BY RICHARD CAWLEY
Jed Wallace has insisted the summer speculation over his future never changed his desire when pulling on a Millwall shirt.
The 24-year-old was the subject of at least one bid from Middlesbrough at the start of August.
And while George Saville eventually did make the move to Teesside in a club record £8million sale, former Wolves and Portsmouth winger Wallace ended up staying with the Lions.
Wallace opened his goal account for Millwall on Saturday in the 1-1 draw with Leeds.
When asked by the South London Press if he found the speculation a distraction, the Reading-born wideman said: “People like to look into things a little too much. I set my standards at Millwall very, very high.
“I know when I play well and when I don’t. I missed a sitter [against Swansea] but I didn’t play badly. I just missed a sitter. I didn’t have my best game, but I’m not always going to. People might try to complicate things. The reality is I was probably a little bit out of form.
“I don’t think I’m the finished player – far from it. I’ve always said I’m proud to play for Millwall. I’ll always try my absolute hardest, whether my shot will go in or I win my tackle. I’ll always give my absolute everything and run my heart out.
“It’s been difficult and different as a group, to have the speculation around us.
“I’ve got a great relationship with the manager. Whenever I pull the shirt on I’ve said I’ll always play like a fan.”
Wallace went for a scissor-kick finish in the first half of the Swansea game as he raced onto a Steve Morison nod-down. He responded to one fan who accused him of showboating on Twitter by posting on social media: “Them moments are a split second decision. I never once thought about showboating, I should have done better with it – I agree 100 per cent”.
“Twitter is a tool,” Wallace added on Saturday night. “I’m not going to go home tonight and tell the missus I’m going to win the Ballon d’Or. At the same time I’m not going to go home and tell her to take my laces out of my boots because I’m suicidal.
“It’s football. You’ve just got to ride the wave – never get too high or too low.
“Unfortunately we live in an instant world. You get on your phone and everything is in front of you. Everyone expects results instantly – they don’t see the hard work that goes with it. I’m not going to run around Bermondsey saying I’m the best thing ever because I scored a goal, and I won’t do the same when I miss a chance.
“It’s been an up and down start to the season for the whole group, me included. I’m very honest. I needed to get back to basics, two weeks on the training ground – get working hard. The manager pulled the group together, we went paint-balling, and on Saturday we looked the Millwall team the fans love to watch.”
The Lions halted a run of three straight Championship defeats as they extended their unbeaten home record against Leeds to five matches.
“It’s summed our season up so far – giving it everything we can,” said Wallace. “We didn’t win the game, but to get clapped off as a Millwall team at The Den shows the togetherness of the group, the manager and the fanbase.
“It was just a kick in the nuts really. We’re doing all the right things, I don’t know how we haven’t got the winner at the end. We concede in the 90th minute and we still look to get that goal.
“We’ll end up winning more than we lose.
“People saw on Saturday that we’re always going to give everything we can. We’re not the best team in the world, but we’ll fight for every ball and we definitely had the better chances.
“This was the perfect game after a difficult spell and Wednesday’s perfect again, a big derby [at QPR}. We roll on to Wednesday.
“The season doesn’t really get going until after the international break and then it is Saturday-Tuesday, Saturday-Tuesday – so the games come thick and fast. QPR is a difficult game but I enjoyed it there last season under the lights, a good atmosphere. I think we’re taking 2,500 fans.”
Millwall are 19th in the table but could jump four places if they win at Loftus Road on Wednesday night.
“Saturday felt like the biggest game of the season but it’s just three points,” said Wallace. “The manager broke it down for us and keeps it calm because we are a very passionate group. He said: ‘Listen lads, the reality is you have lost two away games in Yorkshire and you lost a home game’. People are so used to seeing us win matches here that when we don’t it is ‘oh’. It’s a reality check for everyone.
“This is Millwall Football Club in the Championship. We had an amazing season last year and we want to be in the top half of the table. Are we going to win the league when people are spending £20million on players? Probably not. Are we going to fight for every ball and run after every ball? Yeah, probably. We’ll see where it gets us.
“We’ve added strength in depth, which we’ve needed. The manager and captain have both said about that. When you sign new players then the ones already here go up 10 per cent.
“It’s why Manchester City did it despite winning so many games last season. They added [Riyad] Mahrez]. It kicks you on again. We did it last season adding Timmy [Cahill] and Marshy [Ben Marshall]. They added quality to the group and it made us play better.
“It’s happened again with the likes of Lenny [Ryan Leonard], Jem [Karacan] with his experience, Jiri [Skalak] is now getting the minutes in and looking sharper. I’ve always maintained that Millwall, under Neil Harris, will be moving in the right direction with the players we’ve got and I’m happy to be a part of that.
“We’ve shown that for three years and we’ll show it again this year.”
Club-record signing Leonard made his debut as he replaced Ryan Tunnicliffe in the starting line-up.
His long throw was put to instant use, and it was from one of his launches from the touchline that Wallace ended up sticking the ball in the back of the net.
The goalscorer said: “We didn’t even know until Thursday [that he had a long throw]. I said to him: ‘Now I know why you’ve been signed!’. To be fair, considering the guy has not been playing any football, playing for Millwall against Leeds isn’t an easy one to come into. I was blowing out there, let alone if I hadn’t played for six months.
“He had a really good debut.”
TOP IMAGE BY BRIAN TONKS
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