Millwall skipper on being in and out of side in 5-2-3 and 4-4-2 – and on his dressing room role

YOU wont' find Alex Pearce moaning about rotation – with the Millwall skipper explaining his role in the dressing room is the same whether he starts or not.

Pearce has been the defender who loses out when Lions boss Gary Rowett plays a back four instead of a back five.

But even when he doesn't start Pearce still leads the match-day squad out for their warm-up.

Pearce knows that even if he performs well it doesn't guarantee a start in the next game.

"Listen, the manager picks the side and whatever team he picks it's up to us as players to adhere to that," Pearce said. "It's your job as a professional footballer that when you're picked to play you give it the maximum that you can give in terms of effort, application and hopefully quality as well.

"And if the next game you're not in the side for whatever reason, that's all part of being a footballer. You've got to accept that and stay together with the group.

"We've got good players here, we've got good competition for places and that's healthy for everyone. Our job as players, and this is what I say to the players all the time, is to give the manager as big a headache as possible to make sure he picks you. And the manager wants that, he wants to have a headache because he knows it means he has players performing well.

"That's the job. When you get asked to play you come in and take your chance. It's not up to us to pick the team. You can have as much an input as possible by performing well on the pitch. That's all there is to it.

"It's exactly the same whether I'm playing or not. I try and help, I try to be a positive influence. If I'm not playing I try to help the players who are to get into a good mindset before the game.

"If I am playing, whilst focusing on myself and my mindset, I'm still also trying to help others. I'm happy to do that."

When Pearce is starting, he is the one who delivers the final messages to the other ten players in the group huddle just before kick-off.

Peace said: "It's nothing complicated, believe me. It's just a few quick words, normally a few quick loud words.

"It's trying to rally the troops, to get the lads going in those final moments before kick-off, focusing everyone's minds on what's about to happen."

Jed Wallace and Alex Pearce in conversation as Tom Bradshaw looks on

Pearce is a player most of the squad cite as being the key influence and leader in the dressing room. But the centre-back isn't doing cartwheels over the praise he receives.

"If people want to say certain things that's fine, it's up to them," Pearce continued. "That's not for me to say. I just try to do the best I can, lead by example and help people as much as I can.

"I've been around this league now for a number of years, so I feel like I've got good experience at this level and if I can help people I will.

"But also I've got to look after my own job and make sure I'm doing the right things, that I'm playing. That's my job first and foremost."

Pearce has been joined at the club by his former Derby team-mate Mason Bennett, who sought the advice of the Lions' captain before sealing his loan move.

"He's a Millwall-type player," Pearce said, "he's got the characteristics and attributes to help our team. He gives us something different in terms of pace and power in forward areas. He's a strong lad and I think that if he can stay fit he will be a good acquisition for us.

"He's a fantastic lad and for me what's done is done. Yes he made a mistake and he knows that but there is certainly no talk of it in the dressing room or at the training ground. He's here to focus on his football and get his career back on track.

"He's desperate to do that, he's desperate to do well and he's really happy to do that. He wants to help the lads and the club, and you can't ask for any more than that."

It was in April last year that former Lions boss Neil Harris revealed there had been some problems in the dressing room throughout the season.

The Lions skipper is hugely popular in the dressing room

But it's a different environment now as the Lions try to keep up a promotion challenge.

"We've got a fantastic group here, a group that's together whether we're winning or losing games," Pearce said. "We will stay together, that's one thing for sure.

"It's easy when results are going your way and people are giving you praise, and rightly so when you've done well, but it's also important that when you do have a little dip in form or a couple of bad results that you stay strong.

"You have to have a good spirit, fight and a will to get back on track. We're working really hard every single day on things we need to improve, but also remembering what we're about.

"We have real energy and we have a go, especially on our own patch. No team likes coming to our stadium and we've got to play on that.

"We haven't set any targets in terms of points, we just literally look at the next game and say, 'right, let's put in a good performance, let's do what we're good at doing'.

"We want to enjoy these last few months of the season and have fun trying to perform well. And let's enjoy what we are, which is a tough team to play against.

"We've got a stadium that's tough to come to. Let's make it hard for teams and then show the quality that we've got."

Image: Millwall FC 

John Kelly