Can Millwall really push for play-offs? Lions defender Jake Cooper on ambitions this season

JAKE Cooper isn’t ruling out a play-off challenge this season – but insisted Millwall wouldn’t be putting themselves under any extra pressure to finish in the top six.

The Lions are a point off sixth and are already just three points short of their total haul for all of last season.

Millwall finished eighth in the Championship in 2017-18 after being in sixth place with two games left.

Gary Rowett has lost only two of his 14 fixtures in charge and Cooper praised his manager’s impact.

“The biggest thing that I saw when he came in was he never talked about us trying to survive or stay above the relegation zone,” Cooper said. “He was always talking positively about us, about how high we could go.

“It wasn’t putting a number on it or anything, but he always sounded very positive about how we could approach the games and the season. That goes into the players and we have been looking forward now for a while instead of at what’s behind us.

“Who knows, it’s early, there’s 19 games left. We know what it’s like [to challenge for the top six], the boys that have been here a couple of years, when it’s on the line. We have to keep performing, get wins at home and keep performing away from home like we have.

“We were fifth or sixth with a few games to go a couple of years ago so we know about getting in there early and trying to hold on to it. It’s not the easiest thing to do but we’ll try not to look at it and put too much pressure on ourselves.”

Having not won away in the league before Rowett took over in October, Millwall have three victories and three draws in their last six games on the road.

Cooper was asked after Saturday’s 0-0 draw at Stoke what differences Rowett has made.

Cooper said: “A different style, maybe a different mentality for a few of the lads that were struggling. We had a great run under Neil [Harris] a couple of seasons back. We feel like we have a great squad and we’ve come together now, he’s changed the identity, given us a fresh look at things.

“It’s working at the moment and we’re trying to carry it on and build each week. We feel like we’ve still got a lot of progress to make and we’re hoping game by game we can keep improving and doing what he wants us to.

“There’s never been a game when he has been fully satisfied with our performance, and that keeps pushing us on.

“He certainly mentioned the away form when he first came in. That was something we needed to change and we’re on a great away run now.

“We’ve changed the shape and it’s been working for us, we’ve only conceded one or two goals in that shape. That’s given us a breath of fresh air, we work on it on the training ground and feel it can improve us as a team.

“Everyone feels really comfortable in their position in this formation.”

Image: Millwall FC 

John Kelly