BY RICHARD CAWLEY
Danny McNamara has spoken of his pride at making his senior debut for boyhood club Millwall.
The 22-year-old was recalled from his loan at St Johnstone last week and popped straight into the Lions team for Saturday’s 2-0 FA Cup win at Boreham Wood.
McNamara follows in the footsteps of Ben Thompson and Billy Mitchell, who also come from Millwall-supporting families.
The former Republic of Ireland U21 international, who is in negotiations over signing a new contract, grew up idolising the likes of Neil Harris, Gary Alexander and Andy Frampton.
McNamara had been earning rave reviews for his displays north of the border – clocking up 22 games in the Scottish Premiership – but still jumped at a return to SE16.
He will compete with Mahlon Romeo for the right-sided slot in defence.
“My whole family are Millwall fans,” said McNamara. “They were brought up around the Bermondsey area. I’ve had a season ticket since I was little.
“They were all over the moon on Saturday. I had lots and lots of messages after the game and even before it – since I’ve been recalled the family has been buzzing.
“I heard about the recall probably a week prior to Christmas. The gaffer rang me up and said: ‘I want you to come back – I can’t guarantee you are going to play every game. When you get your chance just take it’. I told him that if I have got any kind of chance to play in a Millwall shirt then I want to take it.
“I thought I did really well, as far as debuts go it couldn’t have gone any better – although a goal would have been nice. There are a couple of things I could’ve done a bit better but they are things to work on. That’s what I’m there for – to learn.”
McNamara spent seven years on the books of Charlton Athletic before being released at U15 level.
He had interest from Chelsea, Arsenal, Tottenham and West Ham before plumping for the Addicks.
McNamara opted to drop out of the professional game and play for Kent-based Corinthian before his dad Tony got him a trial with the Lions – ending up with him signing as a scholar.
“Charlton were brilliant with me but it was just one of those things where it started to get more serious as I got older and I couldn’t really hack it,” said McNamara.
“It was more of the lifestyle – the eating and training three or four times a week – I thought ‘this is not a bit of me’.
“I wasn’t enjoying my football at Charlton and I lost interest.
“I was playing central midfield at the time but I was waking up and thinking ‘I don’t want to play’. I didn’t enjoy my last year there.
“I took a season out and played with my friends at Corinthian. We brought in a few players who used to be at Charlton and Millwall and we were smashing the league. I was one who then got pushed into the first team at 15 or 16.
“I really enjoyed it and it helped me out massively. I ended up getting to the point at 16 or 17 where I wanted to play at a higher level.
“My dad knew someone down at Millwall, Peter Lodge, and I signed within a couple of weeks.”
McNamara has had other loans since being on the Lions’ books – Dover, Havant & Waterlooville and Newport County – but his time in Perth accelerated his development.
He played at right wing-back under Callum Davidson – formerly Gary Rowett’s assistant at Millwall – and started every league match.
McNamara said: “I think Callum knew me as a player but I don’t think he knew me as well as everyone thought he did – because I was on loan at Newport [for the first half of the 2019-20 season].
“I’d only worked a little bit under him at Millwall but he knew how I played and that wing-back suited me – I love to get forward and I love to defend. That’s my game.
“St Johnstone had a good team and we dominated most games – we just found it hard to put the ball in the back of the net.
“I was playing with freedom, that’s what got the best out of me.”
McNamara would have been gearing up for a Scottish League Cup semi-final against Hibernian on January 23 if his stay had not been cut short.
“Playing at Hampden would’ve been a great experience but it is just one of those things,” he said. “I can’t complain about being called back to my club – I must have been doing something right.”
Now comes a friendly battle with Romeo for that starting spot.
“Mahlon is a great player and has played pretty much every game for however many years,” said McNamara. “But hopefully I can cement my position in the team.
“When I came back the manager just said: ‘Do your thing – do you. Play like you did for the last six months at St Johnstone’.”
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