Shaun Hutchinson wants Millwall fans to have something to shout about when allowed back in The Den

BY RICHARD CAWLEY
richard@slpmedia.co.uk

Shaun Hutchinson is missing having Millwall fans at The Den – and wants to make sure they have something to shout about on their return.

The Lions look likely to face another six months of football behind closed doors after the government’s U-turn last week on allowing spectators at sporting events.

But there is still the chance that some supporters could be allowed back just as the Championship season goes into the decisive months.

“I’ve yet to come across a player who says they really like it [playing at an empty stadium],” said centre-back Hutchinson, 29. “It’s not great, we don’t enjoy it.

“We want to play in front of the fans and celebrate in front of them. With each government speech you sit down and hope it is going to change, that it will be sooner rather than later.

Millwall v Brentford SkyBet Championship, The Den, 26 September 2020

“I suppose all we can do is our best to get ourselves in a good position so that when they do come back they have got something to look forward to. It’s not going to be much fun if they come back and we’re sat fifth from bottom.

“When the time is right we want them to be backing a team that is looking up the table rather than down it.”

Millwall finished eighth last season but it took the appointment of Gary Rowett almost a year ago to kickstart their climb up the standings.

They took seven points from their first three fixtures in 2019-20 but then went on a seven-game winless spell that saw Neil Harris quit.

In the 2018-19 campaign they only produced one league victory before the start of October.

This time around they have five points on the board and have only conceded one goal – and that was an Ivan Toney penalty in Saturday’s 1-1 draw with Brentford.

“Since I’ve been at the club we have started a little slowly and then around Christmas time we have really taken off,” said Hutchinson, who has made 143 appearances for the Lions since arriving on a free transfer in June 2016.

“If we can have a better start this time and still kick on when we usually do then it is probably going to look quite promising for us.

“We’re not getting carried away. I don’t think you get a sense of who is going to be challenging until you’re 15-20 games in. I certainly think we’ve got the squad and manager to be challenging. It’s just whether as players we can apply and put in place what you need to get you there.

“Maybe the performances against Stoke and Rotherham weren’t as good as the Brentford one but when you make yourself hard to beat you get those results, even when you’re not at your best.”

Millwall’s play-off aspirations could all be a question of control.

Rowett has talked repeatedly about the Lions adding more composure to their play when on the ball.

Millwall v Burnley, Carabao Cup, 3rd Round, The Den, 23 September 2020

Millwall completed 319 passes on Saturday. Brentford – known as a possession-based side and one of the outstanding attacking sides at this level last season – only had marginally more at 384.

“When Gary Rowett came in we were notoriously hard to beat,” said Hutchinson. “But we would lose our way in games and not have that much control.

“The massive thing he has added is that control. At times in the past we’d spend 90 minutes chasing the ball – we’d win it and then be chasing it again. We’re working really hard to change that. It is not just going to change overnight, we’re picking up his techniques through the training and starting to show the signs of that.

“He doesn’t want us to completely forget what has been a strength for us for so long. He wants us to be more free-flowing and knock the ball around in certain areas without too many mistakes close to goal.

“Millwall fans wouldn’t have seen the possession stats being so close against Brentford in the years that I’ve been here.”

It was Hutchinson who conceded the penalty last weekend. Ivan Toney went down in the box and then converted from the spot.

“I was a bit disappointed because I didn’t really do too much for him to fall down,” said the Geordie.

“But that’s the way the game is going at the moment. You get fouls a lot easier, players realise that and go down easier than they probably need to.

“He got the wrong side of me. It is clever or is it a dive? It’s not just Toney, it is what you are seeing week in and week out.”

Stoke City boss Michael O’Neill felt that they were denied a penalty in the opening day stalemate in SE16. On that occasion no foul was given against Hutchinson – Jacob Brown instead booked for simulation.

“That was outrageous,” said the Lions defender. “At least with Toney I used my arm. I didn’t even touch him – that was completely different.”

PICTURES: BRIAN TONKS/KEITH GILLARD


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