Millwall arrive at Griffin Park on Saturday still digesting the departure of manager Neil Harris just before the international break.
The Lions’ all-time record goalscorer, who found the net 138 times in all competitions in two separate spells with the club, stepped down after more than four years in charge.
In his time at the helm, Harris led Millwall to promotion to the Championship in 2017 and the FA Cup quarter-finals last season.
He was the Championship’s longest-serving manager and the seventh longest-serving in all four divisions at the time of his departure.
Harris left with the side on a winless league run of seven games, but in the first match following his exit they ended the drought by beating Leeds 2-1 under the caretaker leadership of Adam Barrett.
Millwall had started the season with two 1-0 home wins over Preston and Sheffield Wednesday in their opening three games .
Since then at The Den they have drawn 1-1 with Hull and lost 2-1 to QPR, before overturning Leeds.
Away from home, they have drawn four of their six games 1-1 – at West Brom, Middlesbrough, Huddersfield and Luton in Harris’s last game in charge.
They have also suffered defeats at Fulham (4-0) and Blackburn (2-0).
The Lions did reach the second round of the Carabao Cup with a 2-1 win at West Brom, but went out 4-2 on penalties to League One Oxford following a 2-2 draw.
This is Millwall’s eighth season out of 10 in the Championship, and third in a row, and in all but two of them they have finished in the bottom half of the table.
And don’t forget that the team playing in blue shirts on Saturday won’t be Millwall, but Brentford, who are wearing a special commemorative shirt for the game.
WHO’S IN CHARGE
Millwall are unlikely to have a new permanent manager for Saturday’s game – and if that’s the case then Adam Barrett will continue in temporary charge.
The former Southend defender took charge of the Lions’ win over Leeds a fortnight ago, assisted by under-23 management duo Kevin Nugent and Paul Robinson, and is reportedly one of three candidates in the frame for the permanent role.
Barrett spent eight years of his playing career as a centre-half – in two spells – at Southend, playing more than 350 games for the club.
He also represented Leyton Orient, Plymouth, Mansfield, Bristol Rovers, Crystal Palace, Bournemouth, Gillingham and AFC Wimbledon.
Barrett joined Millwall as first team development coach in March 2017.
WE’VE MET BEFORE
Brentford have had the better of our six meetings with Millwall in the Championship with three wins, two draws and only one defeat.
In 2013/14 we won a ding-dong game at The Den 3-2 thanks to two goals from Andre Gray and an own goal from Dan Shittu, after the Lions had hit back from 2-0 down to level with two goals in two minutes from Lee Gregory and Alan Dunne. It was the Bees’ turn to stage a fightback in the return at Griffin Park the following March as, after Gregory and Aiden O’Brien put Millwall 2-0 up, we struck twice in the last five minutes with an Alex Pritchard penalty and a strike from Moses Odubajo.
Romaine Sawyers hit the only goal two minutes after half-time to give us a 1-0 win in the 2017/18 match at Griffin Park, although we had to rely on Dan Bentley saving a late Gregory penalty to preserve all three points. Ex-Bee George Saville was on target in the first minute at The Den the following March and that was enough to give Millwall a 1-0 win in the return.
Thomas Frank picked up his first win as Brentford manager – in his fourth game in charge – when Millwall visited at the start of November.
After a goalless first half, goals either end of the second half wrapped up the points to end our eight-match winless run in the Championship and give us a 2-0 victory.
Sergi Canos opened the scoring from a Neal Maupay pass, and Ollie Watkins made the game safe late on.
Josh Dasilva scored a wonder goal, almost identical to his one against Bristol City in our last home game, to earn us a point in a 1-1 draw on Good Friday at the Den.
Lee Gregory gave Millwall an early lead but Dasilva quickly equalised with a superb 25-yard curling shot. Henrik Dalsgaard was sent off before half-time, but the Bees held out to secure a draw.
Q – What did you make of Neil Harris’s departure – was it a surprise or unexpected – and of the job he did at Millwall?
A – I think it depends on who you talk to … for some it was seen as a surprise because, despite some grumblings about performances and results, Neil was still dealing with a newly-constructed squad with time possibly required to get things to gel. His status as a “club legend” was certainly one which granted him a degree of patience with fans who thought Neil should have been given more time to see things though.
However, it is also argued by others that perhaps time for a change was looming. Aside from the FA Cup run, last season was a tough watch and relegation was avoided by the skin of their teeth. That may have sewn the seeds of doubt in supporters’ eyes. Then, after a decent opening week or so, the drop-off in form and performances stirred those concerns again. I think Neil preserved his status within the club’s history and will be remembered for both his playing exploits, but also as a manager who led the Lions away from a bleak time and put smiles back on faces and bums back on seats.
Q – Who do you think may take over permanently from Harris?
A – Well the three names in the frame appear to be former Burton, Birmingham and Derby boss Gary Rowett, Wycombe manager Gareth Ainsworth and Adam Barrett.
Rowett obviously got credit for the work he did at Birmingham and has experience in the Championship, plus there will be no compensation due. However, his last spell at Stoke did not end well.
Ainsworth has performed pretty amazing things at Wycombe on a budget and is naturally seen as a manager who may have earned a chance at a higher level, although he’s not a popular choice with some in the fanbase.
Barrett may have been seen as the least glamorous option, but he knows the club and the players and his first outing as a caretaker against Leeds was impressive. He would also potentially keep Paul Robinson in his coach group and Robbo is a hugely respected and loved former skipper of the side.
For me there is merit to all, but Barrett might just the option, providing he doesn’t get tempted by Southend of course.
Q – What were the expectations for the Lions at the start of the season – play-off push, mid-table safety or relegation battle, and why?
A – Last season’s highlight was the FA Cup run and the heartbreaking defeat to Brighton after being so close to going through. The league season, aside from a winning festive period, was one of toil and some nervy moments come the end of the campaign.
There was a fair amount of outs and ins during the summer with the recruitment department working hard too. Based on the budget available, the realistic expectations would probably have centred on pushing through into mid-table and towards the upper half of the table by upsetting some of the odds. As we’ve seen before, a bit of momentum can carry a squad beyond expectations, while the Championship can also be cruel and drag you to areas you’d rather not be. So mid-table and a cup run, I’m sure that would be OK.
Q – How do you assess Millwall’s summer transfer business?
A – The manager at the time, Neil Harris, said at the end of last season that there would be changes and he was true to his word. There were many exits including Lee Gregory, Steve Morison, Conor McLaughlin and Ryan Tunnicliffe and more than 10 new faces either permanently or on loan. There was certainly a need for a freshen-up and the objective in the market was replace those who were going out.
The loan signing of Jayson Molumby was an interesting one, while we all knew what to expect from Matt Smith when he is involved. The interesting one is actually not a newbie but Tom Bradshaw, who missed most of last season, and his appearance fully fit this time around is like having a new player.
Q – As this is the Lions’ last game at Griffin Park – barring a play-off match or cup tie – what memories do you have of previous encounters in TW8?
A – I’ve seen a fair few games between the teams and there always seems to be something happening. There was the drama back in 2015 when Alex Pritchard and Moses Odubajo scored very late to secure a draw, but the result was a blow for Millwall’s hopes of survival that year. I was also at GP the day John Bostock scored his only two Bees goals, both against the Lions and of course that stunner direct from a corner. There’s always a decent atmosphere when the two teams meet although I’d have to suggest from my recollections recent history suggests a home win.
Q – What style of play can Bees fans expect to see from Millwall?
A -Well I’ve only got one game where Adam Barrett has been in charge to go on, but against Leeds there was a determination to play out from the back and through the thirds. Tom Bradshaw played as the number nine and worked very hard to occupy defenders and bring team-mates into play. The Lions have good options in the wide areas and can get crosses into the box, but they have the ability with some athletic midfielders to push through the middle. Obviously, as all at Brentford know, Matt Smith can be a nuisance if used, although that might be off the bench.
Q – Who are the players to look out for?
A – I’ve mentioned a number already including Tom Bradshaw, who’s impressed now he’s fit and is growing in confidence, he’s got good movement and knows where the goal is. Matt Smith and Jon Dadi Bodvarsson are physical striking options with plenty of experience. Jed Wallace has excellent delivery and can both provide ammunition and be a rather lethal operator himself.
I am a big fan of Ben Thompson, who returned from a loan spell at Portsmouth last season rejuvenated and having grown in stature. He is Millwall through and through with skill, vision and workrate. At the back both Shaun Hutchinson and Jake Cooper are tough opponents for strikers to get around, but can also be very effective in the opposition box.
Q – Finally can you give me a possible Lions’ line-up and formation please?
A – Bialkowski
Romeo Hutchinson Cooper M Wallace
J Wallace Ferguson/O’Brien
BEESOTTED SCORE PREDICTIONS
Some of the Beesotted crew have given me their score predictions for Saturday’s game.
Millwall 2 Millwall 0. Oh sorry that should read Brentford to win 2-0 despite the shirt fiasco. Greville Waterman
Bees look spritely after a bit of time off and a disappointing last result. Fans might finally get a view of Valencia on the ding-a-ling or a Clarkey Special. Millwall turn up and give a good game. 2-1 Bees. Watkins and Saïd. Edward the Headward
El Hurlocko ends 2-1 Bees Lou Boyd
Säid trickery sends Millwall back to Bermondsey, bemused and empty-handed. 3-0 Bees. Said double, Pontus glanced header from a corner with the other. XG David Anderson
Carbon copy of the 2017 game. A somewhat nervy 1-0 win. Gary Paul
Millwall spoilers hold Bees at bay. Matt Smith off the bench with a last minute equaliser. 1-1. Matt Allard
PUBS IN BRENTFORD AND TRAVEL NEWS
For Millwall fans coming to Griffin Park for the final time, you are probably aware there plenty of pub options pre-match and all are most welcoming and away-fan-friendly (as it should be). As you are probably well aware, Brentford is well known for its four pubs – one on each corner of the ground. The Griffin is closest to the away end (like 30 secs walk) and is very popular with away fans – but also very, very busy. The New Inn is on the other side and is also popular with away fans. The Princess Royal and the newly-opened and renamed The Brook pub – which has jumped on the craft beer bandwagon – are the other options.
Other pubs slightly further afield for the more creative amongst you include (and this is by no means a definitive list) …. The Globe (Windmill Rd) & The Lord Nelson (Enfield Rd) are both incredibly friendly and cosy away-friendly pubs and about 1 min walk from each other …. frequented by ‘away fans in the know’. The Plough (Northfields Ave) in Northfields is a decent stop-off if you are coming by tube to Northfields.
The ‘Northfields run’ makes a much better pub crawl route than South Ealing – getting off at Northfields station, turning left and stopping off at The Plough (2 min walk), The Lord Nelson (10 min walk from The Plough) & The Globe (1 min walk from The Nelson) en-route before ending up at The Griffin (8 min walk from The Globe) by the away turnstiles. There’s also a relatively new tiny microbrewery pub in Northfields called The Owl and The Pussycat (Northfields Ave) – right turn out of the station away from the ground as opposed to left.
If you decide to get off at South Ealing station, we’ve heard a few people pop into Roddy’s Bar. Whereas The Ealing Park Tavern (back in the day, the infamous Penny Flyer) is fairly busy now that they seem to have lifted their “no football fan” policy.
If you like your craft beer, another fairly new pub worth checking out is The Black Dog Beer House, formerly The Albany, on Albany Road, which is fairly busy before and after the match. There is a pub right by Brentford mainline station referred to as … the Pub by Brentford station.
For real ale head to the Magpie and Crown pub on Brentford High Street. The Royal Horseguardsman (Ealing Road) can probably hold 15 of you at a push. The Brewery Tap (Catherine Wheel Road) is a cosy boozer by the river. And if you are super-adventurous, get off at Kew Bridge and visit One Over the Ait (Kew Bridge Road) – a spacious boozer right next to Kew Bridge, and across from the site of the Bees’ new stadium at Lionel Road. This pub is situated on the location of the now-demolished Oxford & Cambridge pub where Brentford Football Club was founded in 1889.
There is also The Express Tavern (Kew Bridge Road) – an ale pub with a retro feel. If you sit in the garden, you can see Brentford’s new stadium towering over you. There are a load more pubs in the river in Kew if that takes your fancy – just take a walk down Strand On The Green. A quick Google search and you’ll find them all.
There are many, many more too if you have a look around. Parking near the stadium is a no-no but is pretty easy in the streets north of Griffin Park on the other side of the A4 Great West Rd via Ealing Road or Windmill Road. Make sure you look our for the parking signs which change from area to area.
Getting to Brentford from town – many fans get the tube to Waterloo (Northern, Jubilee lines) or Vauxhall (Victoria Line) then take the Overground train to Brentford.
However, there is some strike action on South Western Railway this weekend, so you can check on the service here.
The reality is the tube is easier and quicker (and cheaper). It’s 35 minutes to South Ealing or Northfields stations from King’s Cross or Euston (even less from Paddington) on the Piccadilly Line and then 15 minutes walk to Griffin Park from there (4 mins on the bus) – more if you take the Northfields to Brentford
If you’re feeling lazy you could take the E2 bus from outside Northfields station (turn LEFT outside the station) to either outside The Globe pub (3 stops – serves The Lord Nelson too) or Brentford FC (4 stops – 5 minutes).
If you get off at South Ealing, you can get the 65 from the bus stop across the road – right outside the station.
You can check out Transport for London’s guide to travel on the Tube and Overground.