Millwall coach has his say on defensive unit which shone for Lions last season

BY RICHARD CAWLEY

Former centre-back Adam Barrett played over 700 games before retiring – here the Millwall coach gives his assessment of the Lions defenders.

The South Londoners had the joint-third best defensive record in the Championship.

Sheffield United’s Leon Clarke (right) and Millwall’s Jake Cooper battle for the ball

JAKE COOPER

How many left-footed 6ft 7ins tall centre-halves are there? He’s a big lad and got all the attributes to be a top, top centre-half. We’ve worked extremely hard on his footwork, to make it quicker. He wins a lot of first contacts in both boxes. We want to get more goals out of him. You saw the improvements as the season moved on. He comes to ask for extras which is what you want from a player. His ball over the top for Steve Morison at Sheffield United – Coops has got that. I’m looking for him to build on this, it’s very promising for the football club. He has his best years ahead of him, if he applies himself properly.

Photo: Brian Tonks

SHAUN HUTCHINSON

He epitomised our season and fully deserved Player of the Year. He was an absolute rock at the back. My type of defender – no-nonsense. He’ll put his foot and head in – tremendous blocks. He’s another who is a top professional on the training pitch, in the gym or doing his extras. He wants to take information in. Can he do it again and repeat it? I’ve got no question he will.

Millwall’s James Meredith and Aston Villa’s Robert Snodgrass battle for the ball

JAMES MEREDITH

He’s another who stepped up to the challenge and got better and better. He’ll kick anything and has that Australian competitiveness – he wants to win. Some of the lads get the hump in training because he wants to kick them but I love that in your team. The wide boys are quite often the strongest players in the opposition but you give Mezza your instructions and you’re confident. There aren’t many better in the division at one-v-one defending. He can get forward more and dominate.

Millwall’s Conor McLaughlin and Birmingham City’s Maikel Hieftenbeld

CONOR MCLAUGHLIN

He started the season excellently, technically very, very good. He can hit a ball as well – his goal at QPR is an example. 

Millwall’s Mahlon Romeo celebrates his side’s first goal of the game, an own goal from Reading’s Leandro Bacuna

MAHLON ROMEO

We all know going forward is his real strength. He will gallop 70 or 80 yards. I can still picture him at Bolton away going from one box to another and the poor lad trying to catch him – no chance. He has got that athleticism. The one thing Mahlon needed to do was defend the back post better and get his positioning better – think more like a defender. The staff did a lot of work behind the scenes and he took it on board. He still has a lot of work to do, he’s by no means the finished article. It’s down to him and how much he puts in as to where his career goes.

Photo: Brian Tonks

BYRON WEBSTER

Before his injury I thought he was playing his best football for us – magnificent. It’s such a shame he got the injury because he had really stepped up to the challenge. He has shown total professionalism behind the scenes. It’s hard to see your team-mates do well and you don’t really feel a part of it – but he has supported them.


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