Welcome to my latest blog post covering my journey on FM22 with Millwall FC.
The second half of the season at The Den turned out to be a memorable one with us continuing our good form in pushing for a playoff position. In fact we only finished 4 points off automatic promotion with a better goal difference than Fulham who finished runners up to Champions AFC Bournemouth. So a 5th placed finish provided us with a playoff Semi Final against Blackburn Rovers who had finished 4th.
The 1st leg was played at The Den and despite not playing that well we drew 1-1 against a good Rovers side. After a goaless first half Oliver Burke broke the deadlock to put us 1-0 up after 58 minutes after Connor Mahoney had beat two Rovers players before a perfect through ball which Burke cooley dispatched in to the Rovers goal. They say you are most vulnerable when you have scored and that proved to be the case when Bradley Dack put the visitors level just 4 minutes later setting up an interesting finish to the game.
Despite both sides having a chance to win the day the game ended in a 1-1 draw setting up an intriguing 2nd leg in Lancashire.
Saturday 22nd May saw Ewood Park filled to capacity for the 2nd leg of the Semi Final that was in the balance after a 1-1 draw in the 1st leg. I can’t deny the fact that Blackburn Rovers were the best side on the night however after another goaless first half the fireworks began starting with a mad few minutes just after the hour when jn the 62nd minute Oliver Burke broke the deadlock but Ben Brereton Diaz equalised just a minute later. With Blackburn looking the most likely to get a result our backline was coming under pressure then a quick counter attack in the 90th minute saw Oliver Burke grab what I thought would be the winner but Blackburn did not give up and 4 minutes in to time added on Ben Brereton Diaz made it 2-2 to send the game in to extra time.
With weary legs on both sides Oliver Burke grabbed his hat-trick with a solo goal in the 106th minute to put us 3-2 up but Blackburn would not go down without a fight and when Bradley Dack rattled in a long range shot in the 116th minute of this pulsating tie we were heading to penalties and it was Millwall who kept their nerve to win 6-5 and set up a visit to Wembley for the Playoff final.
Wembley Stadium on 29th May saw us go head to head with Sheffield United for a place in the Premier League that would without doubt give us a welcome boost to our finanes.
After a poor first half that ended in dead lock’ United came out for the second half on the front foot and just two minutes in to the second half Morgan Gibbs White put the side from Yorkshire 1-0 up and despite a late effort from Jed Wallace that shaved the upright United hung on to win promotion to the Premier League.
Our season was over and what a season it was finishing 5th in the table and reaching the Play Off Final which although we didn’t win was still an enjoyable experience. We have definitely over achieved with expectations being a mid table finish.
Oliver Burke ended the season on fire scoring a total of 16 goals ahead of Jake Cooper our player of the season and the EFL player of the season on 14 goals whilst Tom Bradshaw and Sheyi Ojo hit the back of the net 12 times each. Benik Afobe scored 9 followed by 7 from Jed Wallace and 6 each from Mason Bennett, Luke Freeman and Maikel Kieftenbeld.
The goals were shared around the squad pretty well with players stepping up at important times of the season. Luke Freeman led the way with 10 assists whilst Connor Mahoney 8, Benik Afobe 7 and Murray Wallace 7 all having good returns.
I mentioned before how a save can give you a special connection to a club and its certainly happening to me and Millwall FC. At the end of the season I had been invited to interviews at Newcastle United, Lille, Girona and Bordeaux. I attended interviews at both Newcastle United who had been relegated to the EFL Championship and was in the middle of a mass player exodus and Lille in France who were looking for European qualification. I was offered contracts at both clubs and I was tempted by the rebuilding project that was required in the North East and the treasure chest of over £100m to spend in the transfer market in putting a squad together to gain promotion back to the Premier League. I was very tempted with the clean slate at the club to rebuild the squad however like the Lille offer I have decided to stay at The Den and try and build something long term. I have a transfer budget of around £250,000 which is a million miles away from what I could have had in the North East but that connection with the club is already strong enough for me to have made my decision. Getting to the playoff final last season was a great experience with the squad what I had to work with. The loanee’s have all returned back to their parent clubs. Oliver Burke, Sheyi Ojo, Benik Afobe, Luke Freeman and Daniel Ballard.
I have also decided to make a switch from the 442 formation to a 4231 shape ahead of pre season. Its going to be a busy summer with the club now adding a further instruction of sell before we buy due to the club’s financial position.
Thank you for reading and hope you all have a wonderful jubilee weekend.