JED Wallace has given an interesting insight into the different types of leaders past and present at Millwall – and the “characters that run the dressing room”.
Wallace explained there are groups of players that set examples at the club, from Alex Pearce at the top of the chain to a middle band and then younger players he praised as having great attitudes and who follow the lead of the more senior professionals.
Wallace is a big admirer of Steve Morison for how the former Lions captain sought to ease pressure on others by attracting it on himself.
Shaun Hutchinson and another former Lions skipper, Tony Craig, are similar in their approaches, according to Wallace.
Jayson Molumby recently revealed Wallace can be forthright in sharing his views. Wallace remembers the first real dressing-down he received as a young player. It came at Portsmouth from a veteran who went on to coach at Millwall under Neil Harris.
“I remember it well, very well,” Wallace recalled this week, smiling. “David Connolly. I took a free-kick against Accrington. Dave wanted to take it. I hit it about 30 yards over the bar and got put firmly back in my box at half-time.
“He was an intense character, a leader in his own right. He was 36 years old and had the lowest body fat at the club, winning all the running. He set the bar.
“The most important part of any football club is what the fans don’t see. It’s the Tuesday afternoon training, the Thursday morning, then the match-day takes care of itself. If you look in the gym now Coops [Jake Cooper] will be there, Murray Wallace, at a quarter past eight in the morning.
“When training gets a little bit sloppy there are four or five of us who will pick things up. That’s what makes a successful changing room. We’ve got that in abundance, though probably need a little bit more experience in one or two areas. But with the young players coming through it’s exciting times.
“Moro was a hard person to play with because he’s got high standards. Different to a Tony Craig. You’ve got two types of leader in football. You’ve got people like your Hutcheys, your Tony Craigs where they look after themselves and set their own bar. They do everything right and if you follow them you’ll be in good stead.
“Then you’ve got the likes of Pearcey, [current Lions coach and former Portsmouth player] Paul Robinson who demand it from other people.
“Moro was an interesting one because he took all the pressure on himself, which helped a lot of the players. That worked for Moro and against him because when we didn’t win it would be Moro’s fault. He’s been the iconic Millwall player of the last generation.
“He took a lot or pressure on himself which is why in the big moments he turned up, because he thrived off that pressure. Moro had real mental toughness when it wasn’t going well. He’d be doubted but he’d come back and that’s what made him such a good player, even at the age of 34 or 35.
“Willo [Shaun Williams] is another [leader]. He keeps himself to himself but does it right day-in, day-out and someone like Molumby will look at him and think he needs to do the same. It’s a knock-on effect.
“I think we have a great middle group: myself, Bradders [Tom Bradshaw], Coops, Muzza. We have a group that will drive the club forward. That’s the most important part of any football club, the changing room dynamic, and we’ve got that.
“Some clubs I’ve been at the manager has to be involved. Here the manager doesn’t need to ever be involved in our changing room because we have big characters that run the changing room. And credit goes to Neil for getting those people through the door.
“Paul Robinson, Ben Chorley, Nicky Shorey, I’ve played with good pros. It’s been a shift in mentality certainly since Pearcey walked through the door. The gaffer knew Pearcey from Derby, he sets the tone then it filters down through Pearcey, down to the likes of me, Willo and we look to drive the group on.
“Then Molumby, Thommo [Ben Thompson], Billy Mitchell, their attitude is second to none. The togetherness that we do have can take you a long way. With a little sprinkling of quality in a tight division, it could stand us in good stead with the togetherness that we’ve got.”
Wallace was nominated for Championship player of the month and goal of the month for December.
He believes strong individual performances are only possible if you have a united squad.
“Last year I realised more than any other year that when the changing room is successful the individual will be successful as well,” Wallace said. “The year we finished eighth a lot of individuals got praised. This year we’re doing well so a lot of people are going to get praised as well.
“I’ve had that [nomination] a couple of months in a row, I’ve been consistent in my performances. I keep chipping away when I’m not playing well and we still manage to pick up results. It shows how much of a good team we do look at the moment.
“When you’re scoring you feel like you can score in every game, when you’re not winning you’re wondering where the next win is going to come from.
“I think the most important thing at the moment is that I don’t see us losing many, touch wood. It’s down to us on the day to show that bit of quality that we didn’t show at the weekend [at Stoke] to be able to score. We’ve always been a hard team to beat but sometimes we’ve beaten ourselves by not showing that quality to win games.
“We’ve managed to turn a lot of draws into wins. The Luton game [on New Year’s Day], I had genuine belief for the first time in a long time that we would win the game. Even when we were 1-0 down I fully believed we would go on and win comfortably. The manager stressed that to us at half-time.
“He’s been a breath of fresh air. The way we’re looking to play suits me now, suits a lot of the players. The likes of Coops, Willo, people have improved so much. Training is improving all the time and I think moving forward with the manager we’ve got now we’re going to be a good team at this level for a long time to come.”
Image: Millwall FC