January turned out to be a good month for Millwall, with all four new signings looking as though they would add real quality and extra competition to the squad. In this feature, we take a look at just how the new boys have settled in at SE16...
First up, let’s start with the man who has played the most football- Ben Marshall. He joined on loan from Wolves (their unwanted players always seem welcome at The Den!) and has done relatively well. For a man who had not played much football this season, he seemed to settle in quite quickly, and opened his Millwall account away at Burton. His debut at home in the televised game against Cardiff was impressive but he does need to produce at that level more often. There is no doubt that he has the quality and skill to do damage for Millwall heading into their last eleven games, especially as they look to mount an unlikely play-off challenge.
Aiden O’Brien’s return to fitness could drive them both to train and play harder, giving that extra edge to the battle for the left wing spot. It will certainly be interesting to see how quickly the Irishman can get back to his best after his excellent form leading up to his injury. Reports have emerged this week that the Lions are looking to tie up a £750,000 deal for the Wolves winger in the summer.
Next up, it’s Tim Cahill. You can’t help but feel for the Australian in some ways. His short cameo appearances must be frustrating, especially when he looks fit and seems to have settled into the group so well. Particularly against Sunderland, I expected Cahill to get more game time. Their defence was scared when he came on, as were their fans seemingly worried given he has scored 8 in 15 against the Black Cats. He won a few headers and ran well, but couldn’t get involved in huge amounts of play given his late introduction. Hopefully we see more of Timmy in the coming weeks, watch out corner flags everywhere! He did, however, still manage to win his place in the latest Australia squad- alongside Millwall full back James Meredith.
Jason Shackell was another loan signing, a player who Millwall could look to sign on a free transfer in the summer. His arrival certainly looked to spur Jake Cooper on, with February arguably containing his best performances of the season, although he has been superb all year. Shackell gives Harris an option for seeing out games and has done well enough in his little game time. He was signed to be a back up, and looks unlikely to dislodge either Hutchinson (almost a dead certainty for player of the year) or Cooper.
Harry Toffolo will want to win himself a contract beyond the end of this season at Millwall, but has failed to make it into a match day squad since signing. James Meredith has been excellent and in some ways Toffolo may have given him an extra level of drive. Meredith will know he needs to play if he is to make Australia’s World Cup squad, with Toffolo providing a better option than Tony Craig (whose experience was undoubtedly useful, however). The former Norwich man will certainly be hoping to force his way further into Harris’ plans before the end of the season.
All in all, a successful window in January led to the Lions picking up 13 out of a possible 15 points in February, with great spirit and an air of confidence surrounding the club as they try for an unexpected third consecutive post-season campaign, although if they could make it this time it would mean so much more is on the line. As unlikely as it is to happen, how nice is it to be looking up at this stage rather than worrying about relegation?