MATT Smith knew that he wasn’t wanted at QPR soon after Mark Warburton took over in the summer – and said he felt “valued” when Millwall made their approach.
Smith moved to The Den from west London as Lions boss Neil Harris rebuilt his attack following the departures of Lee Gregory and Steve Morison.
That was five years after Millwall’s first approach for the target man, when he was at Leeds United. Harris had also tried to sign him in previous windows.
Smith will face his former employers for the first time when the Hoops travel to south London this Saturday.
The former Fulham centre-forward knew Millwall were the perfect fit this summer.
“The fact that I was so wanted was a big thing,” Smith said. “As a striker to feel valued you get that extra spring in your step when you’ve got that belief and confidence behind you. That was the biggest pull factor.
“Obviously playing in a team that suits my style of play is paramount. I think in modern-day football a lot of managers are going away from the two-up-front mentality. The more direct play is lost on some, my style of play can be a little bit of love/hate. So to come into an environment where they want to get the best out of me, they want to play to my strengths, was a big attraction.
“When I was at Leeds I was versed to the fact that they were putting in bids under Ian Holloway. At the time I was very settled at Leeds, I had no intention of leaving.
“But then it was a really crazy last two weeks of the transfer window. I ended up going to Fulham in the final hour of the transfer deadline. That was something I hadn’t envisaged happening at all, by which time the Millwall interest had passed.
“There had been interest before but QPR didn’t want to get rid of me, they’d always seen me as an integral part of the squad.
“When push came to shove it was time for me to move on. I came into pre-season under the new manager at QPR and it was very, very evident to me that I was surplus to requirements. It was based on about seven conversations within the first week. They wanted to bring a different type of player in and my time was over.
“At that point it was a case of seeing what interest was there. The [Millwall] interest I was very aware of from day one. It was a case of getting that sorted, really. I’m not the type to sit down and collect the money without contributing or impacting. It was always in the forefront of my mind that I wanted to be in an environment where I could, and that was here.”
Smith and Morison’s paths briefly crossed at Leeds, first in the summer of 2013 before Morison departed.
Smith said: “Steve left to go to Millwall on loan the moment I came in to Leeds. We had a pre-season together the following season but I left to go to Fulham on deadline day.
“My experiences of playing football with him were pretty limited. We were in apartment blocks next to each other in Leeds so we’d share cars into training quite regularly and go for lunch in Leeds afterwards.
“I really got on with Moro. Our football aligned for six weeks, so not a lot of time.
“The Morison-Gregory partnership is well-documented, they were terrific in League One to get the club back into the Championship and then Millwall finished just outside the play-offs.
“They are big shoes to fill, but all I can do is try to bring my experience to the team and try to help us get goals and win games.”
The Lions are unbeaten at The Den this season, with two wins and a draw.
They are aiming to bounce back after last Saturday’s 2-0 defeat to Blackburn.
“I think it was a really positive start,” Smith added. “The positive for us as a collective is that we feel we could be higher up the table. Particularly the Boro and Hull games we dropped points when we should have picked up all three in both cases.
“That’s only got to be a positive for the group, that we’re disappointed with the return, despite it being a really good start.”
Image: Millwall FC