‘He’ll need earplugs at The Den!’ – Millwall boss on Jed Wallace’s departure and why he can’t see like-for-like replacement

Millwall manager Gary Rowett says it is impossible to get a direct replacement for Jed Wallace.

The attacker, 28, signed a four-year contract at West Bromwich Albion earlier this week after rejecting fresh terms in SE16.

Wallace is a free agent from the start of July. He will head back to The Den on October 22 with the Baggies.

“It will be interesting when he comes back for the first time – he might well need some earplugs!” said Rowett. “I hope he does really well, obviously not against us. We don’t need to speculate whether he is going to stay any more. From now we have got to move on with our plans.”

Rowett says that he expected Wallace to quit Millwall as soon as the Den talisman indicated he wanted to listen to external offers.

The Lions had offered Wallace a new long-term deal. Burnley had also made a move for the former Wolves and Portsmouth player.

“I think the fact that he wanted to see what options were out there realistically usually means the player wants a new challenge and to see if a new challenge is out there for them,” said Rowett.

“While Jed didn’t give us a definitive decision, he was always quite clear he wanted to see what was out there.

“It is hard to be too critical of anyone out of contract looking to do the best for their career, their future or their family – everyone has different motivations.

“I’d have liked him to have stayed but it also gets to a point where we have to move forward, and we have to do that in a slightly different way. It was clear to me earlier in the summer that was probably what we’d have to do.”

Wallace has been the main creative outlet for Millwall in their recent Championship campaigns.

“I don’t think you can replace Jed like-for-like,” said Rowett. “He is quite a unique player with quite a unique style.

“Jed is a team player but he is also very individual as well in the way he plays. He plays with a freedom and he plays quite loose, at times, on and off the ball, because that is what we’ve needed to do to get the best out of him.

“What we have to do is try to improve the team, and all aspects of it, so that maybe we are a bit tighter as a unit and as a group – and we do things with a bit more synergy.

“Of course we have got to replace his goals and assists. It’s funny really, I think we’ll probably miss Jed’s assists and goal involvements – along with the lift he would give us in matches that you need at times – more than his goals. If you take the penalties out it wasn’t ridiculous, the amount of goals he was scoring.

“This sort of thing happens at every club. It’s like with Liverpool, it is easier for them but what did they do when Sadio Mane is not there? You have to move forward in a different way – go with a younger, fresher player who is hungry to succeed and try to improve that way.

“We’ve got a player that we think is a replacement and if we can get that deal over the line then I’ll be incredibly excited about it. But it is hard to replace someone who has been so influential for a good few years.”

Baggies manager Steve Bruce has picked up two of the Championship’s star offensive talents on free transfers, having already concluded the capture of Reading’s John Swift.

Some Millwall fans have questioned whether Wallace has upgraded his prospects of promotion considering his former club finished two points and once place ahead of West Brom last season.

“They are a team that have got a lot of good options and a lot of good attacking players,” said Rowett. “They have brought Swift in as well.

“If Steve can get it together, like he has done at a lot of the places he has been, then I’m sure they will be a challenger, like we will.

“It’s not for me to judge the motivations or reasons as to why someone signs for a club.

“I would see us as having every bit as much of a chance next season but that is irrelevant really – it’s not us against West Brom. He has seen West Brom as the right club for his next step and we wish him all the best.”




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