There was a measure of sadness when Neil Harris announced in October that he was stepping down as Millwall boss. The former Lions midfielder had guided the club out of League One and established the south-London side in the Championship once again, but results had taken a turn for the worst and performances had grown stale.
While it was regretful that Harris’ time at the club came to an end, Millwall fans have had much to cheer since the arrival of his replacement Gary Rowett. The 45-year-old has managed a range of EFL clubs, with varying degrees of success, but at Millwall he has found a winning formula and the club currently sit seventh in the Championship table – just one point off the play-off positions.
The mood is high around The Den, fans are getting excited about a possible run for promotion in the second half of the season, and Millwall are becoming more highly fancied in the latest English Championship odds. While there is a long way to go in the campaign, Rowett has made a real impact and brought the feel-good factor back to the club.
Millwall in Fine form
Rowett’s first game in charge was a 2-0 victory over his former club Stoke City, and from there the team has gone from strength to strength under his leadership. Six further wins have followed since then, notably away victories over Swansea City and Derby County, and a fine 1-0 triumph over London rivals Brentford at The Den.
Rowett has breathed new life into players like Jed Wallace and Aidan O’Brien – players who had perhaps lost their spark in Harris’ latter days at the club. Millwall have a strong core group of players that brought the club out of League One, and Rowett has masterminded a restoration of the togetherness and united spirit that defined those successful campaigns under Harris.
Earning his stripes
For Rowett personally, he was in need of an upturn in results in his managerial career. His spell at Stoke was far from successful, especially given the amount of money he spent. Before that, he led Derby County for one season, and although the Rams reached the play-offs, they lost in the semi-final and a bad run of form in the second half of the season cost them dearly when it seemed at one stage like automatic promotion was on the cards.
After the success of his early days as a manager at Burton Albion, it looked as though a coach who was once considered one of the game’s hottest prospects had lost his touch. But he seems to be proving his credentials as one of the EFL’s top coaches once again in his new role at Millwall, and perhaps it’s proof that he performs better at clubs where expectations are relatively low.
The Championship table is so tight that only four points separate Brentford in third and Preston in tenth. This could mean that the race for the play-offs goes right down to the wire, and if Millwall can continue their good form then there’s no reason why they shouldn’t be in the mix when the end of the season rolls around.
There’s a great sense of unity about Millwall at the moment, and they are a club that have a uniquely passionate and fervent support when the team are trying their hardest and producing results. The Lions are a dangerous prospect for any side in the Championship, and Gary Rowett has them snarling for success once again.