinding out results and getting 0-0s. It ain’t pretty. Fans pay a lot of money and want to be entertained, but desperate times call for desperate measures and that’s what it was last season.
“You’re not just going to go five years in a row doing really well, which is what we’ve been used to. It was a learning curve of a season and we can correct the mistakes and go from there.”
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