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 may have had a brief period with the Lions, but his burst of pace and excitement during a disappointing season gave Millwall fans a glimmer of hope, Marvin Williams.
The 2005-06 season was not one that Millwall fans look back on fondly. Although only two seasons after the famous FA Cup campaign which saw the club make the final and the UEFA Cup European adventure the season before, backroom disagreements saw the departure of player-manager Dennis Wise and a number of key first team players. The Lions had gone from being one of the most exciting teams in the division, to one that would be lucky not to finish bottom of the Football League Championship.
Millwall's start to the 2005-06 season was poor and they did not win a game in the second tier until the 2-1 home win against Wolverhampton Wanderers. The young forward had to wait his time to feature for the Lions and it was in the 1-0 away defeat to Coventry City in December 2005 where Williams made his debut from the bench. Williams continued to feature as a substitute against Leicester City, Watford and Brighton and Hove Albion, but it was his appearance against Derby County where everything changed. With the game locked at 1-1 after Seth Johnson cancelled out Marvin Elliott's first half opener, Williams was brought off the bench in the 59th minute and in the 78th scored his first goal for the club to secure a 2-1 win. The crowd roared in jubilation at the final whistle and the fans had found a player in Marvin Williams who they thought would drag us out of the darkness. The striker found himself in the starting line-up in the next game and seemed unfazed by the visit of David Moyes' Everton in the FA Cup. The Premier League side had been struggling in the top-flight that season, but with a squad boasting the likes of Phil Neville, Tim Cahill, Leon Osman, James Beattie and Duncan Ferguson, the Merseyside club were still favourites in this game. Williams had not read the script and like the classic underdog, was not frightened to stand up to his opponent and bloodied their noses by opening the scoring. The fans again were on cloud nine as the Championship side went 1-0 up and even though the Toffees equalised and later progressed in the competition, Williams' name was on the lips of all those in South London and the young attacker continued to lead the line well. Further goals against Luton Town, Plymouth Argyle and Burnley showed that the earlier goals weren't just flukes, but unfortunately for Millwall, the instability in the background combined with the uncertainty in the managerial hot seat saw the Lions relegated at the end of the season in 23rd place. Williams finished the campaign with five goals in 24 games.
Despite a phenomenal start to his Millwall career, the 2006-07 year was Williams' final season with the club. There were more managerial changes that year, as Willie Donachie was brought in halfway through the disappointing League One campaign to replace the recently appointed Nigel Spackman to try and ensure Millwall did not suffer a second successive relegation. The Lions were inconsistent throughout the season and although Williams found the back of the net against the likes of Cheltenham Town, Oldham Athletic and Doncaster Rovers, the decision was made at the end of the season for the #32 to leave South Bermondsey and pursue his career elsewhere. The 2006-07 season saw Millwall recover slightly and finish in 10th place. Williams finished the season with three goals in 31 game for the Lions.
After leaving Millwall, Williams went on to feature for Yeovil, Brentford, Torquay United, Stevenage and a number of teams in the non-league pyramid. In all, the forward featured in 55 games for Millwall in all competitions and scored five goals. The teams that Williams played in may not have been the best in recent years, but Williams was an exciting player to watch whose goals still bring back happy memories.