Why Millwall is an inspiration to Football League clubs this season
The Championship never disappoints. This season has been another of excitement at both the table's ends. Among the surprise packages are Millwall. The Lions were serious play-off contenders before Saturday's trip to the Riverside
Although a 2-0 defeat to Middlesbrough realistically ended their top-six hopes, it has been an incredible campaign for Millwall. Neil Harris' side are an inspiration to many other clubs.
How did they do it?
Millwall's team have a great blend. Championship experience is merged with first-season debutants. Harris ensures each player knows their job before taking to the pitch. The Lions are well organised and tough to break down, making them incredibly difficult to play against. Having picked up 40 points from 22 home games this campaign, the Den's intimidating atmosphere is used to their advantage.
Last summer, Millwall signed players such as Conor McLaughlin from Fleetwood Town, Bradford City's James Meredith and Wolverhampton Wanderers' Jed Wallace who had no or very little Championship experience. They arrived with a point to prove at this level and have since done their all to impress in every game.
The Lions had players already on the books including Mahlon Romeo, Fred Onyedinma and Jake Cooper who are playing their first season in the Championship. They have fit in nicely due to their style of football. Each has time to improve as well, with all three aged 23 or under.
Millwall possess bags of experience in their ranks, helping to grind out results. Steve Morison, Tim Cahill, Ryan Tunnicliffe, Lee Gregory, Jason Shackell and Ben Marshall have amassed Championship appearances aplenty. They all know what it takes to win at this level.
England's second tier is a hard slog. Successful sides need players who understand the division and can compete over the 46 matches.
Millwall have very good players throughout the team. Wallace and George Saville have proven two of the Championship's best midfielders this season. Other clubs will have taken note. The Lions may face a fight to keep them beyond this summer.
Signing Marshall on loan from Wolves in January was great business. The 27-year-old has a great delivery, particularly from dead ball situations. Having played 20 league games this campaign, he's scored 3 times and assisted 6. If Millwall can extend Marshall's deal, another play-off challenge is on the cards next season.
Neil Harris is a Millwall legend. He was a striker at the Den for 11 years, scoring 125 times in 380 games. He later became the club's caretaker manager before given the job permanently in summer 2015.
During his first full season in charge, Harris led Millwall to the League One play-off final. Defeat to Barnsley was quickly forgotten as the Lions gained promotion to the Championship with a 3-2 victory over Scunthorpe United in last season's playoffs. The 40-year-old boss also claimed three Premier League scalps in Bournemouth, Watford and Leicester City on his side's path to the FA Cup quarter-finals 13 months ago.
Harris' success continues. Having got within touching distance of the championship playoffs, Millwall fans owe their manager a great deal.