BY RICHARD CAWLEY
Gary Rowett reckons that Millwall are on course for the three-year plan when he took charge at The Den.
The Lions made it back-to-back top-half Championship finishes despite a disappointing 6-1 loss at Coventry to wrap up their 2020-21 campaign.
“We were eighth last year but we won three of the last four – if we’d done the same this season we would have finished eighth or ninth,” said Rowett. “Both seasons were pretty similar, in different ways.
“When I came in I had a three-year plan. The first year was to build a solid Championship team that wasn’t flirting with relegation; the second season was to build a top-10 team that maybe flirted with the top six and the third season was to try and break into the top six.
“In some ways we are exactly on track with that. This season was made far more difficult, not just for us, because there were no fans and there were things we couldn’t do because of covid.
“It is hard to judge goals because if you look at Watford, they finished second and only scored in the early 60s – which has never happened before. Everyone’s goals were probably 15 down on normal.
“It has been a positive season, it’s always hard to finish eighth and then 11th and see it like that – people want to see linear progression, but it doesn’t work like that for clubs like ours.
“Injuries also dictated where you finish. It is up to us to make sure that next season we have got a little bit more depth in the squad and a little bit more room for manoeuvre if we get injuries. We’ve played some good football at times and defended very well at times.
“We’re never going to be a possession side. I don’t think that suits us or suits our fans. If the fans are back and we’re making 50 passes around the back, not going anywhere, I’m sure they’ll let us know their thoughts on that.
“That defensive and aggression side is something we want to improve on next season. We want to add a little bit more of an attacking threat in different ways.
“We know we need that and I’m sure we’d have done that this year if we had more impact from the loan players, but again injuries took their toll. We never really got to see the impact they might have had.”
A Championship table based on expected goals (xG) had Millwall finishing 15th. It measures the quality of a chance based on several variables.
“I look at things like that and have an overview but I never let data dictate where the team goes,” said Rowett. “I don’t think data can ever truly predict the character of players, the character of a team or the drive of a team.
“It is not something I worry about too much.
“When I was at Derby we had Matej Vydra and he was top scorer in the division and his xG was quite low. He was very clinical.”
Rowett is expecting all of his injured players to be back for the start of the 2021-22 season.
“Lenny [Ryan Leonard] might be a week or two behind and be back in the middle of pre-season,” he said.
“Maybe in the last five or six games there were a few games where not having Hutch [Shaun Hutchinson] and Muzza [Murray Wallace] clearly hindered us. We need to get those players back.”
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