342 games. 9 goals. Play-off winner 2010 & 2017. FA Cup Semi-Finalist 2013. These are just a few words that can be associated with Nadjim ‘Jimmy’ Abdou, but there is another that instantly comes to mind when Millwall fans are asked to describe our former midfielder maestro: Legend.
Millwall’s penultimate pre-season game before the season starts is at home to the German side, VFL Bochum. Millwall have a tendency to play some mediocre European teams in pre-season, but this fixture sees the Lions go toe-to-toe with a side who finished 6th in 2. Bundesliga and who has also spent periods of the 90’s, 2000’s and 2010’s in the German top tier.
It has been strongly rumoured that Abdou will only play the opening minutes of this game, being given a small cameo to say goodbye to the fans before Neil Harris takes this fixture seriously. But knowing the former Millwall Player of the Year like we do, chances are he will still cover every blade of Bermondsey grass before he bids us farewell.
Haven't we met before?...
Millwall 3-0 Granada Club de Futbol, 29th July 2017 – Although not necessarily against a German team, Millwall’s last game against European opposition resulted in a comfortable 3-0 win for the Lions. A first half goal from Jed Wallace was followed by two in the second half from Shaun Williams and Aiden O’Brien and the Spanish side just couldn't keep up with the South London side. It could have been worse for Granada late in the game when Lee Gregory rounded the visiting goalkeeper and laid the ball to Tom Elliott, but Elliott’s effort was cleared off the goal line.
Although this is a friendly and a testimonial also, Neil Harris has shown that he has not taken this year’s pre-season lightly. Although Jimmy will start, there should be a strong side around him and Chopper will want to bounce back from the disappointing 2-1 midweek defeat away at Colchester United. Abdou aside, the starting eleven should be one that Millwall will begin the Championship season with. Expect Jordan Archer to come back in for Ben Amos and Jake Cooper and Shaun Hutchinson should start in place of Murray Wallace and Byron Webster.
THE ONE TO WATCH -
Jimmy Abdou was a player for Millwall that will always be fondly remembered by those in the stands. He has been an ever present in some of the best times in the club’s recent history and he was one of a few who picked the club up by the scruff of the neck in the bad times. As mentioned, Abdou may not get many minutes, but as this fixture is a Bon Voyage to a fan favourite, all eyes will be on him. Former club-captain and team mate, Tony Craig, said of Abdou: “Jimmy is the type of person you could ask to look after £100 for you – and when you got it back you would have £101” and that is why he will be spoken about at The Den for many years.
Who are ya?!
For this week’s ‘Who are ya?’ we sit down with Jonny Walsh, 2. Bundesliga expert who knows the German second tier inside out. This week we ask Jonny why Bochum were so far away from the top two, how this fixture is viewed by fans back in Germany and what he thinks the score will be.
Although Bochum finished in 6th place, they were closer to the bottom of the table points than the top. Were Fortuna and Nurnberg just too good for the 2nd tier?
I wouldn’t necessarily say they were too good, in the end that was very apparent, but for large parts of the season they were simply much more consistent than everyone else. Their quality told throughout the entire season and in the end, it was fair to say that they made the right additions at the right time and were good value for money as the two teams that were promoted. The fact that Bochum were so close to getting relegated, in spite of finishing sixth, only serves to highlight how unbelievably competitive the division was.
Bochum scored 37 goals in 34 games but only Lukas Hinterseer finished in double figures. Why were they so goal shy last year?
It’s quite hard to explain. Kevin Stöger was one of the best attacking midfielders in the league last season and Lukas Hinterseer one of the top scorers, but a real case of profligacy cost Bochum more goals. Missing chances at key times only served to further compound matters, as it impacted upon confidence. The constant changing of managers did not help the situation either and that led to a mix of ideas through the five different coaches between July and March.
What style of play do Bochum play? Is it a style Millwall should be worried about?
Given how 2. Bundesliga is so competitive and diverse, very few teams stick to one definitive play-style. Bochum like to keep the ball but are normally quite quick at moving it through the midfield, or can by-pass the midfield entirely by looking out wide or towards Hinterseer with the long ball. That can also change between a 4-4-2 and 4-2-3-1. It’s very much a case of finding out what works and sticking with it. In that sense it can be tricky for opponents, but I think the two teams are quite well matched.
Would you expect to see Bochum pushing for promotion next season?
I would hope so, but given how strong Hamburger SV and 1. FC Köln are, I expect them to occupy the top two places. Bochum could fight for third but will face stiff competition from the likes of 1. FC Union Berlin and FC Ingolstadt 04. Ingolstadt in particular have spent a healthy sum of money this summer, better only by Köln, and will have an eye on the top two spots. Hinterseer and Robbie Kruse sticking around certainly bodes well.
How is this fixture viewed back in Germany?
Very well! A lot of Bochum’s fans are excited by the game seeing as it is against a traditional English club and some have been groundhopping to Millwall before. I think a few fans will try and make the trip over to the Den.
Finally, what will the score be?
It’s a week before the 2. Bundesliga song so I’m hoping Bochum put in a strong showing – Millwall is a good final test before the season starts. While performance is always the main goal, I’d hope for a fairly open game and a few goals. It could easily go either way but I’ll stay hopeful and go for a 2:1 win.
PREDICTION: MILLWALL 2-1 VFL BOCHUM
Neil Harris will want to see the summer end on a high note and although the Welling game next Monday is technically the last pre-season game for Millwall, he will want a positive result against the German visitors. This is practically the last chance for the fringe players to stake a claim for a first team place, as well as those pencilled in for the first team to make sure they are in the starting line-up for the visit of Middlesbrough, so I expect to see a Millwall win in this game. You never know, Jimmy may get one of them…