Barry Kitchener, Harry Cripps, Teddy Sheringham, Terry Hurlock, Tim Cahill, Neil Harris, Paul Robinson. There have been many players who, whenever Millwall fans reminisce, will eloquently wax lyrical about how these are some of the greatest/hardest/most terrifying players they have ever seen at the Old and New Den. Players who we remember growing up watching wishing we could be, who we would cheer and chant their names from the stands and terraces. But what about the others? The players who when we find old programmes in the garage, we would flip it over and have completely forgotten that these players played a part in successful teams of the past. The ‘Steady Eddies’ who may not have scored hat-tricks or hit crunching tackles every week, but those who were reliable and wouldn’t let you down.
For this edition of Unsung Heroes, we look back at a player who famously joined Millwall only three years after scoring the winning goal in a League One Play-Off Final in 2009...
Starting his career with impressive spells at Frickley Athletic and York City, Woolford was the name on all Millwall fans' lips when he scored the winning goal in the 2009 Coca-Cola League One Play-Off final. Woolford's strike in the 85th minute was the final goal in a game after Gary Alexander scored what is arguably the greatest goal ever scored at the home of English football. Condemning the Lions to one more year in the English third tier, little did we know that the man who broke our hearts that day would be a player who would be in the running for Millwall's Player of the Season a few years later.
After a two year spell at Bristol City, Woolford was signed to a two-and-a-half-year deal in South Bermondsey in January 2013 for an undisclosed fee by Millwall legend, Kenny Jackett. Three days after putting pen to paper, Woolford featured in the 1-1 away draw with Bolton Wanderers and unfortunately for the winger and his teammates, the Lions went on a losing streak in the next five league games. With defeats against the likes of Burnley, Barnsley and the humbling 5-1 home defeat to Peterborough United, many wouldn’t have blamed the former Scunthorpe man for questioning the move to the capital, but an important goal in the 2-1 away win at Middlesbrough showed Woolford’s importance to the side. The wide man missed the FA Cup semi-final with Wigan Athletic due to being cup-tied earlier in the season when he featured for the Robins, but Woolford was an ever present for the remainder of the campaign and ended the season playing 15 games for Millwall scoring 1 goal. The South London side finished the 2012-13 season in 20th place, only 2 points above the drop zone and this also proved to be Jackett’s last season for Millwall too when he resigned after the defeat away at Derby County on the final day.
Woolford’s first full season at Zampa Road for the 2013-14 campaign also saw Steve Lomas in the managerial hot seat. Although the manager may not have got the same kind of reaction that his predecessor had received, the winger continued to be one of the first names on the team sheet and was an ever present in a struggling Millwall side. Millwall may not have been playing entertaining and vibrant football under the former West Ham captain, but Woolford continued to receive plaudits from the fans and scored goals against AFC Wimbledon and Brighton & Hove Albion in the League Cup and Championship respectively. The winger increased his popularity with the home fans when he scored the first in a 2-0 win against Leeds United and although Woolford found the back of the net again when his strike at home contributed to a 2-2 draw with Nottingham Forest, the Millwall supporters were still not happy with the management and style of football and Lomas was dismissed after the 4-0 away defeat against Watford on Boxing Day. Ian Holloway was appointed Millwall’s next permanent manager and an upturn in form and enthusiasm saw more positive results. Woolford had an impressive season on a personal level by finishing in third place for Millwall's Player of the Year award and further strikes against Southend United, Burnley, Bolton Wanderers, Watford and AFC Bournemouth on the final day of the season saw the winger score 9 goals in 43 games in all competitions. Millwall may’ve finished the 2013-14 campaign in 19th place, but an 8 game unbeaten run in the final 8 fixtures had the Lions’ fans dreaming of good things for the following season.
Woolford’s second and final full season for Millwall in 2014-15 was another that saw the winger praised for some exciting performances, but a lack of leadership, direction and general bafflement from the Millwall dugout saw a promising start to the season become sour very quickly. Woolford got his first goal of the season early when he scored in the 1-0 away win at Fulham, but the results quickly were going against the Lions and the frustration from the fans and playing staff were clear to see. Woolford helped to keep an element of pride when he scored in the 3-1 away defeat at Watford and the 2-1 away defeat to Rotherham United, but the results continued to go against Ian Holloway and the manager was shown the door after the 4-1 home defeat to Norwich City. Club record scorer, Neil Harris, was brought in to try and repair the catastrophic damage that Holloway had caused and although results, performances and atmosphere at the club improved, it just wasn’t enough and the Lions were relegated at the end of the season with 41 points and in 22nd place. Woolford finished the 2014-15 season with 40 games for Millwall and had contributed with 3 goals.
Martyn Woolford left the club during the 2015-16 pre-season and signed for Sheffield United, before joining Fleetwood Town shortly after and is now playing for Grimsby. In all, the winger played in 98 games for the Lions in all competitions and scored 13 goals. Woolford may’ve joined during a turbulent spell for Millwall, but he will be fondly remembered as a one of the few bright sparks during a chaotic period.