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Olive Branch for Gary Rowett?

"Was there now finally some positivity towards a manager who arguably hasn’t fully clicked with the supporters?"


Let ’Em Come was pumping out of our speakers on the drive back from South Bermondsey. All those in the car were singing to the 15th repeat of the Roy Green classic after a great home win, and pedestrians who we drove past on the way back home could only look at awe at the sound system that was rattling and on the edge of breaking. Another home win, a home win from a goal down against a hard-to-beat team managed by an ex-international coach with superb pedigree, and a win that saw expansive and attacking football from a Gary Rowett side. Was we dreaming? Was the fan base finally united and happy, and was there now finally some positivity towards a manager who arguably hasn’t fully clicked with the supporters?

Performances against Luton Town and Sheffield United could not be more ying and yang if they tried, and a lot of the talk of the fans was whether or not we could replicate the form and desire that was on display at Sheffield United. The atmosphere in the stadium from the off was slightly edgy, but when Stoke hit the back of the net in the 20th minute, the fans in the Barry Kitchener, Dockers and Cold Blow Lane stands were starting to make their grumbles known. The Potters were playing with a direct, but efficient, way of playing and Millwall at times were left chasing shadows.

“Rowett, this is rubbish!”

“You don’t know what you’re doing, Gary!”

“Get out of my club!”

“These players clearly aren’t good enough…”

These were just a handful of the comments that were being said in the block that I was sat in, and although The Lions were at times second best to their seemingly superior opponents, the criticism of the Millwall manager was somewhat unfair. In the game, the manager is the person who lives by the decision(s) they make and if it works that is perfect, but if it doesn’t, then they must deal with consequences. Saying that, when does the responsibility or blame lay with the players, as the goal that was scored by the away team arguably could have been closed down quicker by Millwall and our defenders? Opinions welcomed...

Bad play by our boys in navy? Absolutely. Tactically inept management that has the fans calling for his head? Absolutely not. In my opinion, there were enough players there to deal with it. The boos that rang around The Den at half time seemed to disagree with me, and a big 45 minutes were needed for the second half…. and what a second half it was.

The roles had reversed significantly between the two sides, and the cliched neutral who arrived at half-time not knowing the score would have thought it was Millwall who were the side with the upper hand. Passing was more slick, we were playing on the front foot, and more importantly, the fans were right behind their team. The mumbles and grumbles in the home stands were now roars, and the two sides on the pitch were reacting in the way which was expected: Millwall grew in stature, showing confidence, composure and a more gung ho attitude that had not been seen for several months.

Tom Bradshaw, who is one player that has not been excused from the criticism that this Millwall squad has received, was on white-hot form. Although Bradshaw is a player who has had his final touch and finishing questioned, he has nevertheless always given nothing more than 100% for the club, and his work finally got the end result that the effort so desperately deserved. Two fantastic poacher finishes from the striker saw the Lions take the lead from being a goal down, and his performance galvanised the likes of Sheyi Ojo, Jed Wallace and Billy Mitchell, who fed off the energy shown by their number nine. Not to be left out, Daniel Ballard and Shaun Hutchinson once again showed their leadership in the back line, and Ryan Leonard was playing at a level which showed just why he is certainly good enough to be in a top half Championship team.

Michael O’Neill’s tactics could not contain Millwall and the away fans who were setting off flares and commenting on their former manager’s tactics were noticeably silent, with the only noise from The Potters being their chairs folding up and their marching from the North Stand to South Bermondsey train station.

The away fans who had been criticising the style of Gary Rowett’s management had left the ground quiet and not as vocal towards the way he sets up his team to get results, but the ultimate question is: Will there now be more acceptance and understanding from the fan base in SE16?

Come on you Lions…

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