2013 has been a difficult year to say the least, yes it obviously had it’s high points a trip to Wembley for an FA Cup Semi Final, but also some very poor league form and the loss of two managers, one of which was a resignation the other a sacking.
The year provided the fans with forty four league games, two League Cup games and six
F A Cup matches. A grand total of 52 games which resulted in just fifteen wins, twenty five losses and twelve draws. A win ratio of less than 29% if my maths are correct. The final game of 2013 had Neal Harris and Scott Fitzgerald at the helm
Of the 51 games, Jackett achieved 9 wins in 27 games, with13 losses and 5 draws and Lomas 6 wins in 24 games, with 12 losses and 6 draws.
In percentage terms Jackett came out on top with a win ratio of 33.3 % with Lomas on 25%. What both Managers had in common was that the football was dull at best and the results poor.
The fortress Den was no more with just a paltry nine wins in 26 home games, 3 of those wins coming in cup games. Six home league wins in a full year at a ground where opposing teams and away fans supposedly fear to tread. I think not.
Not only was our home form poor but often the performances were dire. This was the case under both of the 2013 Managers. In fairness the fans were remarkably patient, Kenny Jackett right up to the end of his tenure was highly thought of even though his last six months in charge had hardly been anything to write home about, except for the cup run of course.
The vast majority of our fans just go home games so to an extent the season is often gauged on how we perform at the Den. Playing one up front as we often did under Jackett and Lomas doesn’t help the cause and home gates suffered.
The F A Cup exploits had been both a huge surprise to many and a much need break from the mundane league form. Our 2 – 1 win at home to the once mighty Aston Villa probably the highlight, a late winner sending the home fans home happy although I am sure thinking we were a trifle fortunate. This had followed a slender win against Preston North End who hardly looked as if they were a division below us. In the end a comfortable win at Luton and a win at Blackburn after a replay meant another trip to Wembley where against Wigan we never got going and bowed out of the Cup in front of the massed ranks of Millwall fans, many who don’t bother with the bread and butter of the league campaign.
The Cup in many ways papered over the cracks in the team and perhaps some of our poor performances were attributable to the extra games and concentration on the cup. Two great away wins in March at Charlton and Leicester in hindsight kept us up last season as in the next ten games only 6 points were accumulated. The season end could not come soon enough and I am certain if there had been one or two games remaining our season would have ended in relegation.
The resignation of Kenny Jackett was both bitter and sweet. He was reported to have said ‘he had taken the club as far as he could’ and many fans felt that although it was sad to see him go after five years in charge, the club needed a change too.
Now I need to put my hand up and admit I thought the appointment of Steve Lomas was a reasonable choice. In July I went to see him put the squad through pre season training at Warwick University and thought he came over well and would do a good job. The Chairman seemed to have increased the budget for players wages and amongst other Morison, Chaplow, McDonald and Bailey had come in to strengthen the squad, it was my opinion that we would more than hold our own and perhaps with a bit of luck push for a playoff place. It is not the first time my optimism has been wrong when it comes to Millwall.
Now I never subscribed to the sentiment of some fans that he should not be appointed due to his West Ham connections, I can understand this feeling but in no way think it relevant.. I’m perhaps old school and for me Palace have always been our main rivals and the team I most enjoy us beating.
But it just never worked out for both Steve Lomas and more importantly for us. I thought on the whole our crowd were incredibly patient with poor performance after poor performance and really it was the Middlesbrough home game that was the straw that broke the camels back as fans, in numbers, vented their anger at Lomas. The four nil defeat a few days later at Watford forced the Board to act and end Steve Lomas’s reign.
Whatever the team that was put out it made little difference and I think it got to the point that neither the Manager or the fans knew our best team. Our defence, particularly at set pieces was nothing short of disasterous and I can not remember a time when I thought that every corner we conceded would result in a goal for the opposition.
Should he had gone sooner? Probably yes, but like many of the fans the Board considered that things would get better. They didn’t and never would. Would we have performed better under Jackett this season is also debateable.
In comparison with a lot if not most sides in the Championship, with both larger transfer and wages budgets and the ability to attract large crowds on a regular basis I think we do remarkably well to stay in what is the second tier of English football. Few can argue that we punch above our weight. As a consequence it is logical that we do sometimes struggle in the Championship and our expectations are higher than they ought to be in the circumstance we find ourself in.
There is little doubt that 2013 has been a difficult year and it is not only the results that have disillusioned fans, the apparent lack of commitment from some players has not gone down well. The fans can put up with most things from the players, not being quite good enough is one but not putting a full shift in when wearing the shirt has never been acceptable. Sadly that has been the case in some instances this year.
Off field stewarding has again been under the spotlight with fans in some areas of the ground far from happy with some of the heavy handiness of it. The moving of the ‘family’ area without consultation did the club no favours with the fans and the continuation of the membership / season ticket holders scheme keeps our away support down. The trouble at Wembley in front of a large and world wide audience was as usual exaggerated and blown out of all proportion, nothing new there.
On a brighter note I travelled up to Bradford for the recent F A Youth cup game and witnessed a very committed and skillful performance from the kids which bodes well for the future hopefully. I came away genuinely optimistic, something I had not done for the majority of 2013.
So what does 2014 hold for us? A new Manager, hopefully the on going financial support of our Chairman, an improvement in both first team results and performances, the progress of the Youth set up and team, more sensible stewarding and consultation and last, but not least, the continued support of our patient, vociferous and much maligned fans who are and always will be the life blood of the club.
Happy New Year to you all.