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Why unfashionable Millwall deserve far more Championship respect

Milwall are on the rise under manager Neil Harris.

Greg Whitaker

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Photo: Getty Images

Those traveling fans brave enough to visit the Den are greeted by the now famous battle cry of ‘No one likes us, we don’t care!’ – the unofficial anthem of Millwall FC. While the chant has its roots in the dark days of 1980s football hooliganism, today it is sung by a united and proud fan base.

However, despite what some refer to as the sanitisation of English football over the past two decades, Millwall still appear to be a club tarnished by its past reputation. In a city in which most of its football clubs are unrecognisable from their 1980s or 90s selves, Millwall remain a widely unfashionable and often derided club, seemingly unable, or perhaps unwilling, to change its image.

Could this be why the Lion’s remarkable form has gone so unnoticed this season?

After victory over relegation-threatened Barnsley last time out, the Bermondsey outfit find themselves 10th in the Championship, just four points off the play-off positions. Neil Harris’ side are now 12 games unbeaten and can be found 2nd in the Championship form table following a club record-equalling sixth successive away win last Saturday.

This is made all the more impressive considering Millwall only secured their Championship status after sneaking into the League One play-offs on the final day of last season.

While some managers like their team’s good form to go under the media’s radar, Millwall manager, and club legend, Harris has called-out the press for ignoring his side. The former striker, who celebrated three years in charge last week, recently told local radio, “We’ve gone on this run and every TV programme, radio station and newspaper you look at don’t give Millwall a mention.”

He added, “My players are a bit cheesed off to be honest that they’ve not had more recognition. It’s not because they’re egotistical, but that’s just football.”

Indeed, Millwall are not getting the recognition they deserve for their recent form.

When looking at not only performances but also other contributing factors such as net spend, division competition, and where they came from last season, it would surely not be out of place to take this a step further and argue that, Neil Harris should already be considered for the Championship Manager of the Year award for the largely unsung work he has done at the Den this season.

A dark horse, maybe, but Millwall’s all time leading goalscorer must be part of the conversation.

With fixtures against Nottingham Forest, Ipswich, Bristol City and Bolton – all ‘winnable’ games – coming up over a busy Easter period, there is a real possibility the unfancied Lions could have the play-offs firm in their sights as we approach the final few weeks of the regular season.

Despite their impressive recent form, most bookmakers still have the Lions at a rather large 11/1 to make the play-offs this season – more evidence still that this Millwall side isn’t receiving the respect it deserves.

Of course, they may well be right and the play-offs might just be one step too far for Millwall this season. But one thing is for sure. It may not be a fashionable football club, but Millwall, under the stewardship of a club legend in Neil Harris, are once again on the rise.

Greg is a freelance writer and broadcast journalist who has previously worked as a sports journalist at the likes of the BBC, Yahoo Sports UK, and the Hull Daily Mail. A long-standing Hull City supporter, Greg has also spent time as a Director on the Board of the Hull City Supporters' Trust. Follow him on Twitter - @Greg_Whitaker

Nottingham Forest

Aitor Karanka should target reunion with Julien De Sart

The Belgian could be a great signing for Nottingham Forest.

Mathew Coull

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It seems as though Belgian midfielder Julien De Sart will be looking for a new club this summer. He finds himself in a state of limbo after a season on loan at Zulte Waregem from Middlesbrough.

Despite being a regular for the Essevee he will not be making a permanent move to the club. According to Het Laatste Nieuws, the club will not be prioritising his €700,000 (£612,000) permanent deal agreed with Middlesbrough.

The 23-year-old will now return to the Riverside, where it appears he has no long-term future.

(Photo by Ashley Allen/Getty Images)

But should his former boss bring him to Nottingham Forest?

Aitor Karanka was the manager at Boro when De Sart was snapped up from Standard Liege back in 2016 and was considered one for the future on Teesside.

Now, the former Belgium under-21 international needs to find a new home and a reunion with Karanka at the City Ground could be a perfect move.

The central-midfielder would be a welcome addition for Forest, who need to strengthen across the park following another mediocre season.

(Photo by Tony Marshall/Getty Images)

De Sart has impressed in the East Midlands before. He was finally showing what he could do during a loan spell with Derby County in 2017. Unfortunately, a change of manager saw him drop out of the side under Gary Rowett.

Forest, however, could offer him a second chance in the Championship and it would give Karanka a chance to properly work with a player he clearly rated just a couple of seasons ago.

He would be a cheap and known transfer option for the Nottingham Forest first-team squad. He would also arrive with a point to prove to his old boss Karanka and the manager at bitter rivals Derby, something Forest fans will certainly appreciate.

It would be an under-the-radar signing, but one which could act some genuine quality to the Forest midfield ahead of the new season.

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Derby County

Newcastle United should take advantage of Matej Vydra’s low asking fee

The Czech international has scored 20 goals in the Championship this season.

Josh Kerr

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Matej Vydra
Photo: Getty Images

Newcastle United ensuring another season of Premier League football represents one of Rafael Benitez’ most impressive achievements in football to date.

The job done by the Spaniard is all the more admirable considering the Magpies striker options have been thin for large periods of the season, and the arrival of a goal-scorer is surely imminent for the Tyneside club.

According to The Telegraph, Derby County are likely to list their top-scorer Matej Vydra for sale after their failure to earn promotion to the Premier League.

This comes as massive news to a number of clubs in England’s top-flight, and Newcastle should be one of the front-runners queuing for the 26-year-old’s prolific services.

The Czech Republic international has been excellent this season firing 20 goals in 35 appearances for the Rams.

Reports suggest the club may be forced to sell their star striker in order to reduce the club’s £35 million wage bill ahead of next season.

The 26-year-old’s sale this summer will be Derby’s attempts to slash their budgets and form a strategy that is going to enable the club to push for promotion once again next season.

A fee of around £8 million could prove a major boost for Newcastle, considering the club’s financial restraints, and a 20-goal striker would surely be an improvement on Benitez’s current front-line options.

(Photo by Tony Marshall/Getty Images)

Islam Slimani’s loan move from Leicester proved to be a disaster, and the arrival of Joselu was one of the most disappointing transfers of the season.

The club are in desperate need of a goalscorer, with Perez leading the club’s individual efforts, despite being a number 10 and not an out-and-out goalscorer.

Vydra also has rare Premier League experience with West Bromwich Albion, as well as Watford, and his graft in the Championship may mean he’s ready for a return back to the top-flight.

The former West Brom striker guarantees goals and if there is one thing Tyneside supporters have missed in recent years, it is a goal-scoring hero.

At a little over £8 million, he could still prove a real bargain and a relatively insignificant risk.

Benitez has been wanting to break the bank since his arrival in 2016 but may be tempted do a deal on the cheap for the highly-rated striker.

Newcastle will be looking to improve on their impressive 10th place finish next season and the firepower of a genuine goalscorer could see them surpass the highs of this campaign.

Vydra offers pace and is even an aerial threat at just 5ft 2, so it has to be a priority for Newcastle to capture one of the bargains of the season and bring Vydra to St James’ Park.

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Birmingham City

Leeds must take advantage of Garry Monk’s misstep and snap up David Stockdale

The experienced shot-stopper would be a useful addition at Elland Road.

Max Cohen

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David Stockdale
Photo: Getty Images

Rarely is a goalkeeper who was previously named in the Championship Team of the Year told he is surplus to requirements, but this fate appears to have befallen Birmingham City’s David Stockdale.

Leeds United must act quickly and sign Stockdale from Birmingham, reuniting the former Premier League goalie with his favourite club.

Stockdale starred for Brighton and Hove Albion in the 2016/17 Championship campaign, steering the Seagulls to automatic promotion while being named in the PFA Team of the Year.

When the Englishman signed for Birmingham the following summer, many lauded the move as one of the coups of the transfer window.

Yet, Stockdale endured a turbulent year at St Andrew’s as the club went through three managers and narrowly avoided relegation.

Nonetheless, it came as a surprise when the Birmingham Mail reported that manager Garry Monk would allow the 32-year-old keeper to leave this summer.

(Photo by Catherine Ivill/Getty Images)

Stockdale enjoyed a strong end to the season as the Blues won five out of their last nine to stay up, keeping three clean sheets in the process.

Given his strong Championship pedigree and impressive recent form, it seems odd that Monk would allow Stockdale to depart this summer.

However, Birmingham’s loss could turn into Leeds’ gain, as the Yorkshire club would do well to acquire the Leeds-born shot-stopper.

The goalkeeper grew up in the city and is a Leeds supporter, and even had a trial with the club when he was 12.

Stockdale failed the trial back then but has a superb chance to move to Elland Road and deputise for his beloved childhood club.

The goalkeeper has been a problem position all year for Leeds.

According to Phil Hay of the Yorkshire Evening Post, summer signing Felix Wiedwald has “struggled to adapt” to the Championship, while Bailey Peacock-Farrell is relatively inexperienced at only 21 years of age.

The signing of David Stockdale would benefit all parties involved, reuniting the goalkeeper with his boyhood club and solving the positional dilemma at Elland Road.

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