BY RICHARD CAWLEY
Millwall’s highly-impressive return to the Championship means they are not drop favourites with the bookies ahead of the 2018-19 campaign.
Rotherham, Bolton Wanderers and Ipswich are the shortest odds to drop into League One.
And at least one bookmaker has nine other clubs ahead of Millwall, who finished ninth in the previous campaign, as more fancied to go down.
But Lions first-team coach Adam Barrett is demanding that everyone connected with the club makes gains again if Neil Harris’ side are to one again punch above their financial weight.
“People will take notice of us this year,” he said. “They know what we’re about and they’ll respect us more.
“We’ve got to be realistic. With the financial capabilities of some clubs and the size of some of them, we’re still relatively small compared to some in the Championship.
“I don’t look too much into what the bookies say – what we do is concentrate on ourselves. We’re trying to get better all the time. It doesn’t matter what the bookies say, because that doesn’t go and win you points.
“The gaffer is striving, we all are, to raise standards. The aim is to try and improve again.
“It’s going to be tougher. The second season is always tougher when you have gone up. The league has probably got stronger. But we’re focused on what we need to do.
“We know what we’ve got to do as a collective group. The lads are hopefully going to be better for it – because they’ve had a year’s experience now and know what the teams in this league are capable of. They know the quality, the standards we set last year and the hard work it took to get to that.
“We’ve got to try and push through that and try to get another couple of per cent from everybody. That is staff and players.
“When you look we came up via the play-offs and needed to pip Southend for a play-off place by beating Bristol Rovers on the final day. We won the play-off final but hadn’t romped the league.
“So to be ahead of Sheffield United [champions that season] and teams like that, who were very, very strong the season before, and finish above the big clubs in the Championship shows how far we have come.
“Every aspect of the football club just seemed to accelerate really quickly last season. We knew we had to improve to survive. We exceeded expectations.
“As staff I don’t think we expected to be in the play-off mix. That Fulham game [a 3-0 defeat at The Den in April] was the one which probably took the wind out of our sails.
“This league is unforgiving. You can quite easily go and lose two, three or four on the bounce and put yourself in trouble.”
All three clubs relegated from the top flight will be under new management – Gary Rowett appointed by Stoke, Darren Moore getting the West Brom gig after an impressive caretaker spell with Graham Potter landing the Swansea job.
Barrett said: “Financially when you have got clubs coming down from the Premier League – with the budgets they have got now – it can only strengthen the Championship.
“With the parachute payments, they can afford to keep these big stars. The Championship this season is going to be stronger than last season.
“No disrespect to the teams that got relegated, but you look at the financial strength that Wigan and Blackburn have. Blackburn went and spent £750,000 on Bradley Dack last season – now they’ve come up I think they’ll spend again. They can pay big wages because they are relatively big clubs.
“The three teams coming down from the Premier League look like they have good infrastructures and have big financial war chests. It’s not like years ago when a team got relegated and they have got to offload. They have got that cushion now. It’s like with Newcastle, they came down and were able to keep hold of their big earners.
“It’s very difficult. The foreign influx at the top end just filters down. All the best players now are coming down the leagues. Every season it just seems to get that little bit tougher, but it’s fantastic to be involved in it.
“We’re going to attack this season and want to be competitive again, like we were last season.”
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